BUILDING blocks are being put in place towards establishing a Welsh national care service, Wales’ social services minister has said.

Julie Morgan gave an update on the Welsh Government’s rebalancing care and support programme, which lays the groundwork for a service free at the point of need.

The deputy minister for social services said a national office for care and support will be established by April, with a focus on innovation, improvement and transformation of adult and children’s services.

She told the Senedd: “We have a care sector where approximately 90 per cent of providers are in the independent sector.

“The national commissioning framework will focus on delivering high-quality services and a shift from complexity towards simplification, based on national principles and standards.”

South Wales Argus:

Plans for a national care and support agreement are part of the Welsh Government’s cooperation agreement with Plaid Cymru.

She told MSs: “The rebalancing care and support programme is an important building block to this longer term strategic vision for a national care service in Wales.”

Gareth Davies, the Conservatives’ shadow minister, called for clarity on how the proposals will be costed and afforded.

Mr Davies said the £17 million cost of Senedd reform, which he described as a "vanity project", could instead be used to recruit more than 700 health care workers.

He told the Senedd: “£400 million from the UK Government was announced for Wales in March last year as part of a £7 billion package for health and social care in England.

“I hope this is invested wisely in the simplification of social services, the fair paying of staff and an emphasis on quality.”

Mr Davies also raised concerns about the chief social care officer being politically accountable to ministers rather than to an independent body.

Mabon ap Gwynfor, Plaid Cymru’s shadow minister, described plans for a national care service as the most radical reforms since the foundation of the NHS.

He said: “With our ageing population, high rates of long-term sickness, and increased pressures on front-line NHS services, ensuring that the provision of social care in Wales is fit for purpose is one of the most urgent policy challenges of our time.”

Ms Morgan said a three-stage initial implementation plan – based on an expert group’s report – will be published before the end of the calendar year.