Local authorities have a key role in providing social care for both adults and children, and support to carers. Their functions extend to providing care for those with mental health needs, for disabled persons and for children who need to be taken into local authority care. Local authorities are also responsible for providing adoption services, and for investigating and intervening to protect children from abuse and neglect.
Social welfare, including social services, is generally devolved in Wales. The Welsh Ministers have a general supervisory role in the current system of social care provision in Wales. As well as having inspection functions, the Welsh Ministers have the general function of encouraging improvement in the provision of Welsh local authority social services (section 92 of the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003). The Welsh Ministers have a general duty to encourage improvement in the quality of service regulated under Part 2 of the Care Standards Act 2000 (see section 8 of that Act). The Care Council for Wales must act under the directions and guidance of the Welsh Ministers (section 54(4) of the Care Standards Act 2000).
In addition to their general powers, the Welsh Ministers have some specific grant-making powers in the field of social care. They may pay grants to organisations providing training in social care work or to those undertaking such training (section 76(4) of the Care Standards Act 2000). The Welsh Ministers may provide grants to any person to promote the welfare of children and their parents, to support parenting (section 14 of the Education Act 2002) and to provide accommodation in children’s homes (section 82 of the Children Act 1989).
A Welsh Minister is usually appointed to be responsible for social care alongside health matters and he or she is served by the Welsh Government Department for Health and Social Services.
The laws on social care changed in Wales on 6 April 2016. The Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 makes important changes to the way social services are delivered, primarily through promoting people’s independence to give them stronger voice and control. The Act puts greater onus on local authorities to provide preventative services which will delay, reduce or prevent needs for care and support. The Act gives local authorities an updated set of duties and functions in relation to improving the well-being of people who need care and support and carers who need support.
The Regulation and Inspection of Social Care (Wales) Act 2016 once implemented, will reform the regulatory regime for care and support services in Wales, and also reform the system of regulation of those who work in the sector and provide care for vulnerable adults or children.