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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (SOCIAL CARE AND HEALTH)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 11th March, 2013.

 

Present:  Councillor R.J. Bertin (Chairman); Councillor Mrs. M.E.J. Birch (Vice-Chairman); Ms. K. Edmunds, K.J. Geary, Dr. I.J. Johnson, A. Parker, Ms. R. Probert, J.W. Thomas and S.T. Wiliam.

 

 

961     APOLOGY FOR ABSENCE –  

 

This was received from Councillor Ms. R. Birch.

 

 

962     MINUTES –  

 

RECOMMENDED - T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 11th February, 2013 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

963     DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST –

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

964     REVENUE AND CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL, 2012 TO 31ST JANUARY, 2013 AND UPDATE ON THE SOCIAL SERVICES BUDGET PROGRAMME (DSS) –  

 

Committee received a report which:

  • brought to its attention the position in respect of revenue and capital expenditure for the period 1st April, 2012 to 31st January, 2013 regarding those revenue and capital budgets within the Committee's remit
  • provided an update on the progress made in delivering the Social Services Budget Programme.

The current forecast for Social Services at year end was an underspend of £956,000.  This was partly as a result of the savings identified for the year and anticipated to be achieved being £403,000 in excess of the actual savings required for the year, set as part of the Social Services Budget Programme.  There were also other areas of the service where previous overspends had reduced and where underspends had developed as detailed below.

 

Children and Young Peoples Services - the predicted outturn for this service area was an overspend of £19,000 which was an improvement of £104,000.  There had been a reduction of £44,000 in the overspend on the Children's Placements budget which now stood at £200,000 over, and the cost of an expensive post adoption package had been reduced by £60,000 from the value previously predicted earlier in the year following a review.  There were still continuing pressures on this service, particularly in respect of accommodation costs for homeless young people.

 

Adult Services - the predicted outturn for this service was an underspend of £975,000 which was an improvement of £449,000.  An over recovery of £212,000 from the income received under the Deferred Payments Scheme was predicted for the year.  This scheme allowed for the Council to pay for the cost of residential care and take a legal charge on a client's home, allowing income to be received at a later date.  It was also predicted that the income received as a contribution towards the cost of non-residential care would be over recovered by around £237,000.  There was continuing pressure on the Community Care Packages budget, which was extremely volatile, and the 2012/13 fee set in respect of personal care costs for residents placed by the Council in residential and nursing homes provided by the independent sector had not yet been agreed.

 

Business Management and Innovation - the year end projected outturn was an underspend of £189,000.  However, as this would be recharged to other areas of Social Services and had been included in the projected figures shown for the services above, it was being shown as a break-even position under this heading.  The reason for the underspend was mainly due to staff vacancies being held under the Protection and Policy heading pending a review of service provision.  The budget shown was a net budget after recharges had been deducted.

 

It was noted that the underspends from savings made in advance were short term gains as the total savings target for the whole of the Budget Programme over the four year period, had not yet been finalised.  The over recovery of deferred income was a one off which did not follow a pattern and so it was difficult to predict.

 

Appendix 2 to the report detailed financial progress from the Capital Programme as at 31st January, 2013. 

 

With regard to the Social Services Budget Programme Update, the Directorate was currently required to find savings totalling £8.5m by the end of 2015/16.  Progress in identifying these savings had been made and the following table showed the current position.  Sufficient savings had been identified to meet the targets for 2012/13 and 2013/14 but there still remained £3.9m to be identified for 2014/15 and 2015/16.  In addition, Directors had been requested to formulate additional options for savings for future years.

 

The Social Services Directorate was committed to achieving a balanced budget.  A Corporate Programme Board and Project Teams overseeing the Plan would continue to develop it further and ensure delivery and progress.  Progress updates would be reported on a monthly basis as part of the overall financial monitoring report for the Directorate.

