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Rhian Huws Williams - Regulation for success

Rhian Huws Williams article imageThat 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 the legislation which will come into force in 2016. He wants a regulation system geared to support success, not simply to identify failure. The approach will be to regulate for improvement and for success. This is music to my ears!

Like the field of education workforce regulation, social care regulation is experiencing a time of change. 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 and service improvement all within the one body.

The Care Council for Wales (the regulatory body for social work, the social care workforce and social work training) has maintained the principle of regulation as a contribution to continuous improvement and development, since it was established in 2001 and reflected in its dual remit for workforce regulation and development.

What is important is how we learn from regulatory work. What does the information tell us about areas of concern, how do we use that information to target and support learning and improvement? That is surely what we should be aiming for. For me the objectives of workforce regulation are to:

  • Protect the people who use the service
  • Strengthen and support the professionalism of the workforce;
  • Raise standards of practice

For that to be effective it needs to be done in partnership with those who use services and who need to have confidence in the workforce. The Welsh Government was ambitious and radical in setting up the Care Council to be a very different type of regulatory body, one in which all interested key groups would have a voice, with representatives of service users, carers and the general public being in the majority. A blueprint for citizen-led regulation.

It has not been tokenistic. It is a truly collaborative model. People who use services are partners in setting the strategy, governance, regulation, all aspects of social work training and in our work programmes. But that does not mean we can be complacent. There is more we need to do. Our work in the Care Council is part of a big drive for high quality care which has the confidence of the people of Wales. And our specific contribution as the Care Council is the quality of the workforce and through that good outcomes for people using care and support services. It is important that we don’t lose sight of that bigger picture.

Social Care Wales will look to build on the successful foundations laid down by the Care Council. The key difference will be its strategic focus on setting the improvement agenda for services as well as the workforce and supporting partners to deliver that improvement across the social care sector.
This will be set within the wider public service reform which will require all public services to think more about the long term, to work better with people and communities and each other, to look to prevent problems and to take a more joined-up approach. When making decisions we will need to take into account the impact they could have on people living their lives in Wales in the future.

There are areas of interface between education and social care. We know of the importance of having consistent approaches to safeguarding, joint working with children and families who are experiencing challenges and we know that the early years workforce connects up to both education and social care.

With our eyes firmly on improving outcomes and strengthening safeguards for children in Wales the question I want to pose at the end of this blog is what potential for synergy might there be for the newly constituted Education Workforce Council and Social Care Wales (the re-constituted Care Council from 2017) as the only two devolved regulatory bodies for professional workers, so that regulation is truly for success?

Rhian Huws Williams
Chief Executive, Care Council for Wales

Rhian has worked in social care for 35 years, beginning as a social worker and then as a training officer on strategies for learning disability and mental health. In 1988, she was appointed by the Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work to lead its programme in Wales, focusing on mental health, practice learning and the development of its Welsh language policy. She became the Head of their National Office for Wales in 1994 and was also a member of their UK Senior Management Team. In 2001 she was appointed as the first CEO of the Care Council for Wales, the workforce regulatory and development body for social workers and social care workers.

Rhian is a strong advocate of the importance of workforce investment and cultures of continuous learning. She is a staunch supporter of the value of vocational learning and qualifications, the need for partnerships between employers and learning providers and the need for more Welsh Language occupational learning opportunities. She is also a member of the four country Skills for Care and Development Executive Board and has contributed to several international conferences on social work training and on the model of social work regulation.

Rhian has served on two Ministerial Commissions, the Independent Commission on Social Services in Wales from 2009-11 and the Welsh for Adults Review Group which considered how best to develop learners’ Welsh language skills 2012-2013. She is a member of the Ministerial Welsh Language Task Group, which was established in 2010 to improve the use of Welsh in health and social care services, sits on the Advisory Board for Academi Wales (the Public Service Leadership Unit) and is a member of the National Social Services Leadership Group. She has also been a member of voluntary groups at national and local level over the years. Rhian was appointed to the National Eisteddfod Gorsedd in 2014, the Gorsedd holds the National Eisteddfod ceremonies and honours those who have made a significant contribution to the Welsh language and to Wales.