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Question 2: To what extent and in what ways are the principles being adhered to in practice?

In the second phase of our work, we wanted to understand the way in which the principles that had been described had been implemented – we did this by engaging with the social care workforce.

Workforce Perspectives (pre Covid-19)

In 2021, we published the first report on the Workforce perspectives on implementation of the Act – this in effect was the ‘process evaluation’ for the study. Data was gathered from the workforce in the three months before the first national lockdown in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and as such provided a perspective on the processes of adaptation and implementation in that pre-Covid world.

The study team spoke with more than 150 respondents across four case study localities in order to assess the difference made to date. They found that a different ‘quantum’ of change is required by different parts of the country. For some parts of Wales, a number of identified activities and approaches had been embedded prior to the Act’s implementation which made the process much smoother. It was also the case that these ‘pre-aligned’ forms of practice had to evolve in order to meet the new duties and requirements, alongside the establishment of new and transformative ways of working. The team found varying levels of success in this endeavour, often linked to underlying structural, financial or capacity pressures. Crucial to the ‘full’ implementation of the Act’s ambitious vision, is sufficient time and resource in order to continue to bring about and sustain change – hence the principal conclusion that the workforce is still on the implementation ‘journey’.

Workforce Perspectives (post Covid-19)

Following the pandemic, and given the scale of changes that had resulted, the study team went back to the same four local authorities that had taken part in the original process evaluation and interviewed as many of the same people that circumstance would allow for. The profound and complex impact of Covid-19 for people in Wales and the provision of social services, was a major theme running through this second report identifying the Workforce perspectives on the implementation of the Act, published in 2022.

The Act itself was seen by some as a mainstay during the pandemic, offering direction and reassurance regarding delivering support. Some people suggested the pandemic was like a natural experiment, a stress test for the underlying philosophy of the legislation. Just doing what the Act required by going back to basics and concentrating on ‘what matters’ was a way to build on strengths and affirmed the importance of the approach of keeping people at the centre of everything. As demonstrated throughout the report, the detrimental impacts experienced by local authorities due to the pandemic were manifold. Participants recognised the extensive recovery work required, the vital importance in undergoing a process of recovery, in order to build back up so that harm will be minimised and people will be supported effectively.