 

In considering the Budget Reduction Programme, in particular Appendix 4, item C6 “Reduction in Contract Spend” whereby it had been proposed that funding to third sector organisations be reduced by £60,000, it was felt that Committee should have a detailed report outlining the likely outcome of the reduction in spend.

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the position with regard to the 2012/13 Revenue and Capital Monitoring be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the progress made on the Social Services Budget Programme be endorsed and referred to Cabinet for information.

 

(3)       T H A T the May meeting of the Committee receive a detailed report outlining the likely outcome of the reduction in Contract Spend outlined in point C6 of Appendix 4 to the report.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       That Scrutiny Members are aware of the position with regard to the 2012/13 Revenue and Capital Monitoring.

 

(2)       That Scrutiny and Cabinet Members are aware of the progress made to date on the Social Services Budget Programme.

 

(3)       To inform Committee.

 

 

965     SERVICE PLANNING 2013/2017 (DSS) –

 

Committee received a report which outlined the new Service planning arrangements for 2013/2017. 

 

Service planning arrangements had been reviewed to reflect the new Senior Management Restructure, and there were fewer Plans for 2013/14, providing a strategic overview of each Directorate.  Below this level, officers would need to develop Team Plans. 

 

The new Service planning template was approved by the Council's Corporate Management Team on 29th August, 2012.  The new Plans address a number of key questions aimed at enabling services to improve how they measured and provided evidence of their contribution to the priority outcomes identified in the Corporate Plan.

 

The Council had agreed with the Wales Audit Office to use the revised Plans as supporting evidence in meeting its obligations for self assessment under the Local Government Measure.

 

Members had been informed of the revised Service Plan format via a report to all Scrutiny Committees during February 2012.  In addition, pilot plans had been considered by relevant Scrutiny Committees during 2012/13 and circulated to all Elected Members. 

 

Following the review of existing Service performance measures, proposed measures for 2013/14 would be presented to all Scrutiny Committees during July 2013 along with end of year performance reporting.

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the changes to Service planning arrangements be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the Service Plan be agreed.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To inform Scrutiny Committees of the revised Service Plan format.

 

(2)       To inform the effectiveness of scrutiny of the Council's performance and to meet the Auditor General for Wales recommendation as outlined in the 2011/12 Annual Improvement Assessment Report.

 

 

966     THE COUNCIL'S IN-HOUSE FOSTERING SERVICE (DSS) –  

 

Committee were provided with an overview of the Council's In-house Fostering Service and an opportunity to consider the final draft of the Fostering Service Recruitment Strategy for 2013/14.

 

Where children and young people were unable to live within their own families, the Council aimed to provide high quality alternative family placements which would promote the child's wellbeing and development, primarily by means of approved in-house foster carers. 

 

Providing the service was a regulated activity under the Fostering Services (Wales) Regulations 2003 and was subject to annual inspection by the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW).  This years inspection had taken place at the end of February.  The Fostering Service was required to submit a Self Assessment Report and a copy was attached at Appendix 1 to the report.  The final Inspection Report was expected within six weeks and when received, it would be placed before the Committee.

 

Under Regulation 42, there was a requirement to complete an annual review of the Quality of Care provided by the Fostering Service.  The report for 2011/12 was attached at Appendix 2 to the report.

 

In addition, the Children and Young People Services Commissioning Strategy 2013-18 identified the need to increase the cohort of in-house foster carers who were able to provide a range of placements (including emergency, respite, sibling groups and parent and child).  In response, a Recruitment Strategy had been developed for the Fostering Service, and a copy was attached at Appendix 3 to the report. 

 

CSSIW Pre-Inspection Self Assessment 2012/13 –

 

In preparation for the CSSIW Annual Inspection, a Self Assessment document had to be submitted and was used to inform the scope of inspections.  The Self Assessment provided comprehensive details and showed that significant work had been undertaken within the Fostering Service to review and revise policies and procedures including the Statement of Purpose, the Foster Carers Handbook and the Children's Guide. 

