By Debbie le Quesne

Landmark care laws for Wales and . . . the Budget

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A landmark Bill which aims to revolutionise how social services are delivered in Wales passed its final Assembly hurdle this week.

It represents a huge shake-up of care and for those who know me well, I have high regard for the Welsh – they know a thing or two.

The law aims to equalise standards of care across the country, will create a single, national adoption service and see the introduction of safeguarding for vulnerable adults for the first time.

It has been described by Ministers as the biggest and most complex piece of legislation to have ever been put before the Assembly since it was granted law-making powers in 2011.

I will be watching its development as the changes roll our carefully. Interestingly, at the final hurdle,  a Plaid bid to outlaw zero-hours contracts in the care sector was voted down by Labour and the Conservatives, with the Deputy Minister for Social Services, Gwenda Thomas, questioning whether it would be within the Assembly’s powers.

Assembly Members voted by 53-5 to pass the law, with the Liberal Democrats voting against, I read.

The face of caring is changing across the UK. Our own Care Bill has the potential to improve social and NHS care for all of us, but there’s a big “but . . .” that hangs above all the rhetoric and fine thinking. Yes, the frame is now almost in place to build upon, but – and here it is – funding to finance transition must be released to us.

George Osborne placed savers at the heart of economic recovery in his Budget with new deals on pension funds. For a few moments I though “yes, this could help free up funds and inspire better investment”.

And then I watched the analytics unfold on TV. Despite economic growth, which is good for the care sector, austerity is still on the horizon with no real plan to ease the pain the care sector and its clients are feeling for years to come.

What has been defined as the “wriggle room” of where Mr Osborne can find additional savings is a scary prospect. There seems to be a one-trick pony in this race and it involves slashing local authority budgets. The cuts are then decanted into the community, and not least, the care industry.

If the Chancellor believes that by introducing a new Pensioner Bond to help out the over 65s, I believe he’s missing the mark by a country mile. True, the interest rates are tempting, but few of the pensioners our care providers look after have disposable savings income to take advantage of the initiative.

If Mr Osborne really wants to help the elderly, he should be thinking of releasing his stranglehold on funding for their good care!


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