Social workers in Wales ‘must prepare for a difficult future’

The new president of the Association of Directors of Social Services in Wales has urged councils to better support social workers through the transition to a more personalised - but cash-strapped - care service.

Councils in Wales must put high quality training in place for social workers during the transition to a more personalised approach to providing care, the new president of the Association of Directors of Social Services (ADSS Cymru) said today.

Speaking to Community Care to mark his first week in post, Albert Heaney also urged the Welsh government to better support councils with financial and governance planning.

Heaney said social workers should prepare themselves for the future, as ministers focus more and more on creating a sustainable care system. “There is no money tree and no prospect of new money coming in,” he warned.

He has pledged to improve IT systems and cut red tape during his year in office, as well as lobbying around the proposed Social Services (Wales) Bill, which will overhaul the country’s social care system.

“The social work practice we have in Wales is very good, but we don’t have the IT infrastructure to match that,” he pointed out.

A central thrust of the bill is to ensure the social work profession can cope with shrinking public sector funding and social workers can continue to practise safely during austere times.

The government also wants to give service users a greater say about the care they receive and how money is being spent to support them. This involves greater collaboration between service users and social workers through citizen-directed support.

“Council and providers feel more comfortable with this as it helps develop that relationship between the professional and the service user,” said Heaney.

In addition, social workers will be required to work more closely with health professionals and create joint health and social work care and support plans. The joint plans would be portable; moving with the service user across council boundaries.

Heaney welcomed this focus on collaborative working and integration. He said the Gwent Frailty Programme, where social workers and health professionals from Aneurin Bevan Health Board and five councils including Torfaen, Blaenau Gwent and Caerphilly are co-located, was a good example of where this approach was already working well.

“The feedback we are getting back from social workers involved in this programme is that it is really helping improve the lives of service users, which in turn is making their working life far more satisfying,” said Heaney.

Heaney is also corporate director of social services at Caerphilly Council.

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