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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (SOCIAL CARE AND HEALTH)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 12th December, 2011.

 

Present:  Councillor Miss. S.J.C. Williams (Chairman); Councillor J.W. Thomas (Vice-Chairman); Councillors Mrs. S.M. Bagstaff, Mrs. M.E.J. Birch, S.C. Egan, Mrs. K.A. Kemp, N. Moore, C.L. Osborne, Mrs. M. Randall and Mrs. S.I. Sharpe.

 

Also present:  Councillors Mrs. D.M. Turner (Cabinet Member for Social and Care Services), G. John and C.J. Williams.

 

 

690     APOLOGY FOR ABSENCE -

 

This was received from Councillor Mrs. M. Kelly Owen.

 

 

691     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST -

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

692     LOCAL AUTHORITY SOCIAL SERVICES EVALUATION AND REVIEW 2010 - 2011 -

 

The Chairman welcomed CSSIW Inspectors Suzanne Griffiths and Howard Teague to the meeting.  They presented an overview of the report which evaluated the Social Services Department performance, based on an approach that had evidenced strengths and areas for development.  Members were advised that the outcome of the evaluation review process would help to inform both the current national inspection plans to ensure that available national resources were utilised to best effect together with the local inspections for 2011/2012.

 

The report also outlined that there was continued evidence of corporate and political support and scrutiny of Social Services in the Vale of Glamorgan.  The leadership by managers within the Department was also enabling the authority to engage in strategic planning and the development of services alongside improving the performance and quality of current services.  Reference was made to the challenging financial climate facing the Social Services Department which included having to make savings over the previous three years which was set to continue with further savings earmarked for the next three years.  However, the authority had some significant collaborative and partnership arrangements in place within which it was developing integrated working and regional commissioning with neighbouring authorities and health which it was envisaged would have a major impact. 

 

There was evidence of improvement in a number of key areas, although there was more to do.  There had also been improvements in the quality and consistency of assessment and case management for children.  The authority's progress in improving practice in Adult Services would be the subject of a CSSIW Review in 2011/2012.  Evidence indicated that overall the authority had a relatively longstanding and stable workforce.  It could retain and recruit staff, although a small number of specific frontline posts had proved difficult to fill.  The authority had systems in place to support and manage staff including their performance and development.  The key strengths in areas for development/improvement identified in the Review were set out as:

  • Getting Help
  • What the local authority does well
  • What the local authority needs to develop and improve
  • Services provided
  • Effect of peoples lives
  • Delivering Social Services
  • Shaping Services
  • Providing direction.

The Inspectors also referred to the good working relationships that existed between the Inspectors and officers and that Scrutiny had been engaged in the process.  In considering the aspects of what the authority did well and what the authority needed to do to develop and improve, the following information was noted from the review:

 

With regard to Adult Services, the authority had further reduced the level of delayed transfers of care for social care reasons.  The authority had performed well in the allocation of referrals and reviews in learning disability services and improvements to carer services by appointing Carer Assessment Officers. 

 

For Children's Services, performance had improved and the authority was very close to consistently meeting key statutory duties in relation to the management of children and young people's cases and the authority continued to make progress in improving the quality of assessment and care management. Adult Services had also worked collaboratively and strategically to change and develop the pattern of services available and Children's Services were providing an increasing range of services to support children and young people within their own families and communities. 

 

The report then stressed what the local authority needed to do to develop and improve.  For Adult Services, it should

  • continue its work to eliminate delays in allocating referrals and ensure that all service users had a named care manager,
  • improve access to a specialist assessment for those people that required one and
  • continue to reduce the time taken from a making a first approach to Social Services agreeing a care plan
  • report on the outcomes achieved for and by service users and continue to plan to close the gaps in services that had been identified.

For Children's Services, it should:

  • complete the review with the business process for intake and assessment so that it could be confident about demand for services and its response
  • increase the proportion of assessments undertaken by social workers
  • further improve the numbers of looked after children and child in need cases allocated to social workers
  • eliminate unallocated children in need cases and
  • improve the accuracy of care plans ensuring they are up to date and reflect current circumstances, needs and actions.

It was also reported that Children's Services should ensure that they could meet the needs of children and young people with complex and challenging needs including continuing to have sufficient placement capacity. 

