The Welsh Government Social Care Minister, Julie Morgan MS, had just published the Welsh Labour Cabinet’s immediate priorities in progressing social care in Wales. A key element is the step to recognise the important role of the social care workforce, both paid and unpaid, in service delivery.

In addition the Welsh Government has announced that it will be appointing a Chief Social Care Officer who will work with the Chief Medical Officer and the Chief Nursing Officers for Wales. This is a very important step which should provide an important strategic boost to the development of social care.

Following the recent publication of the Programme for Government this week, Ms Morgan was pleased to provide Senedd Members with an early update about on the Welsh Government plans and priorities for social care.

The challenges the pandemic continues to bring to the social care sector and of the need to support it to recover. A social care recovery framework before summer recess, which will set out the Welsh Government priorities for recovery. The framework will build on Improving Health and Social Care (Covid 19 Looking Forward), which was published in March.

The recovery framework is being developed in collaboration with partners across the social care sector.

The Welsh Government ( WG ) will:

Ensure the core of our recovery planning is focused on rebuilding wellbeing, reducing inequalities, widening participation and creating an inclusive society;
Support people with Long-Covid, including in terms of increased demand for social care provision;
Continue to ensure the risk of Covid-19 entering care homes is minimised and visiting is maintained safely;
Address the adverse impact Covid 19 has on unpaid carers;
Work with the Social Care Fair Work Forum to improve terms and conditions for the social care workforce and ensure there is a continued focus on supporting wellbeing and mental health;
Work with partners to shape a future funding approach to enable commissioners to respond to changing population needs to secure care and support for the future;
Harness and build on the improved collaborative working across health and social care we have seen during the pandemic to drive improvement.
It is critically important that we use this recovery period to lay the right foundations for the future of social care in Wales, in line with our longer-term ambitions, which are set out in the Rebalancing Care and Support white paper.

Minister Morgan will be providing Senedd Members with an update on this work in the next two months.

A key commitment for this new government is to introduce the Real Living Wage for social care workers. The WG wants to create a stronger and better paid workforce, which will be the bedrock for delivering better services.

This can only be delivered in social partnership, through the Social Care Fair Work Forum – with the WG wanting  to ensure additional funding for social care to implement the Real Living Wage reaches the pockets of social care workers. This is a priority area of work.

As an early sign of the Welsh Government’s intent, it has established the post of chief social care officer for Wales. It will be a strong voice for everyone working in the sector, supporting the wellbeing and development of the workforce, promoting improvement and reform, and providing national leadership and promoting esteem for all those in social care roles.

A former social worker with a career spanning 33 years in social care in Wales, Albert Heaney has taken on this role and responsibilities alongside his current Welsh Government policy lead for Social Services. In parallel with the similar roles of Chief Medical Officer and Chief Nursing Officer, in this new role, Albert will provide leadership for the sector within and outside Welsh Government, providing impartial and informed advice to Welsh Ministers on priorities for change.

After leading policy on the transformative Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Act and the Regulation and Inspection of Social Care (Wales) Act, Albert will build on this experience and expertise, bringing together contributions from social care voices and social services providers, working in meaningful partnership, to co-produce results for the future.

Minister Morgan paid tribute to everyone working in social care – who have gone above and beyond to maintain a professional, high quality service during the pandemic. It is essential that these  voices are heard as we put in place recovery plans and move forward with our ambitious plans for health and social care this term.

The new chief social care officer for Wales is a valuable contribution to this agenda and will make a real difference to all who work in, as well as those who benefit from, social care in Wales.