Introduction by Professor Marcus Longley, Director of WIHSC and Professor of Applied Health Policy
This week’s blog in our ’20 blogs for 20 years’ series completes a trilogy of blogs on regulation by the heads of the three main regulatory bodies for health and social care in Wales [Listening and Speaking Out by Dr Kate Chamberlain and Basing Regulation on human rights in health and social care by Imelda Richardson]. Rhian Huws Williams is the Chief Executive of the Care Council for Wales, which is shortly to be transmogrified into Social Care Wales. But as Rhian points out, this is much more than a re-branding exercise. The new body will still police professional staff and their training, but it will also be charged with ‘regulation for success’. What does that mean? Can the two be combined successfully? And what does it mean in an increasingly integrated world?
Regulation for Success
“Regulation for success,” that is how the Minister for Health and Social Services has described his vision for the new regulatory and inspection arrangements for social services and social care in Wales through legislation which will come into force in 2016. He intends that the Regulation and Inspection Bill will forge a regulation system geared to support success, not simply to identify or describe failure. The approach will be to regulate for improvement and for success. This is music to my ears!
The importance of synergy between regulation and development has been a founding principle for Care Council for Wales (the regulatory body for social work and social care practitioners and training) since its establishment in 2011. This is also the model for the sister regulatory bodies in Scotland and Northern Ireland. But it goes against the grain of the health professionals regulatory models which are non-devolved.
Effective regulation needs to be about:
- Protection for those who use the services
- Strengthening and supporting professionalism
- Raising standards of practice (and education)
- Contributing to the wider whole systems improvement
That requires partnership working. The Welsh Government was ambitious when it established the Care Council as a body where all interested parties would have a voice. A collaborative model and at the time a blueprint for citizen-led regulation.
It has not been tokenistic. But more can be done.
The Regulation and Inspection Bill will reconstitute the Care Council for Wales as Social Care Wales. This will involve a step change for the social care sector and, for the first time, it will combine responsibility for workforce regulation, workforce development, research and service improvement all within the one leadership body with a prime purpose of securing the best outcomes for people in need of and receiving care and support.
The Minister is looking to Social Care Wales to build on the successful foundations laid down by the Care Council. The key difference will be its new strategic focus and authority for setting and supporting the delivery of the improvement agenda for services. The workforce and supporting partners will play an important part in delivering that improvement across the social care sector.
What and how we learn from regulatory work is vital. What does the information tell us about areas of concern and how do we use that information to target and support learning and improvement? That is the ultimate added value.
With our eyes firmly on improving outcomes and strengthening safeguards for children and adults in Wales and more integration what appetite might there be in Wales to discuss some of the ideas offered by the Professional Standards Authority on how professional regulation can complement, support and facilitate the cultural and practice changes which are now required in Wales?
Over the years the team at the Welsh Institute for Health and Social Care have been prepared to generate and facilitate discussions on similar hot topics in health and social care. They have hosted some tricky round table conversations that exposed assumptions and long established positions, but also generated thoughtful reflections and were catalysts for change.
For change to happen we must secure opportunities to think the unthinkable, to avoid assumptions, to take risks, to accept that there will be failures but also to learn from failure in order to inform development. We need evidence for what really works and makes a difference. For reform to become a reality, we need distinctively Welsh solutions, drawing on the strength of our local communities and our workforce and building on our Welsh values. Ambition is critical, in both senses of the phrase.
Rhian Huws Williams, Chief Executive, Care Council for Wales