Welsh Government laying the groundwork for national care service
Wales’ social services minister told the Senedd that the building blocks are being put in place towards establishing a national care service.
Julie Morgan gave an update on the Welsh Government’s rebalancing care and support programme which lays the groundwork for a service free at the point of need.
The deputy minister for social services highlighted that a summary of responses to a consultation was published on Monday November 27.
Ms Morgan said the consultation proposed a national commissioning framework to standardise the commissioning of care and support services.
She explained that a national office for care and support will be established by April, with a focus on innovation, improvement and transformation of adult and children’s services.
Ms Morgan also raised a draft pay and progression framework, developed by the social care fair work forum, which aims to address a recruitment and retention crisis.
She told the chamber: “We have a care sector where approximately 90% of providers are in the independent sector.
“The national commissioning framework will focus on delivering high-quality services and a shift from complexity towards simplification, based on national principles and standards.”
Plans for a national care and support agreement are part of the Welsh Government’s cooperation agreement with Plaid Cymru.
Ms Morgan said a three-stage initial implementation plan – based on an expert group’s report – will be published before the end of the calendar year.
She told MSs: “The rebalancing care and support programme is an important building block to this longer term strategic vision for a national care service in Wales.”
Gareth Davies, the Conservatives’ shadow minister, called for clarity on how the proposals will be costed and afforded.
Mr Davies said the £17 million cost of Senedd reform, which he described as a vanity project, could instead be used to recruit more than 700 health care workers.
He told the Senedd: “£400m from the UK Government was announced for Wales in March last year as part of a £7bn package for health and social care in England.
“I hope this is invested wisely in the simplification of social services, the fair paying of staff and an emphasis on quality.”
Mr Davies also raised concerns about the chief social care officer being politically accountable to ministers rather than to an independent body.
Mabon ap Gwynfor, Plaid Cymru’s shadow minister, described plans for a national care service as the most radical reforms since the foundation of the NHS.
He said: “With our ageing population, high rates of long-term sickness, and increased pressures on front-line NHS services, ensuring that the provision of social care in Wales is fit for purpose is one of the most urgent policy challenges of our time.”
Mr Gwynfor warned that the care workforce is perennially undervalued as he called for parity with wages in the health service.
During plenary on Tuesday November 28, he suggested employers could disregard the voluntary pay and progression framework.
Ms Morgan stressed that employment law is not devolved to Wales but she said the voluntary framework would be monitored.
Vikki Howells, a Labour backbencher, who represents Cynon Valley, raised concerns about the financial pressures the Welsh Government is facing.
She pointed to a pledge in Labour’s 2021 Senedd manifesto to pay all care workers the real living wage, highlighting that it is due to be uplifted to £12 an hour next year.
Ms Morgan said the Welsh Government invested £40m this year, and £43m last year, to meet the key commitment.
However, she cautioned: “We’re in a fiscal climate where I can’t commit to saying that this will happen – that we will be able to pay the money in the way that we have in the past – but obviously it’s high up on our agenda and we’re looking to see what we can do.”
By Chris Haines, ICNN Senedd reporter Spotted something? Got a story? Send a Facebook Message | A direct message on Twitter | Email: News@Deeside.com
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