Last week I published the summary of responses to the consultation on the Social Services (Wales) Bill which took place in the spring and early summer.
As you would expect, the responses have given us much to consider.
Over 500 people attended a range of public events across Wales, including vulnerable groups such as disabled and looked-after children, care leavers and young carers. In addition, 275 written responses to the consultation were received and have been analysed. The response has been extremely constructive and I have been pleased to find that there is a real consensus for our broad proposals to safeguard and protect. This level of public engagement is absolutely critical to the success of our plans.
As with any proposals for change some turbulence is inevitable. It is essential that people are allowed a proper opportunity to express their views before we get down to the hard work. It has been equally important to ensure that, when people have taken the time to engage, we listen very carefully to what they have had to say. Consultation and engagement are critical, and so is decision making.
The premise for this consultation was to gauge the opinions of the experts -these are the commissioners and providers of services from across the public, voluntary and independent sectors; the people that use these services; and the people that care for those that use them. Every comment has been carefully considered and those comments have been central in developing the draft Bill to this point.
I have always been clear that it is vital that we get this important piece of legislation right, and I'm pleased to see that there is a broad consensus for our transformation agenda of Sustainable Social Services and what we are trying to achieve through this draft Bill.
It was felt that the original working title of the Bill did not encapsulate the full range of partners and provisions that are included within my proposals. Therefore, we will in future be referring to the draft Bill by its revised working title of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Bill.
The draft Bill will be a pivotal delivery mechanism for implementing key aspects of our reform agenda and provides us with the legislative basis that meets the changing needs of the people of Wales.
We recognise that without a programme of transformation, social services will not meet the needs of the people of Wales - they are simply not sustainable.
Central to that transformation is the core legal framework for social services and social care.
We want a legal framework that supports the delivery of services in a much more integrated way. This means that social services must work closely with other public services and the third and independent sectors, and that care is not the responsibility of social services alone.
Social services cannot be sustainable without delivering more early intervention. We are not prepared to sit by as fewer and fewer people receive the support they need. We will need local government to understand the dimensions and shape of the population in need and to have powers to make arrangements to provide a range of services to meet those needs.
The development of these arrangements is indicative of the maturity that the Welsh Government has reached in a relatively short space of time. However, the devolution settlement - and particularly the key role that the police and other non-devolved agencies play - means that some areas are dependent on the agreement of the UK Government. Discussions are already underway on areas which will require wider agreement, and we will continue to press for what we believe to be the best for Wales.
The involvement of stakeholders has been critical and our thinking has moved on in many areas. We have made considerable progress though I recognise that substantial work remains before we introduce the draft Bill to the Assembly in late January 2013.
I am grateful for the support shown by individuals and organisations from across Wales in this Bill and it shows once again the important part that social services and social care play in all of our lives.