The Welsh Government is proposing to use its legislative powers to require local authorities and Local Health Boards to produce a market stability assessment report on the social care sector in their Regional Partnership Board (RPB) area.
The legislation will be supplemented by a code of practice on the exercise of relevant functions in relation to market stability reports and statutory guidance on taking a partnership approach to preparing and publishing market stability reports.
This innovative piece of legislation is welcomed by the Social Health Association Cymru – Wales which has responded to the Welsh Government consultation document.
Response to Welsh Government Consultation by Socialist Health Association – Cymru / Wales
What do we want to know? Welsh Government would welcome comments on the draft regulations, code of practice and statutory guidance from local authorities, local health boards, and other organisations or sectors which are represented on RPBs or have an interest in the provision of care and support to the local population.
It would also welcome comments from members of the public, including especially individuals who need care and support, and carers who need support. In particular, we would welcome responses to the following questions:
Question 1 Do you agree that market stability reports should be prepared on a regional basis, by local authorities and local health boards through the regional partnership boards? If not, please give your reasons.
A. The Socialist Health Association Cymru believes that the business model underpinning our social care service in Wales is no longer sustainable and we need to be planning for a National Care Service.
The independent sector continues to express concern about its marginal viability with residential care providers requiring levels of bed occupancy that go against the Welsh Government’s policy of more care in a domestic and homely community environment.
There is a recruitment and retention crisis which is worse in the independent sector due to poorer pay and conditions, less training and fewer opportunities for career progression.
Within this context we believe there is an urgent need to undertake regular assessments of the continuing viability of the current model of provision.
While the consultation document proposes reports on a regional basis, it important that the geographical spread of provision in mapped at a more local level.
Question 2 Do you agree that market stability reports should be produced on a five yearly cycle alongside the population needs assessments? If not, what alternative arrangements would you propose, and why?
We note that the proposals recommend that a five year assessment cycle with at least a mid-cycle interim review.
A. We believe that the overall fragility of the sector requires a three yearly overall assessment with a yearly review.
Question 3 Have we specified all the key matters that need to be included in market stability reports? If there are other matters you think should be included, please specify.
A. While we are fully aware of the sector’s legacy of being heavily dependent on for-profit providers, we are surprised at the failure of the consultation document to consider what role public bodies might play in service provision. This is only briefly mentioned in the context of a sudden closure of an established private sector provider.
The omission is all the more surprising as it recommended that the assessments should be linked the to Regional Partnership Board needs assessment.
The implicit assumption is that local authorities will have no role in the management or shaping of the market beyond its present contract compliance assessments. This means that it will be for others to address gaps in service provision.
The variation in local authority fees across is Wales in considerable. It is far from clear why this is the case though these fees are at the heart of any assessment of the viability of the sector.
Question 4 Do you agree that market stability reports should be kept under regular review and revised as necessary, but at least at the mid-way point of the five year cycle? If not, what other monitoring and review arrangements would you propose, and why?
A. See reply to Q2
Question 5 In your opinion, does the draft code of practice strike the right balance between what is required of local authorities and what is left to their discretion? Are there further requirements or guidelines you would like to see added, or other ways in which the document might be improved?
A. The document urges “reasonable” efforts for community engagement. This is a rather elastic requirement which could result in a minimum level of engagement. It would be useful to be more specific that efforts should be made to engage with organisations such as the CarersUK, Stroke Association, Alzheimer’s Society, Mind as well as any successor organisation to Community Health Councils.
There should be a specific reference made to any community councils in the Regional Partnership Board area.
There only the most fleeting reference to engagement with care staff and other support / partnership professional groups. There should be a clear requirement to engage with local trade unions involved in the Education, Health & Care Sectors e.g. Unison, GMB Unite the Union, RCN, NEU and Local Medical Committee. In some areas, where there may be low levels of trade union membership, the local trades union council ( if it exists) should be consulted.
