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We’ll do safeguarding our way says Welsh social services minister

Social workers in Wales have won praise for their commitment to safeguarding vulnerable adults and children from Deputy Minister for Social Services Gwenda Thomas AM, who said that a raft of new “made in Wales” legislation was providing a blueprint for the rest of the UK.

In a specially recorded message to delegates at BASW Cymru’s safeguarding conference in Wrexham, Ms Thomas thanked social workers for their essential work “day-in, day-out”, and stressed the need to support the workforce to take forward the requirements of new legislation in Wales.

Ms Thomas said these were “exciting times” for safeguarding in Wales, and wanted to enlist the “commitment and expertise of organisations such as BASW Cymru” to support these changes.

Wales excels in innovative practice on safeguarding, said Ms Thomas, with some ground-breaking new measures being introduced, including the introduction in January of the new child practice review framework to replace Serious Case reviews, which will improve the culture of learning from cases.

“Collectively we can make a real difference to the lives of adults and children who might be at risk,” she said.

Ms Thomas stated that keeping people safe was a key priority for the Welsh government and the social care workforce need to be both supported and skilled in this challenging area of practice. Discussions are currently on-going as to how to include the most meaningful aspects of safeguarding training in both pre and post qualifying courses.

The Social Services and Well Being Wales bill introduced in January will strengthen safeguarding arrangements in the country, she said. There is an intention through the bill to put in place intervention procedures with the introduction of adult care and support orders to help support practitioners who need to tackle cases of potential adult abuse and neglect.

Ms Thomas said the introduction of some type of intervention power received “unequivocal support” from the consultation on the bill, and was an example of how Wales is tackling difficult issues “head-on”.

The establishment of the first national Independent Safeguarding Board offered a unique approach to safeguarding in the UK, she said.

The board will also brief ministers on the “adequacy and effectiveness” of safeguarding action to shape policy and will help provide strategic leadership and direction to both agencies and practitioners.

Ms Thomas, cited the “flawed” example of Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards (LSCBs), based on an English model, as they are unsustainable on a “local authority footprint” .

“Made in Wales” legislation offers “significant opportunities”, and Ms Thomas plans to move the LCSB model to just six. Ms Thomas praised the progress already made - of the six new boards to be created, three are already in place.

Ms Thomas said that the current perception of adult safeguarding as a “Cinderella” area of practice when compared to child protection must not continue.

Safeguarding Adults boards will be created for the first time and will begin to create a legislative framework for “effective, multi-agency cooperation”.

Child protection teaches us that this type of multi-agency working is essential, she said. Key legal duties will be placed on statutory agencies, with the social services department acting as the lead co-ordinating agency to ensure “clarity and consistency of approach”.

The Family Justice Review is also leading to consideration as to how particular skill sets need to be extended. There will be further examination of this issue when considering how best to support the workforce to take forward the requirements of the bill, she said.

In March, Phil Hodgson was appointed chair of the safeguarding and protection expert development panel, which has a critical role in developing new arrangements with key safeguarding agencies and stakeholders and will look in detail at how best to implement a strategic structure to support leadership and cooperation between agencies, the introduction of legislation for adult protection and new leadership and collaboration arrangements.