Radical changes to the way social care is provided in North Wales have been hailed as a “huge step forward” by private providers.
The changes were announced by Gwenda Thomas AM, the Deputy Minister for Social Services.
Mrs Thomas revealed that new national eligibility criteria for social care will replace the current “cliff edge decisions” where people only receive a service if they cross a certain threshold instead of responding to an individual’s needs.
She also outlined a new framework to support the provision of “person centred care”.
Another key element was the introduction of a new regional structure based on the boundaries of local health boards to ensure the people who use services and their carers are at the centre of the changes.
Mario Kreft, the Chair of Care Forum Wales, paid tribute to the pioneering role of the Deputy Minister.
He said: “The national eligibility criteria were signalled in the new Social Services Bill. It’s something we’ve campaigned for since Care Forum Wales was set up in 1993, so in a sense we see this as a 21st birthday present.
“It’s a huge step forward because we’re moving away from the 22 variations on a theme we have with the 22 local authorities in Wales to something that actually people will understand and enable them to access the services or not as they need.
“The key is consistency and transparency. What people want most of all is to know what the threshold is, when they are able to receive social care that’s state funded.
“It’s an anomaly really because in the NHS we all understand that wherever you live in Wales there shouldn’t be a post-code lottery on services.
“There has been for many years a post-code lottery in social care and this is a very important step forward in bringing about that consistency that I think the public want.
“Importantly, the system is putting the person at the heart of it. It’s actually promoting well-being and early intervention.
“Better social care is going to mean less pressure on the NHS. It’s going to mean people having services closer to home and for those people who need more intense services, they should then not be going through ever increasing hurdles, means tests and so forth, but they should understand what is available to them and indeed, what is not.
“Gwenda Thomas has led this and her leadership has brought about a transformational change and I think that her contribution has to be applauded.
“I think will be something that will be for many, many years to come something where we will think back and say that this was a very significant change.
“It’s a defining moment in social care in Wales because for the first time, we’re moving away from this notion we’ve had since 1996 of 22 variations on a theme and nobody knowing quite what the others are doing.
“For one local authority to pay £4,000 per person per year more or alternatively less than another local authority for the same service is extraordinary. It defies all logic because either one local authority is way over-paying or another is way under-paying.
“This is going to be a step in the direction of consistency and surely we’ll at least come up with a national approach to how we spend public money and how we ensure that people get the best and the new, innovative services that they need, particularly as we have a population that is going to substantially increase.
“The new regional structure is also an important step in the right direction. As somebody who sits and works at that national level, I know for a fact that that is making a difference by bringing the statutory bodies, the third voluntary sector and the private sector together is making a difference.
“This is already happening at national level and to have a Minister saying that this must by the end of the year be replicated on a regional basis is a seismic shift.
“We know that even today there are many local authorities in Wales that pay not much more than lip service to what we would consider real partnership working.
“We want people to get round the table at the earliest stage and say how we’re going to square the circle because of course in Wales, as we’ve said for some time, we’re walking into a perfect storm.
“There’s a huge increase in demand, dwindling resources and a massive issue about how we are going to sustain the quantity and the calibre of the workforce to support an ageing population.”