Are social services in Wales delivering on the promises of key legislation?

WIHSC Impact

Welsh Government has today published the final report from a four-year evaluation of the ‘Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014’. The findings recognise the commitment, dedication, and adaptability of the care and support workforce, but also provides evidence of challenges that remain in delivering the aspirations of the Act.

Commissioned by Welsh Government, this national study represents an independent and objective assessment of the implementation of the Act and the way in which it has impacted the well-being of individuals who need care and support, their unpaid carers, and on the social services system in Wales.

The Impact (IMPlementation of the ACT) study, led by the Welsh Institute of Health and Social Care (WIHSC) based at University of South Wales (USW), involved academics across four universities in Wales. The partnership included colleagues from USW, Cardiff Metropolitan, Swansea and Bangor Universities, and PRIME Centre Wales. It was supported by the Study Expert Reference Group with its three citizen co-chairs.

The programme of work constituted 11 individual studies. In all, 450 study participants from across Wales provided detailed and comprehensive accounts of their experiences under the Act, from a range of perspectives.

Professor Mark Llewellyn, Director of WIHSC, co-led the Impact study with Professor Fiona Verity, School of Health and Social Care, Swansea University. He said: “We conclude that the Act, and the principles underpinning it, provides a well-supported framework for transforming and delivering social services.

“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 evidence of problems remaining within the system.

“We must, however, consider the unprecedented changes that we have all faced since the Act was implemented. Forces around the global public health pandemic, the workforce crisis, and the cost-of-living crisis, combined with longer-term challenges around demography and austerity, have all had a direct impact on people’s well-being outcomes.”

The report sets out 19 evidence-based ‘test’ questions for Welsh Government and a range of stakeholders to consider. These questions ask the whole sector to look at what needs to be done to improve social services, including the quality and sufficiency of social care. This is also about ensuring that people are effectively listened to, and can genuinely share, decisions about their care and support.

Professor Verity added: “The Act’s framework was established to enable change in the delivery of care and support. The outcome of all of this activity would be reflected in the experiences of those receiving care and support, and over time, lead to enhanced well-being of service users and carers, and the attainment of sustainable social services.

“On the basis of the evidence collected, this has yet to be reached at a system wide level. The question now really concerns the extent to which the sector, as a whole, believes that in addressing these questions together it may be possible to restate a common purpose.”

Professor Llewellyn said: “We are extremely grateful to everyone who took their time to be involved in this study. We are especially thankful for the service users and carers who took the time to speak with us. We hope that they feel we have represented their perspectives, and that their evidence will help to inform what happens next for the Act.”

Deputy Minister for Social Services, Julie Morgan MS, said: “The evaluation of the Social Services and Well-being Act recognises there is still work which needs to be done in realising the Act. This Act is more important now than it has ever been and there is a clear shared vision with the Expert Group’s work as to how care and support can be improved in Wales. Our next step will be to look at how we can, with stakeholders across the sector, renew and re-focus our collective endeavours to ensure the core principles are met.”

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