 

The Inspectors were pleased to note that the performance of Social Services continued to be closely monitored both within the Social Services Directorate and within corporate and political processes and that data and information was available on a Team, Service and Directorate basis to support this. 

 

In considering the report, Members were pleased to note the good feedback that had been received.  They questioned the Inspectors regarding the current budget situation facing the Department and asked what help CSSIW could provide to the authority in respect of the budget position.  The Inspectors' response related to the fact that to date they considered the Department had responded extremely well to the budget situation and had been effective in its management.  Although stating that CSSIW did not have a say in the allocation of budgets, they could influence the policy makers and emphasise the areas that needed to be addressed in the future as well as those areas of good practice that could be shared throughout all local authorities in Wales.  They could support officers with advice and guidance in order to make the more difficult decisions when required.  Ms. Griffiths also stated that in the future Inspectors would be holding business meetings with officers from the Department on a regular basis and feedback from these could be reported to the Scrutiny Committee.  This was a new aspect that would be undertaken across Wales.

 

The Chairman took the opportunity to thank the Inspectors for their attendance and noted that there were no real surprises in the report. However, there were a number of issues that would need to be addressed in the future but that the report was a positive response following the evaluation. 

 

Having considered the report it was

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the Local Authority Social Services Inspectors Evaluation and Review 2010 - 2011 be noted.

 

 

693     SOCIAL SERVICES CHANGE PLAN 2011 - 2014 - PROGRESS REPORT (REF) -

 

Cabinet had referred the Social Services Change Plan 2011 - 2014 on 29th November to the Scrutiny Committee to exercise effective oversight of the way in which the Change Plan was to be delivered.  The Change Plan had been developed by a Corporate Project Group comprising of officers from across the Council and a representative from the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board and from the Vale Centre for Voluntary Services (VCVS).  It had been designed to provide an overarching framework for sustained service improvement and a coherent direction for Social Services in the period 2011 - 2014.  There were seven priority areas in the Plan

  • integrating Health and Social Care services
  • commissioning
  • integrated social care for children and young peoples services
  • human resources
  • information; use of different channels and media to improve access to information and services
  • resource management and
  • co-production and equality impact.

The Council anticipated that implementation of the Plan would help to achieve the following overall aims:

  • making best use of the fact that Social Services were an integral part of local government (able to call upon all resources available within the local authority to meet statutory obligations, including the community leadership role, the expertise available in other parts of the Council, performance management and improvement frameworks, etc.)
  • providing sustainable, flexible and innovative services (which can adjust to new circumstances and needs)
  • increasing user and carer satisfaction with the range of services (with the emphasis on recovery, restoration and reablement)
  • providing service users and carers with a strong voice and real control over their services
  • developing further a competent and confident workforce (which is skilled, responsive and professional, able to operate with a reduced volume of prescriptive government guidance about processes)
  • facilitating more collaborative working (to deliver better service integration); and
  • securing better value in the use of scarce resources (through efficient and effective delivery of services) promoting independence and reducing demand for intensive support services by focus on prevention).

The first six monthly progress report was attached at Annex A to the report.  It contained a summary report card in respect of the overall programme and project updates for each of the seven priority areas.  The report indicated good initial progress with this long term agenda for change, and that any delays in delivery were being tackled robustly.

 

RECOMMENDED  - T H A T the resolutions of Cabinet be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In view of the progress being made.

 

 

694     INSPECTIONS OF THE FOSTERING SERVICE AND THE ADOPTION (PERMANENCE) SERVICE BY THE CARE AND SOCIAL SERVICES INSPECTORATE WALES (CSSIW) (DSS) -

 

The report provided details on the key findings of the CSSIW inspections that had been undertaken in March 2001 and which provided an update on how the Council was responding to the actions required.


The key findings from the two reviews were summarised as follows:

  • Review of the Vale of Glamorgan Adoption Service

Children and young people requiring permanency were a priority for the authority and systems and practice in the authority were focused on permanency planning, which was critical for the achievement of good outcomes for the children and young people.

 

There was regular monitoring by senior officers in social services, within corporate management arrangements and by council members of the key indicators of the service provided to the children.  Arrangements for assessment and care management of services to children and young people requiring permanency continued to improve both in terms of performance against key indicators and the quality of practice. 

 

Actions designed to develop and improve services for the children were included in the authority’s strategic and business plans and the lead member was also particularly active in supporting service area.

