14 Dec 2017

A month into post, Huw Irranca-Davies, the new Minister for Children and Social Services welcomed the opportunity to meet with members of the third sector Health & Social Care Planning Group as part of the Third Sector Scheme.

He emphasised the intrinsic value of third sector activity to his portfolio, ranging from the work of small localised activities such as choirs, lunch clubs and walking groups, through to larger scale delivery of care and support; and was keen to hear about the challenges and opportunities for the sector in implementing the government's ambitious vision for health and social care in Wales. 

The sector tabled a paper for discussion,'Delivering social care and support in Wales: the Social Services and Well-being Act 2014', highlighting key findings from an initiative led by the Wales Co-operative Centre and WCVA, collaborating with independent research being undertaken by WISERD at Cardiff University.  Wales Co-operative Centre and WCVA will develop information and guidance to secure more meaningful engagement and involvement of social enterprise, co-operative, user-led and third sector organisations in the implementation of the Act, through the Regional Partnership Boards (RPBs) and Regional Social Value Forums (SVFs). 

Initial findings suggest there is broad support and enthusiasm for the Act, however there are gaps in the understanding and skills as to what co-production means in practice in the design and delivery of services and citizen involvement; and an overarching challenge in terms of the capacity and resources to bring about the transformational change to the behaviours and practices, as envisaged by the Act. 

Specific challenges were recognised in how the third sector is involved in the governance structures of Regional Partnership Boards, highlighting a need for regional and national third sector members to work together, and to share information and good practice.  Evidence also suggests that commissioning practices can work to either support or undermine the aspirations of the Act, with some poor practice noted in relation to the Integrated Care Fund (ICF). 

The Minister welcomed the opportunity to work with the sector on this initiative, to consider how Social Value Forums might be used to drive culture change; to identify opportunities to strengthen connections between Regional Partnership Boards, Public Service Boards and innovative practices being trialled by GP Clusters; and to clarify guidance for the ICF to enable social value organisations to play a more systematic role in designing and delivering better schemes.  The challenge of leading a cultural change within tight budget constraints was recognised and the sector suggested an outcomes framework be put in place to aid recognition of 'social value' in order to move thinking and practice on from 'business as usual'.

Sara Moseley, Director of Mind Cymru, said: 'The value that the voluntary sector brings to health and social care, including alternative ways of supporting and working alongside people effectively in their communities, was emphasised by the Minister. He is clearly interested in what is going on at the grass roots and enthusiastic about the way this is reflected in Wales' new legislation. We need to be ready to meet the opportunity and also make sure that the systems being set up to assess and meet local need really work for us and our beneficiaries and don't become another 'tick-box' exercise.'