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Written Statement - Registration of Social Care Workers

Mark Drakeford, Minister for Health and Social Services

The effective provision of social care depends on the quality of the social care workforce, which is why, from 2020, all domiciliary care workers in social care will be registered, with adult residential care workers following in 2022.

The Regulation and Inspection of Social Care (Wales) Bill, which is currently before the National Assembly, sets out a new and comprehensive system for the development and regulation of this important but often overlooked workforce. This will require the commitment of individual workers, employers and regulators.

Currently, social workers, social work students, residential child care managers and workers, adult care home managers and domiciliary care managers are required to register in order to work in the sector. Social workers are required to register by the Care Standards Act 2000.  Other workers are required to register through regulations under that Act.

The Regulation and Inspection of Social Care (Wales) Bill continues this well-understood arrangement. The requirement for social workers to register is placed on the face of the Bill and regulations will come into effect when it is implemented in April 2017 requiring the other groups, which are currently registered, to be registered. Registration for all these workers will be continuous between the present system and the one intended to be put in place by the Regulation and Inspection of Social Care (Wales) Bill.

The Bill provides for additional groups, such as domiciliary care workers and adult residential care workers, to be required to register through regulations.

I have previously set out to the Health and Social Care Committee my reasons for wishing to extend the requirement to register to domiciliary and adult residential care workers. These people are at the forefront of some of the most demanding and challenging frontline services. The public rightly look for assurance that such workers are well trained and fit to practice. They deserve recognition; investment in training and support from their employers that registration brings, so they have the skills and qualities necessary to provide high-quality social care in these roles. In return, they will need to satisfy tests to join the register.

I recognise that registration will place new requirements on a sector which is already under pressure. A number of stakeholders have expressed the need to proceed with care so that in seeking to realise the benefits of extending registration, we do not overburden or destabilise the sector. Proceeding too hastily could risk restricting the supply of care workers in a growing sector, jeopardising the provision of essential services.

Social Care Wales will start operating from April 2017 and it will need a measure of stability to carry out its existing work while establishing its new functions. Consultation with the sector will also be needed to identify and agree the qualifications the domiciliary and adult residential care workforce will need to achieve in order to register. This will also be an opportunity to consider the appropriate registration fee that is affordable and proportionate to those registered.

I am setting out an extended timetable for registration which will give the sector sufficient time to prepare for this major step forward. A three-year development programme for domiciliary care workers will start in April 2016; the register will open in April 2018 and all workers will have to be registered by April 2020.

A similar three-year development programme will be put in place for adult residential care workers, starting in April 2018; the register will open in April 2020 and the workforce will be registered by April 2022.  

This is a major step forward for social care workers in Wales and for the quality of social care provided in Wales and for people living in Wales. I expect the sector to come together to support and promote this agenda. This important but ambitious agenda will also be one of the main priorities for the investment the Welsh Government provides to support training and development for the social care workforce.

The Care Council for Wales will set up a cross-sector steering group to ensure our ambition is met – this will include representatives from the social care workforce and people receiving care.

In the meantime, and ahead of the actions set out here we will also work with the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) to create and deliver greater transparency about the social care workforce in advance of mandatory registration. This will include information about the workforce employed by each registered provider, including the numbers of staff, their qualifications and the training and development they have undergone. This workforce information will begin to be available from April 2017.  

This is an ambitious programme which will significantly strengthen public assurance and professional development in social care, delivered according to a timetable that allows the benefits to be reaped without risking a premature intervention that could destabilise vital services.