Article: Albert Heaney on the Social Services and Wellbeing Act

Albert Heaney is the Director of Social Services in Wales. Which – given that Albert is warm, approachable, and genuinely interested in people rather than systems – is a distinctly good thing.

Here’s his take on the Social Services & Wellbeing Act:

“This Act does not just change a few rules here and there, it is not simply a case of adjusting what we do now. It replaces and rewrites completely the legislative basis for care and support in Wales. It is a whole system Act, and for that reason it represents a totally new landscape for us in Wales.

It is worth highlighting some of the key themes underpinning the changes we are taking forward.
People – this means putting an individual and their needs, at the centre of their care and taking full account of their family and community.  We want to ensure that people have a voice in, and control over, the services they receive.

And this includes:
Well-being – shifting our system to well-being and supporting people to achieve their own well-being and independence;
Earlier intervention – we want to shift the systems of care and support to ensure people get the help they need quickly and easily to minimise the escalation of critical need and enable people to lead healthy, active lives;
Collaboration – strong partnership working between all agencies and organisations for the benefit of people.

The Government’s White Paper ‘Sustainable Social Services for Wales: A Framework for Delivery’ published in 2010: stated that:
Better services can be brought about by service users and carers having a much stronger voice and greater control over services.
The values of mutual support we hold dear in Wales must lie at the heart of our approach.
We believe that people want to contribute not simply receive.
We want to go much further and embed stronger rights, voices, control by citizens, individually and collectively, in the way services are created and delivered.

We want […] to change the way we work, how we think, and how we plan services.
Underpinning this must be a wholesale shift in focus, from paperwork to people, from process to outcomes […] with professionals working side by side with people, jointly determining the support needed to maintain or improve people’s well-being.

But what will this mean for you?  For your practice?
The concept putting people at the centre – of giving them a strong voice and real control recognising both their rights AND their responsibilities is now secured through the primary legislation ensuring that these things are not just tick boxes or add ons. This approach is central to promoting people’s well-being and to safeguarding them. For me it is at the core of professional practice.

At the moment we hear a lot about co-production – about producing solutions withpeople not for them. The commitment to this approach is central to the policy and to the Act.

The Act is critical to the transformation of social services because:
. It supports an approach based on prevention and early intervention.
. It improves solutions and interventions by drawing on people’s strengths and allowing them to make the best use of what is available.
. It allows people to retain independence and to focus on recovery.
. It encourages a more creative and more efficient use of resources and encourages flexibility
. It underpins the development of new, more effective service models, including social enterprise and co-operative models and services run by users themselves
. It allows resources to be better targeted by understanding need at a community and individual level.
. It promotes the safeguarding of people.

We have a golden opportunity now as we drive forward the transformation of social services, not just through the legislation but through leadership and cultural change.”