 

However, there had been less clarity at the time of the review about how the development actions in the wider strategic partnership plans in the authority e.g. the Children’s Plan produced by the Children and Young Persons Partnership were linking to the services provided by and plans for children and young people’s social services.  The authority needed to ensure that significant matters and developments that relied on the co-operation of statutory partners was firmly located within such broader strategic plans and owned by strategic partners. It was noted that whilst there were some improvements to be made, the authority had a reasonable range of good quality public information, policies and procedures to underpin this work.

 

Inspectors observed that the authority’s looked after children population may be rising with a small overall increase in 2009/10 and at the time of the reviews a further increase.  This means that the authority should closely monitor the size and profile of its looked after population and ensure that fostering recruitment and commissioning strategies were flexible enough over time to respond to changing demand.  The need for the authority to extend the service available to persons willing to care for children under other arrangements such as Special Guardianship or Residency was also identified.

 

Evidence from the review indicated that overall the authority’s adoption service provided a good service to children, prospective and approved adopters and to people seeking or receiving adoption support or intermediary services.  However, the review had identified that the authority needed to become clearer about what adoption support and intermediary services it was required by legislation to provide and the ones it had some discretion over and to ensure that resources were deployed accordingly. 

 

There was evidence of good systems and practice in relation to the assessment and ongoing support of children who were being considered for adoption, prospective and approved adopters, birth parents and people receiving adoption support and intermediary services.  Whilst nearly all carers surveyed were positive about their contact with and the support from the adoption team, the review highlighted that prospective carers waited too long before their assessment began due to insufficient availability of pre-approval training.  Concern was also noted about the significant staff changes and the effect of this on morale. The recommendations in the report and the action plan setting out the Council's response were attached at Appendix 1.

  • Review of the Vale of Glamorgan Fostering Service

It was evident to inspectors that staff within the team were experienced and committed to their roles. Although anxious about the proposed move to Haydock House, staff understood the reasons for the move and were positive about the opportunities to improve the partnership working and communication with the fieldwork teams.

 

The fostering service had recruited a range of foster carers who they had assessed as being capable of providing appropriate placements for the children placed with them.  Information received from carers confirmed that they were aware of relevant policies and procedures and appropriate information was provided in the foster carer's handbook.

 

However, whilst it was apparent to inspectors that social workers had a clear understanding of their responsibilities under the legislative framework, the need to update the statement of purpose, the children's guide and the foster carer's handbook was identified. The difficulties experienced in recruiting to vacant managerial posts were recognised but the review had identified the need to make an appointment as soon as possible. 

 

A number of actions in relation to the provision of services to foster carers were also identified including the completion of outstanding annual reviews, re-evaluation of processes for reviewing Criminal Record Bureau (CRB) checks and ensuring that foster carers were encouraged and enabled to attend training required for their continued registration with the service.

 

The recommendations in the report for the Fostering service and the action plan setting out the Council's response were attached at Appendix 2 to the report.

 

Members were informed that the full inspection reports were available on the CSSIW website under the link http://www.cssiw.wales.gov.uk/.  Members raised concerns with officers as to the potential shortage of social workers and the use of agency workers within the department. The Director reassured Members there was no freeze on staff appointments and that agency staff were being utilised on a relatively small scale as the Authority was in competition with all other local authorities.  He also assured Members that should the Department fall below any of its statutory obligations reports would be submitted to the Scrutiny Committee and Cabinet.  Members urged the Director to ensure that any changes in circumstances were reported as soon as possible.

 

Having considered the report it was

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the contents of the report be noted and the Action Plan be endorsed.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To ensure that the Scrutiny Committee was able to ensure effective oversight of the key areas of activity referred to above.

 

 

695     SECOND QUARTER PERFORMANCE AND ACTION PLAN MONITORING  -

 

The Children and Young Peoples Services, Business Management and Innovation and Adult Services 2nd quarter performance monitoring and action plan monitoring reports were presented to the Scrutiny Committee, it being noted that only key performance indicators were being reported at this stage. With regard to the non achievement of some targets identified within the Appendices Members noted the reasons provided and

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the 2nd Quarter Performance Monitoring reports for the service areas Children and Young Peoples Service, Business Management and Innovation and Adult Services be accepted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To ensure effective scrutiny of performance.

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