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 a duty under section 8 of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 to issue a statement about the well-being of those with needs for care and support. The statement must specify the outcomes to be achieved for those people and the measures by reference to which achievement can be assessed. Under section 9 the Welsh Ministers must also issue a code for this purpose which can give guidance to any person providing care and support services and can impose requirements on local authorities. The Welsh Ministers have power under section 12 to do anything which they consider is likely to help a local authority to comply with requirements imposed by a code under section 9.
Social Care Wales (SCW), which assumed the functions of the Care Council for Wales as the regulator of the social care workforce with effect from April 2017, also has an overarching role as regards care and support services. Section 68 of the Regulation and Inspection of Social Care (Wales) Act 2016 requires SCW, in carrying out its functions, to fulfil the objective of protecting, promoting and maintaining the safety and well-being of the public in Wales. It is also required to exercise its functions with a view to promoting and maintaining high standards in the provision of care and support services as well as in the conduct and practice of social care workers.
The Welsh Ministers have general powers under section 60 of the Government of Wales Act 2006 to promote or improve the social well-being of people in Wales. This power includes a power to pay grants. Welsh Ministers also have a more specific powers to 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 meet or contribute towards the cost of child care training or 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 was implemented in phases. It introduces a new regulatory regime for care and support services in Wales, and also reforms the system of regulation of those who work in the sector and provide care for vulnerable adults or children.