Participation Cymru recently attended a workshop at the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales offices (OPCW). The workshop looked at a range of scenarios that affect older people and how the new Social Services and Well Being (Wales) Bill would impact on their situation, would it make it better, worse or have no impact?
The majority of people at the workshop were in agreement that the new Bill was definitely well-intentioned but when you try to apply a piece of legislation like this one to someone’s life, it’s very difficult to see how exactly it will help them.
This Bill, like many others, is very long and the Explanatory Memorandum that accompanies it is even longer. In fact many people I’ve spoken with about it have said that it ‘weighed them down’ (in more ways than one!). The workshop made me think about legislation in the wider sense and if law-making compares to citizen empowerment. Technically, it doesn’t.
So instead, is legislation there to protect people? In a sense: yes. The Social Services and Well-Being Bill aims to protect social service users and carers, ensuring that their needs are met and their voice is heard. Other pieces of legislation in Wales and the UK are also there to protect people, our property or possessions.
This leads to a philosophical question: do we need protection before we can feel empowered? Does this protection have to be legal? Or should we instead rely on the common sense of service providers to offer the required service no-matter-what, eliminating the need for a lengthy legal document?
“No person who we’ve spoken to has ever said that what they really want or need is new piece of legislation”.
I completely agree – the people of Wales need access to good public services that meet their needs, they don’t need legislation to tell a service provider what they should be doing anyway.
A simple way of putting this point across is: The reason that I don’t go out tomorrow and rob a bank is because I think stealing is immoral and selfish, not because I want to avoid punishment or because there is a law that says I shouldn’t. I am empowered by my own decision.