A care commission set up by Plaid Cymru has recommended that all social care in Wales should be free at the point of need. Views are currently being sought on the bold new plan, with Plaid Cymru likely to adopt the proposals ahead ahead of the next assembly elections in 2021.

Our Policy Officer, Grace Krause, looks at the proposals and how they are likely to benefit people with a learning disability in Wales.

The central recommendation of the report, ‘Developing a vision for social care in Wales’, is that access to social care in Wales should be free at the point of need, as it is with health care. The Care Commission writes that “Since 80% of the current cost of social care comes from public funding, our first recommendation is that like Health all social care should be free at the point of need.” Listing the cost of free home and residential social care for adults in Wales as “approximately £247m per year,” the report states that “the cost of free social care is eminently affordable but it needs political will to make it happen.”

The report follows a year-long consultation exercise where Plaid Cymru’s Care Commission took evidence from the statutory sector, the Third Sector, and organisations representing patients and people who use services. Presenters and submissions stressed the imbalance between Health and Social Care staff in pay and in terms and conditions and also in esteem for the two services.

In the report’s introduction, Plaid Cymru’s Care Commission states that “compared to the respect which people feel for the NHS many don’t understand or appreciate what social care is and the vital contribution it makes to society. Social care is equal in value to health and social care workers deserve the same respect and treatment which we afford health workers. Social care staff experience the same risks of verbal and physical abuse as NHS staff.”

The report stresses that “if social care fails, the NHS will fail.”

Summary of recommendations

The report sets out a number of recommendations:

  1. All Social Care delivered free at the point of need.
  2. A commitment to person-centred care in the design and delivery of the service.
  3. Development of early intervention and preventative services.
  4. A planned transformation period, costed and evidence-based, funding both acute and preventive services simultaneously.
  5. Parity of pay and terms and conditions between social care and health staff.
  6. Social Care to be paid for out of general taxation, with an emphasis on investing in early intervention and preventative services.
  7. Establish the costs required and to invest in the technology necessary to implement an all-Wales joined-up and co-operative approach.
  8. Third Sector and other providers to be involved as partners at the planning and commissioning stage of service delivery whilst being free to innovate.
  9. To develop a bi-lingual workforce to provide a fully bi-lingual social care service.
  10. Creation of a National Health and Care Service, managed nationally by a National Health and Social Care Board.

What is good about the proposal?

Learning Disability Wales welcomes this policy proposal. We know from our members that people with a learning disability often struggle to access social care and to even know what support they are entitled to. A social care system that is easier to navigate and in which people with a learning disability can access good care where and when they need it would be a great improvement. We also know that many care providers struggle retaining support workers and carers that support people with a learning disability. The main reason for this is that the working conditions and pay in this areas isn’t very good.

The report proposes that people who work in social care should have better working conditions and pay. Improving the working conditions of those who support people with a learning disability would enable them to deliver better care. It would also mean that carers and support workers are likely to stay longer in one position, meaning that they can build better relationships with the people they work with.

What could be better?

One thing that is missing for us in this policy proposal is a commitment to give people with a learning disability and other people who receive social care more control. The report asks for person-centred care, which sees the individual in their social context. This is a great start, but it is important that social care enables people to have as much independence as they want. Similarly, the report proposes that Third Sector organisations (like Learning Disability Wales) and other providers should be involved in planning and commissioning services. In addition to this, people who services themselves should be consulted directly. It is extremely important that people with a learning disability themselves should have a say in what a social care system should look like.

You can find out more about the report on the Social Care Commission section of the Plaid Cymru website.

Grace Krause
Policy Officer, Learning Disability Wales

Follow me on Twitter at @Grace_LDW.