A new blueprint to improve social care for vulnerable people in Wales will fail unless more money is pumped into the system.
Mario Kreft MBE, the chair of Care Forum Wales, which represents hundreds of independent providers, spoke out following the publication of the Parliamentary Review of Health and Social Care in Wales.
Commissioned following the 2016 National Assembly Elections, it has been prepared by an expert panel led by former Chief Medical Officer for Wales Dr Ruth Hussey.
The report sets out the government’s vision for the future provision of services against a background of rising demand and increasing public expectations.
Mr Kreft welcomed the overall findings of the review but was concerned its remit excluded funding and “failure to properly address the fundamentally important issue of funding” would prevent the recommendations being put into practice.
He said: “There are 10 key recommendations in the report and I believe the most important of these is a new model of care offering a holistic system and seamless service focusing on the individual receiving care.
“This means health and social services working together rather than separately as at present.
“A separate system, in which people have to deal with perhaps two different agencies as well as our members as the service provider, takes a lot longer for people to deal with and creates a lot of slack.
“However, it’s clear from the report that a holistic system will not be about wholesale restructuring but rather redirecting the system to focus on delivery to users, which is good to see.”
Mr Kreft also praised the report for recommending extra focus on the social care workforce.
He said: “At last there is proper emphasis being given to recognising long-term recruitment issues and improving training, support and the capacity for our staff to innovate.
“This has been a constant theme for Care Forum Wales which sees the proper recognition of the many excellent people working within the sector as a cornerstone of care provision.
“We also need to ensure services are commissioned in such a way as to ensure we are able to reward the social care workforce properly for skilled work they do.”
Another area in the report applauded by Care Forum Wales, he said, was a suggestion that the public be provided with clearer and more accessible information, with the particular needs of Welsh speakers, rural areas and areas of deprivation being taken into account.
Mr Kreft added: “One thing which the report doesn’t mention is funding. While I realise this wasn’t in the panel’s remit and has been accurately described as the elephant in the room
“The independent sector is very fragile. Care homes are closing all the time because they are not financially viable and many more are under threat, with domiciliary care companies also under a huge amount of pressure and handing back or unable to take on contracts.
“We therefore see funding as a vital consideration in all this and we will now be looking to the Welsh Government for some clear commitments on how health and social care is to be properly and adequately funded in the future. An emphasis on the workforce is all very good, but we need to be able to reward them properly in order to recruit and retain people to take on these roles.
“At the same time we need to reduce bureaucracy and use the money we have better focusing on the needs of the people for whom we provide social care
“The message I wish to send out is that now we have this very crucial report it’s time for us to see some sort of action on the very positive recommendations it makes because it’s absolutely vital that we invest properly in the future of our services and processes in this key sector.”