Arrangements to promote co-operation; adults with needs for care and support and carers
Section 162 of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 provides that a local authority must make arrangements to promote cooperation between the local authority, each of the authority's 'relevant partners' and other bodies who are engaged in activities relevant to adults in need of care and support and carers in need of support. The local authority must also make arrangements to promote co-operation between the officers of the authority. The arrangements are to be made with a view to improving the well-being of adults with needs for care and support and carers. Arrangements also need to focus on improving the quality of care and support and protecting adults who are experiencing or at risk of abuse or neglect.
All relevant partners may provide staff, goods, services, accommodation, establish and maintain a pooled fund and share information with one another. A 'pooled fund' is made up of contributions from the authority and the relevant partners out of which payments can be made in the discharge of functions. The local authority and its relevant partners must also have regard to any guidance given by the Welsh Ministers.
This provision for adults and carers mirrors the existing provisions of the Children Act 2004 in relation to children. Section 25 of the 2004 Act enables relevant partners as defined in that Act to establish and maintain a pooled fund or provide staff, goods and support to another partner for the purposes of the cooperation arrangements under that section.
An example where a pooled fund may be used to benefit adults could include the funding of additional health support workers to support people recovering from substance misuse or the development of an information and support service for carers.
Arrangements to promote co-operation: children
In 2004 the Welsh Government voluntarily adopted the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child as the basis of all its work for children and young people in Wales (the Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure 2011 subsequently placed the Welsh Government under a duty to have due regard to the Convention when carrying out any of its functions).
The Convention rights had been translated into seven Core Aims, which the Welsh Government sought to implement, to ensure that all children and young people:
- have a flying start in life;
- have a comprehensive range of education and learning opportunities;
- enjoy the best possible health and are free from abuse, victimisation and exploitation;
- have access to play, leisure, sporting and cultural activities;
- are listened to, treated with respect, and have their race and cultural identity recognised;
- have a safe home and a community which supports physical and emotional wellbeing; and
- are not disadvantaged by poverty.
These aims are reflected in section 25 of the Children Act 2004 and together strengthen the arrangements for protecting and promoting the welfare of children and young people. For the first time it places a duty on all local authorities in Wales (referred to in the Act as children's services authorities) to make arrangements to promote co-operation with a view to improving the well-being of children in their area, in relation to:
- physical and mental health and emotional well-being;
- protection from harm and neglect;
- education, training and recreation;
- the contribution made by them to society; and
- social and economic well-being.
In fulfilling this duty a local authority is required to promote co-operation between itself and its “relevant partners”. The agencies who are “relevant partners” of the local authority are specified in subsection (4) of section 25 and they include, the local health board for the area, and the Public Health Wales National Health Service Trust (if it is providing services in the area of the authority), the local police authority, probation services and young offender teams.
Section 163 of the 2014 Act makes amendments to section 25 of the Children Act 2004 (co-operation to improve well-being: Wales). These amendments are made to ensure the existing duty in the 2004 Act to make arrangements to promote co-operation to improve the well-being of children is aligned with the new duty in section 162 of the 2014. In particular, the definition of “well-being” in section 2 of the 2014 Act is imported into section 25 of the 2004 Act in place of the current definition, together with a new definition of “care and support”.
Duty to co-operate and provide information in the exercise of social services functions
Section 164 of the 2014 Act provides that if the local authority requests the cooperation of, or information from, a relevant partner in exercising its social services functions, the relevant partner must do so unless it is incompatible with its own duties or would otherwise have an adverse effect on its own functions. The relevant partner refusing to co-operate or provide information must give written reasons to the local authority explaining its decision to refuse.
Section 27 of the Children Act 1989 places specific duties on agencies to cooperate in the interests of vulnerable children. Where it appears to a local authority that another public body could, by taking any specified action, help in the exercise of any of their functions under Part 3 of the 1989 Act, they may request the help of that other authority, specifying the action in question. A public body whose help is requested under this section has a duty to comply with the request if it is compatible with their own statutory or other duties and obligations and does not unduly prejudice the discharge of any of their functions.
Section 27 of the 1989 Act has been amended by regulations made under section 198 of the 2014 Act (the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 (Consequential Amendments) Regulations 2016) so that it no longer applies to requests by local authorities in Wales to other public bodies in Wales, as this will now be covered by section 164 of the 2014 Act. However, section 27 will continue to apply to requests by local authorities in England to public bodies in both England and Wales.
Requests by local authorities in Wales to other public bodies in England which would formerly have been made under section 27 are now covered by section 164A of the 2014 Act. Section 164A mirrors the provisions of section 27, in so far as it requires certain public bodies in England to comply with requests to cooperate by local authorities in Wales in the exercise of certain of their functions in relation to children, namely
- the local authority’s functions under section 14F of the Children Act 1989 (special guardianship support services);
- any of the local authority’s functions in relation to safeguarding and promoting the well-being of children and young persons, in particular those with needs for care and support, and their families and others;
- any of the local authority’s functions in relation to looked-after and accommodated children;
- any of the local authority’s functions in relation to young persons entitled to support under sections 105 to 115 of the 2014 (care leavers).
Section 47 of the Children Act 1989 also places a duty on:
- any local authority;
- any local education authority;
- any housing authority;
- any local health board, Special Health Authority or National Health Service Trust (or equivalent NHS bodies in England); and
- any person authorised by the Welsh Ministers,
to help a local authority with its enquiries in cases where there is reasonable cause to suspect that a child is suffering, or is likely to suffer, significant harm.