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Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Bill: Cross border care

Gwenda Thomas Deputy Minister for Social Services

I gave a commitment during the Stage 1 Plenary Debate on the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Bill to issue a written statement on cross border care arrangements by the end of this month, and I am pleased therefore to be able to present this today.

Members will be aware that I have sponsored a number of Legislative Consent Motions over the last few months, which have sought approval to finalise arrangements for cross border arrangements for both adults and children.

Cross border arrangements are very important, especially to those who seek or are provided with care and support outside Wales, but by their very nature they cannot be developed in isolation. These arrangements are the result of a strong collaborative approach and determination to put in place ways to support and protect the most vulnerable in our society. The development of these cross border arrangements have been further complicated by the simultaneous progression of our Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Bill and the Department of Health’s Care Bill and the Department for Education’s Children and Families Bill.

So today awards me the opportunity to thank my Ministerial counterparts in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland for working so collaboratively, and providing an opportunity for us all to celebrate cross border arrangements that we have put in place to better support our citizens across the United Kingdom.

I will, however, focus here on what this will mean for the citizens of Wales:

Firstly, for residents in care homes we have extended their ability to be placed outside of Wales, to Scotland and Northern Ireland. Currently the law only permits local authorities to do this in relation to England. These new arrangements will now operate across all four nations and enable families to be better connected and play an integral role in their relative’s care. The cost of these placements will still fall to the local authority in which the person was resident prior to entering the care home i.e. the placing authority, so this will not affect the responsibility of the local authorities in Wales, or place any additional financial burden on them.

Secondly, we have protected the continuity of care for people who have been placed across borders within the UK in the event of provider failure, whether through residential or domiciliary care.  We have created protection in law that where a person is being cared for by a provider in Wales, England or Northern Ireland under arrangements made by a local authority in Wales, England or Scotland or by a Health and Social Care Trust in Northern Ireland, the local authority, within which the care provider is located, has a temporary duty to provide for the immediate care and support needs of those that were receiving care from that provider. Examples like those experienced when ‘Southern Cross’ failed in recent years have highlighted the need for such processes to be in place.  Provision is also included for the local authority in these situations to recoup the cost from the placing authority, or the individual if they fund their own care.

I have ensured that people in Wales who are being cared for under arrangements made by a local authority in Wales have been afforded with the same level of protection in the event of a provider failure through amendments to the SSWB Bill.

Scotland has different arrangements so there will be no such temporary duties on local authorities in Scotland to meet need in the event of the business failure of a care provider in Scotland.  However, general duties do require Scottish local authorities to consider assistance to a person in need which ensures a similar level of protection is afforded.

Thirdly, we have agreed arrangements which will enable the provisions on cross border placements to be extended to other kinds of accommodation settings, such as supported living and which will enable the provisions to apply when the adult is making their own accommodation arrangements with the use of direct payments. The new arrangements for cross border placements will also make clear that the responsibility of the placing authority continues even where the person spends time away from their accommodation, for example if they are in hospital.

Finally, the cross border arrangements for those receiving mental health section 117 after care services have been changed between England and Wales, with forthcoming amendments, via the Care Bill, to the provisions in the Mental Health Act 1983.  The new arrangements ensure that the support for those receiving after care services will rest with the local authority for the area in which the person was ordinary resident prior to their hospital treatment, even when the person is sent to a different area on discharge from hospital. These arrangements also provide that the Welsh Ministers can arbitrate on disputes in respect of ordinary residency in Wales; and provide for the Welsh Ministers and the Secretary of State to agree and publish arrangements for disputes across the borders of England and Wales.

The UK Children and Families Bill also afforded opportunities to change cross border arrangements between England and Wales: in respect of the dis-application of the Adoption and Children Act Register to Wales; providing parity for adopted persons and their relatives, to prescribe the time limit for the preparation of a child care plan. The latter arrangements have been made by conferring regulation-making powers on the Welsh Ministers in relation to setting a time limit by which a local authority must prepare a care plan following its application to the court for a care or supervision order. Further amendments that extend to England and Wales are in relation to special educational needs, shared parental leave and flexible working, childcare and the stronger role for the Children’s Commissioner.

These arrangements are timely and opportune to enable us to further advance our distinct Welsh policies whilst ensuring consistency and co-operation across England and Wales and in some circumstances across the United Kingdom.

I am grateful to the Secretary of State for Health and Minister of State for Care and Support for their co-operation in including practical solutions within the Care Bill that will maintain the well-being of people moving around the UK; and likewise to the Parliament Under Secretary of State for  Children and Families, whose support has allowed us to drive ahead plans for a National Adoption Service for Wales, to be established in 2014/15 and will assist the introduction of holistic care and support plans.    

I am confident that these new cross border arrangements will provide better continuity of care and strengthen the co-operation duties across our borders, while preserving the distinct policies of each nation.  They have expanded some which in the past were limited to England and Wales.  This is just the start and I will continue to work closely with my Whitehall counterparts to ensure that this level of co-operation is extended to their implementation.