On Thursday 30 March, the day after the Prime Minister triggered Article 50, the UK Government published the White Paper, Legislating for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union. That is the so-called ‘Great Repeal Bill’ White Paper.
4 June 2014
Article written by Michael Dauncey, National Assembly for Wales Research Service
The Welsh Government has recently (22 May 2014) published a White Paper setting out plans for new legislation on meeting additional learning needs in Wales.
Broadly speaking, the proposals will:
- replace the existing statutory definition of Special Educational Needs (SEN) with a more flexible and inclusive legal concept of Additional Learning Needs (ALN); and
- replace statements of SEN with Individual Development Plans (IDPs) as the basis for meeting a child or young person’s ALN.
Through these reforms, the Welsh Government also wants to bring together the legislation and statutory definitions for children under 16, who are classed as having ‘special educational needs’, and post-16 learners in further education, who are considered as having ‘learning difficulties and/or disabilities’. An ALN Bill would also seek to bring about greater co-operation between education, health and social services and improve families’ rights and experiences when applying for interventions.
Reform of the legal framework for learning needs has been on the agenda in Wales for a long time with a number of previous reviews and consultations being held on the subject. In the Second Assembly, the Education Lifelong Learning and Skills Committee undertook a three part inquiry into SEN between 2004 and 2007, which demonstrated the need for changes to be made.
The Programme for Government published at the start of the 2011-2016 Fourth Assembly included a commitment to reform the process for dealing with SEN / ALN in Wales and, in 2012, the Welsh Government held the consultation Forward in partnership for children and young people with additional needs: Proposals for reform of the legislative framework for special educational needs.
The current SEN framework is generally considered to be outdated, divisive and inflexible in terms of basing entitlement on statements. The Welsh Government itself states in the White Paper that it is no longer fit for purpose and ‘complex, bewildering and adversarial’. There is also considerable variation and inconsistency amongst local authorities across Wales in the way it is applied.
In evidence to the Children, Young People and Education Committee, Estyn has commented on the ‘considerable variation currently in local authority policies and practice’ and that local authorities have sought to reduce the number of statements and to provide support for pupils through other avenues such as School Action Plus. However, Estyn reported that ‘the rate at which this has happened varies considerably from one authority to another’.
The latest statistics on Pupils with Statements of Special Educational Needs, published by the Welsh Government in June 2013, show just how much practice in Wales varies. For example, as of January 2013, Bridgend and Torfaen had 15 and 16 young people with statements per 1,000 pupils respectively, compared to Swansea and Newport with 43 and 41.
The Welsh Government’s White Paper lists 22 specific proposals under the following three aims:
- A unified legislative framework to support children and young people aged 0 to 25 with additional learning needs;
- An integrated, collaborative process of assessment, planning and monitoring which facilitates early, timely and effective interventions; and
- A fair and transparent system for providing information and advice, and for resolving concerns and appeals.
The Welsh Government spends £358 million per year (2013-14) on SEN provision, with around 70 per cent of this money delegated to education settings themselves and the remainder allocated to local authorities.
Consultation on the proposals in the White Paper runs until 25 July 2014 and the Welsh Government has said the earliest a Bill is expected to be introduced to the Assembly is 2015, which would mean that reforms could come into force in academic year 2016/17.
12 November 2013
Article by Steve Boyce, National Assembly for Wales Research Service
The Welsh Government recently published a White Paper on regulating and inspecting social care services in Wales. It sets out proposals for legislation – a Bill is planned for 2015. Last week Welsh Government officials provided a ‘technical briefing’ on the White Paper to the Assembly’s Health and Social Care Committee.
The White Paper does not propose radical change to the regulatory functions of the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW), which would remain the service regulator, and the Care Council for Wales (CCW) which will continue to oversee workforce matters. However, CCW would be given a wider service improvement function and would be renamed the National Institute of Care and Support.
In keeping with the Welsh Government’s policy aim of enhancing user empowerment, the White Paper proposes to improve service transparency. Care service providers would be required to publish an annual report, information held by CSSIW would be more readily accessible, and there would be greater public involvement in the work of CSSIW.
There would also be a shift away from the current focus on individual service settings towards the regulation of service providers. That, coupled with strengthened corporate accountability and new duties on local authorities to assess supply and demand in their areas, would allow the regulator to monitor the financial health and corporate stability of key providers. This in turn would allow better contingency planning and, it is hoped, help maintain services in the event of provider failure. Providers themselves would be required to assess the risks to service continuity and make clear how they would respond to any difficulties.
Such proposals, together with plans for greater integration across regulation and inspection bodies would, the Welsh Government believes, provide the flexibility needed to respond to new and emerging models of care, including those that cross service boundaries such as health and social care.
The White Paper proposes retaining workforce registration in its current form. Plans to extend registration to all care staff were shelved some time ago, and voluntary registration will not be taken forward. However, registration of new groups of staff such as foster carers, independent advocates and social services inspectors remains a possibility. The consultation seeks views on the desirability of introducing “negative registration” of those found unfit to practise.
Finally The White Paper raises the issue of whether regulatory functions in relation to social care should remain inside the Welsh Government. This may prompt a debate about the best way to ensure independent regulation.
Since the current legislation, the Care Standards Act 2000 was introduced, models of service provision and public expectations of them have moved on, and concern about the quality of care services and the financial sustainability of some providers has grown. Next year the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Bill will begin to create a new framework for social care services in Wales. The Welsh Government and the care sector will be hoping that these proposals can meet the challenges of this new care landscape and help to ensure that users of care services and their families can be confident of consistently high quality services.
The consultation on the White Paper runs until 6 January 2014.