Making Change Work

Professional and political leaders from across the public, private and independent sectors met in Cardiff on 21-22 June at the Welsh National Social Services Conference ‘Making Change Work’ to present their visions for the future delivery of social services in Wales post-election.

In a climate driven by tight budgets and serious pressures on the profession to meet growing need, delegates explored the range of difficult challenges facing social services today: from maintaining service levels and addressing capacity issues to enhancing the social care experience for users.

Gwenda Thomas, Deputy Minister for Children and Social Services presented the Welsh Government's priorities for addressing these challenges. "Wales is a small country but we can be a smart, clever country which delivers first class community care..." she said. Thomas outlined a number of ways for improvement over the next 5 years: Integration, sustainable services, a renewed pace of improvement and community cohesion - all of which she said would be backed by Welsh Government support and where necessary legislation including a planned new Social Services Act for Wales.

Parry Davies, ADSS Cymru President welcomed the Minister's recognition that there is a strong platform to build on but acknowledged that all stakeholders will have to increase the pace of collaboration and integration to meet the significant challenges ahead. “The conference today has discussed how we move forward despite the increasing pressures across both adult and children's services. Only by working collectively can these be addressed, ensuring high quality services for our citizens in Wales," Davies said.

ESN’s Chief Executive, John Halloran, opened and chaired the session on ‘Breaking the Cycle of Child Poverty’ asking panellists to discuss the role of social services in lifting children from poverty. The panellists included Naomi Alleyne, Director of Equalities and Social Justice, WLGA, Neelam Bhardwaja, Corporate Director, Cardiff City Council; Dr. Samantha Clutton, Senior Research & Policy Officer, Barnardo’sCymru; and Mark Provis, Chief Education Officer, Torfaen Council/Association of Directors of Education Wales.

Neelam Bharwaja highlighted that social services can ensure that there is sufficient provision of early support and intervention particularly around parenting to ensure that babies and young children receive satisfactory parenting to give them a good start in all aspects of life. This should lead to physical and emotional wellbeing, which are pre requisites for educational achievement which in turn is the key factor in combating child poverty.

"It is well evidenced that children who have been looked after the system feature heavily in the poverty related statistics due to poor educational attainment, not being in education, employment or training, high incidence of substance misuse and involvement in crime. Social services have an important role in ensuring that looked after children are helped to reach their potential and kept out of getting caught up in the cycle of poverty,” Bharwaja said.

Halloran highlighted a quote from the paragraph 19 of the recent conclusions of the Council of the European Union on Tackling child poverty and promoting child wellbeing where the member states are invited: 19. “to promote close cooperation amongst public authorities at all levels, social partners, local communities and civil society organisations, inter alia through social innovations for the creation of a quality environment for all children (notably those experiencing social exclusion)."

This working structure on child poverty at European level, according to Halloran, is an important step in tackling this issue: "We welcome the Welsh contribution to shaping the EU’s Recommendation on child poverty and well-being in 2012," he said.