Welsh councils to lose social care powers

Welsh care providers have hailed plans to curb individual councils' role in social care as a "victory for common sense", after the Welsh government announced a 10-year plan for social services today.

Plans to curb Welsh councils’ role in social care are a “victory for common sense”, social care providers have said.

It follows the Welsh government’s 10-year plan for social services, which was announced today.

Representative body Care Form Wales highlighted a range of measures that will limit the role of individual councils in social care as key to helping Wales manage pressures on the care system and dwindling resources.

These include the establishment of a cross-Wales eligibility threshold for adult social care, removing councils’ power to set their own criteria, and for services to be commissioned on a regional basis.  Today’s strategy also called for councils to give independent providers a greater role in planning services.

 “We will be able to play a full role in developing provision and shaping the commissioning process – and this is music to our ears,” said forum chief executive Mario Kreft. “At a time of austerity, this is about doing things better and more cost-effectively. We, like many other organisations, have been stressing that we simply cannot sustain 22 different ways of commissioning services with different eligibility criteria.”

He said this created unnecessary bureaucracy for providers, who had to manage separate contracts with individual councils.

Kreft claimed the strategy had been produced at a time of councils paying “unrealistic fees” to providers and failing to work in partnership with them.

“It’s right that social services are left within the sphere of local government as the delivery arm but [councils] have to surely follow national policy in relation to provision and commissioning guidance.”

Councils accepted the need to work across authority boundaries and were already developing proposals to do so, the Welsh Local Government Association said in its response.

“Today’s report speaks of the dangers of doing things 22 ways and we fully recognise that,” said Meryl Gravell, WLGA’s social services spokesperson.

The Association of Directors of Social Services Cymru also voiced its support for the strategy but raised concerns about implementing it at a time of cuts.

“‘We remain cautious as the current recession bites deep into the local authority’s corporate purse on how sufficient the ‘pot’ will be in future years, and how soon new arrangements can be put in place,” said president Bruce McLernon.

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