Local groups of faith should also be specifically included in any engagement. They provide comfort and support to many of our citizens in times of difficulty and they can have important insights into the needs for particular communities.
Question 6 In your opinion, does the draft statutory guidance set out clearly the partnership approach that local authorities and local health boards should take in preparing their market stability reports? Are there further requirements or guidelines you would like to see added, or other ways in which the document might be improved?
A. See replies already given.
The document mentions the need to anticipate trends but is rather limited in the scope of the horizon scanning it envisages. This is a vulnerable sector underpinned by a fragile business model. It follows that more vision is required in looking at delivery models of care e.g. more in-house provision by public bodies, the NHS or the Third Sector.
Question 7 What impacts do you think our proposals will have on the duties of public bodies under the Equality Act 2010, or upon a local authority’s duty under the 2014 Act to have due regard to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, or the United Nations Principles for Older People?
A. This is a timely document and Welsh Government is to be commended in initiating this legislation. Not withstanding the attitude of the Westminster Government to international agreements the Welsh Government has always used best international standards to drive policy.
A citizen focused, responsive, stable and caring service needs to be in place to meet international standards. This must include provision that is based on the needs and wishes of its users. The workforce must be well trained and valued.
None of this will be possible if overall business model of care is not longer fit for purpose for the challenges of the 21 Century.
Question 8 We would like to know your views on the effects that our proposals with regard to market stability reports would have on the Welsh language, specifically on opportunities for people to use Welsh and on treating the Welsh language no less favourably than English. What effects do you think there would be? How could positive effects be increased, or negative effects be mitigated?
A. This is particularly important. Bigger, footloose corporate bodies have a smaller footprint in Wales which is generally a good thing. Smaller, local providers with a local workforce are more likely to be culturally sensitive to their needs of citizens.
In many parts of Wales the local population will include people who have spent most of their lives in an area and others who have moved in at various stages of their life cycle. Our providers must respond to this diversity.
Many vulnerable users would wish to engage with services in their first language. The planning and service delivery process must be responsive to this need.
The Welsh language is an important part of Welsh life. As well, individual communities have other cultural attributes which can provide support and comfort to local service users which should also be factored into a citizen centred service.
Question 9 Please also explain how you believe the proposed policy around market stability reports could be formulated or changed so as to have positive effects or increased positive effects on opportunities for people to use the Welsh language and on treating the Welsh language no less favourably than the English language, and no adverse effects on opportunities for people to use the Welsh language and on treating the Welsh language no less favourably than the English language.
A. See Q8.
Market stability reports should include a specific section demonstrating how the needs of Welsh speakers and other sensitive cultural dimensions are taken into account.
Question 10 Under the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015, public bodies have a duty to consider the long-term impact of their decisions. We would like to know to what extent you think our proposals will support the principle of sustainable development set out in that Act. Further information on the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 may be found here: https://www.futuregenerations.wales/about-us/futuregenerations-act/
A. Our health and care service is still too illness and crisis orientated. It needs to be more pro-active and enabling for all our citizens.
Beyond the immediate pressures of Covid-19 and the longer term legacy we have inherited, the Welsh Government needs actively to promote a policy of prevention and early intervention to create a more equal and socially just society that is at ease with itself.
This includes providing our young people with the best start in life, providing all citizens with the opportunity to live full and enjoyable lives and providing a healthy ageing strategy including tacking loneliness and social isolation for citizens as they progress through life.
Question 11 We have asked a number of specific questions. If you have any related issues which we have not specifically addressed, please use this space to report them. Please enter here.
A. SHA Cymru welcomes this proposal to assess the inputs into service provision other than in crude quantitative ways. This approach could be extended to other field of policy e.g. to assess the scope and scale of service provision in different communities and localities.
Our Chief Medical Officer has often pointed out that “one size does not fit all”. Different communities have different needs. If we are to address these varying needs at a community level we need to develop processes which could be informed by the lessons learned from implementing this legislation.