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Social Service

January 28, 2008 4:59 PM
By Kirsty Williams AM in Mid Wales Journal on Friday 1st February

I am a strong believer that in order for Parliamentarians to carry out their job to the best of their ability they must spend as much time as possible out in their local communities talking and listening to residents, service users, workers, OAPs, professionals and business people. Assembly Members cannot stay hidden in the Cardiff Bay bubble of the Senedd, talking about people's lives and futures, without having been out into the real world to talk with the experts who have first hand experience, namely the people whom they represent.

Recently I was lucky enough to spend the day out and about with Powys' social services, more specifically with some of the staff who manage the care of the elderly team and the learning disability and mental health services in the Breconshire area of my constituency. I was hugely impressed by all the teams that I met all the more so as they are working under a huge amount of pressure with a lack of resources and funding.

The care of the elderly team has an impressed and formidable new team leader who, I am delighted to say, we have poached back from across the border. Having been born and brought up in Ystradgynlais, she spent all her social working career in England, but has now come home to Wales. Having met her and her staff, I truly believe that Powys' prospects in the near future are bound to improve. The clear message that came across from the social workers and social care teams in Powys want is closer working between health and social care professionals.

They find it difficult to understand why an authority is dealing with a relatively low number of people when it is geographically large, and why we need two separate organisations to deliver health and social care for the population. They want a social care system that focuses on outcomes, which are more than just the bald statistics of how many assessments have been carried out, and how many people have been revisited within the set timetable. They want outcomes that truly measure their success as social workers in promoting independence and improving the quality of people's lives. They want to focus on developing a system that focuses on individual planning and the personalisation of care, which focuses on what older people can do rather than what they cannot do. Perhaps we have a cultural issue to overcome here in Wales. When people get poorly or bad, we want to take care of them. Perhaps in the old days that meant putting them in what we regard to be safe places, such as a residential or nursing homes, rather than seeking to promote their independence, and to keep them out of institutions for as long as possible.

Between 2001 and 2005, the number of people using all social services rose from 100,000 to 150,000. The highest increase is in adult social services and with an ageing population this demand is only going to grow. Local authorities such as Powys were already facing difficult challenges before the budget was announced, and the low settlement will only serve to compound this problem. It is clear that the as well as more resources we need more and more collaboration between local health boards and social services to provide an efficient and effective service within Powys and across Wales as a whole.

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