Evaluating the Impact of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014

The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 is an essential component of Welsh Government policy to produce ‘transformative changes’ in the provision of social services across Wales. It has 11 parts and is informed by five principles: well-being; voice and control, running ‘across the spine’ of the Act (ibid., p.9); prevention and early intervention; multi-agency working; and co-production.

The Welsh Government commissioned a partnership of academics across four universities in Wales to deliver the evaluation of the Act. This independent national evaluation – the IMPACT study – ran from November 2018 to October 2022. It was led by Professor Mark Llewellyn, Director of the WIHSC at USW. The Final Report of our work (available in both Cymraeg and English, in Summary version, and Easy-Read format) is now published.

What we found

This short film provides an overview of the key findings, and greater detail can be found by listening to the study leads, Professors Mark Llewellyn and Fiona Verity, Swansea University.

The findings can be summarised as follows:

  • The legislation, and the principles underpinning it, provides a well-supported framework for change in the practice and delivery of social services;
  • The context within which the Act is placed has altered over time, and in unprecedented ways. At the time of writing this Final Report, forces around the global public health pandemic, the workforce crisis, and the cost-of-living crisis are combined with longer-term challenges around demography and austerity, to create new and acute realities which either did not exist at all in 2016, or at least not to the same extent;
  • There is clear and compelling evidence of the incredible amounts of hard work, passion, commitment, adaptiveness and goodwill from all stakeholders given the scale and scope of the challenges facing both the care workforce and unpaid carers, but there is also clear and compelling evidence of the problems that remain within the system. This Final Report however, is not a story of attribution – the situation is contested, complex, nuanced, and messy without simple explanations and straight-forward solutions;
  • There are consistent and cross-stakeholder strengths identified in the first phase of the Act’s life (as enacted). There is a largely positive, but somewhat mixed picture about the second phase when the Act was translated from legislation ‘on a page’ into delivery (as practised). There is a much more negative perspective offered from service users and carers unable to achieve the desired results from the care and support they received as consistently as they would want (as experienced);
  • This has resulted in a number of people interviewed for this study feeling a sense of disconnect from the promise of those principles, attributable in part to the factors that have impacted on social services since the Act’s instigation, and frustration has built around this;
  • The journey towards the realisation of the ambitious aim of the Act is not complete, as expressed universally in the view of the participants of this study. The question is, therefore, what does the next stage in that journey look like, who needs to take it, to where does it lead, and when will we know when we have arrived?

There were three key questions we were trying to answer which can be explored further on the links below.