Vaughan Gething, Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well-being and Sport
The Welsh Government’s 2011 White Paper Sustainable Social Services: A Framework for Action set out to create a new integrated and person-centred approach to the provision of social care in Wales. The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act, which received Royal Assent on 1 May 2014 and was implemented on 6 April this year, represents a major step on this journey. The Regulation and Inspection of Social Care (Wales) Act 2016, which received Royal Assent on 18 January 2016, represents another. It provides the statutory framework for the regulation and inspection of social care, and the regulation of the social care workforce, in Wales. It will establish a regulatory regime which is consistent with the changes being delivered through the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 by establishing a new system of regulation and inspection which will uphold the rights of Welsh citizens to dignified, safe and appropriate care. And it will support improvement by broadening the powers of the Care Council for Wales to include driving, supporting and overseeing improvement and re-naming it appropriately as “Social Care Wales”.
The main purpose of the Act is the creation of an effective and responsive system of regulation and inspection – one which is focussed on improvement and on outcomes for people, which updates the way in which we regulate both social care service provision and the social care workforce, which builds our ability to adapt to future changes in the sector and which supports us to respond effectively to findings of best practice - seeking to turn the satisfactory into good, and the good into excellent.
Our new system for regulation and inspection is very much about improvement and raising the bar, as well as responding swiftly, clearly and effectively when things go wrong. It will be stronger, making it easier for the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW), as the service regulator, to maintain an overview of the whole service an organisation is providing. Providers will find it easier to register and citizens will have better, easier access to information about providers. At the same time, improved regulation of the social care workforce overseen by Social Care Wales will help care workers to develop their skills and provide the best care they can. To protect the public, the register of care workers managed by Social Care Wales will allow us to stop people working in care who may abuse the trust and power associated with such an important role.
The 2016 Act created the broad approach to the new regulation and inspection regime I have sketched out above; the detail of the system will be set out in subordinate legislation, including regulations, a code of practice and guidance. We are now at the point of sharing with the public the first phase of this subordinate legislation which, in combination with the Act, will turn this aspiration into an operational reality.
I would therefore like to say something about how we got to this point. A statement of policy intent was published when the legislation was introduced into the National Assembly in February 2015. It set out the broad proposals for exercising the subordinate legislation-making powers under the Act. The development of our proposals for these regulations has been firmly based on this published policy intent, as tested with key partners. In order to deliver our policy in a way which was achievable and deliverable for our stakeholders, the statutory framework is being developed in two overlapping phases with extensive stakeholder engagement. It is designed to give the sector and regulators the maximum possible scope to shape the proposals and time to implement them. Using the successful model applied during the development of the subordinate legislation underpinning the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act, each of the major subject areas in which regulations are being developed has been supported by the deliberations of a technical group of expert stakeholders. Their advice has materially influenced the proposals now being put before the wider stakeholder network for consultation. After consultation, we plan for all relevant workforce regulations to come into force by April 2017 and all relevant service regulations to come into force by April 2018.
Yesterday the consultation on the regulations within the first phase opened. This phase covers some of the processes underpinning the new system of service regulation. These are registration as a service provider; variation of registration; service provider annual returns; and information to be included in notifications to local authorities. Phase 1 also includes arrangements for regulating the social care workforce, in particular the meaning of ‘social care worker’; the content of the register maintained by Social Care Wales, the form and content of the list of persons removed from the register and the duty to establish a panel and the proceedings before panels. Finally, the consultation covers proposals for bringing advocacy services in the ambit of regulation and the requirements for the production of annual report about the exercise of local authority social services functions. .
The consultation will run for just over 12 weeks to maximise the opportunity for people to respond and to have their say in helping to shape this statutory framework. In support of this consultation we are also holding two engagement events for stakeholders. The events will be held on 2 August in Wrexham and 7 September in Cardiff). The purposes of these events are to promote engagement and to provide stakeholders with a base-level understanding of the regulations and topics we are consulting upon, and the decisions that have led us to this point, with the aim of supporting them to produce their consultation responses. Invitations to the events are being distributed and we are using stakeholder networks to reach as many interested parties as possible.
Following the closure of the consultation and analysis of the responses we will consider any proposed changes to the regulations and amend them accordingly during the autumn. It is my intention that the workforce regulations and those relating to the requirements for the production of annual report about the exercise of local authority social services functions will then be laid before the National Assembly by the end of this year to come into force in April 2017. The service regulations which have been included within the first phase consultation will be laid with the second phase of regulations by the end of 2017, in order to come into force in April 2018, thus completing the statutory framework around service regulation.
The Act as a whole is expected to be implemented by April 2019. Both the Care Council for Wales and the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales are working closely with Welsh Government officials to do their part in preparing for the transition to the new system established by the 2016 Act and their important new roles in this.
Social care touches the lives of everyone in Wales. At some point you, or someone close to you, may need to use these regulated services. This is why it is so important that we, together with key stakeholders and the citizens of Wales work together to get the system of regulation and inspection right. I invite you to read and participate in the consultation as published today.