 

The staff team were skilled and experienced.  Every foster carer had an allocated social worker and received a minimum of monthly supervision.  In addition, the team provided year round out of hours support to carers.

 

An active Foster Carer Forum met monthly, and senior managers attended.  The team facilitated periodic social events including a summer scheme for carers children and children in placement and a Christmas party.  As a result, the links between carers, the team and senior managers had been strengthened. 

 

The Service faced particular challenges in dealing with the financial impact of implementing the National Minimum Allowance rates introduced by the Welsh Government and the extending entitlement policy which allowed young people to remain in foster care beyond 18 years of age. 

 

The team were committed to improving the quality of care provided for Looked After Children.  They fully understood the need to recruit more foster carers, to reduce reliance on independent fostering agencies and to help carers in providing good quality care for children and young people (including a growing number whose behaviour could be challenging). 

 

Review of the Quality of Care 2011/12 –

 

The Review of the Quality of Care Report followed a format prescribed by CSSIW.  Although it related to 2011/12, it was a useful means of providing Committee with an overview of qualitative and quantitive performance information in the following key areas:

  • numbers of foster carers and range of placements available
  • the recruitment, assessment, approval and review of foster carers
  • Fostering Panel activities
  • training and support of carers and staff
  • complaints and allegations.

As at 31st March, 2012 the Vale of Glamorgan had 82 approved foster carers.  These 51 mainstream carers and 31 relative foster carers provided placements for 124 children and young people. 

 

The percentage of completed annual reviews of foster carers rose from 52% in 2010/11 to 80% for 2011/12 and it had continued to rise to 90% in the current financial year.  This was a significant improvement. 

 

The number of carers assessed and approved fell from 18 in 2010/11 to 8 in 2011/12.  Currently, there were 10 applicants awaiting approval this year and the draft Recruitment Strategy identified actions to be taken to continue to attract and approve foster carers in the Vale.

 

There were six allegations made against foster carers, all of which were considered under the All Wales Child Protection Procedures, and the outcomes were detailed in Appendix 2 to the report.

 

Regulation 42 also required unauthorised absences of Looked After Children in foster care to be recorded on the child's file and on a central database.  In 2011/12 there were 9 reported unauthorised absences relating to 6 young people. 

 

In addition, formal consultation was undertaken with foster carers and Looked After Children.  Responses for 2012 were positive with foster carers feeling supported and valued by the Council.  Young people were particularly positive about feeling prepared for their foster placement, being supported in placement and being involved in their care planning. 

 

It was anticipated that the Quality of Care Report for 2012/13 would be available for presentation to the Scrutiny Committee scheduled for June 2013. 

 

Foster Carer Recruitment Strategy 2013/14 –

 

The Children and Young People Services Commissioning Strategy 2013 - 18 identified that where children and young people cannot be supported to remain with their birth families, they would be placed with foster carers within the Vale.  Where demand for placements exceeded that available within the Council, placements were procured from the Independent Fostering Agencies (IFAs) at significant additional costs and sometimes at some distance from the area.  As a result, a key priority for the Division was to recruit additional in-house carers in order to reduce reliance on IFA placements and to reduce the costs associated with providing services to Looked After Children.

 

A draft Fostering Services Recruitment Strategy had been developed, and this was attached at Appendix 3 to the report.  The Strategy identified 4 key recruitment priorities for the coming year:

  • placements for young people aged 11 - 16 years who presented challenging and often aggressive behaviour, who may be non-school attendees and who may have difficulties with alcohol and substance misuse
  • foster carers able to provide placements for sibling groups of two or more children
  • respite / short breaks placements to support children to remain living at home
  • foster carers who were willing to make a commitment to provide accommodation for young people for as long as they may require it.

To achieve these priorities, the Council aimed to:

  • increase enquiry rates to the service by 100%, using local and regional advertising campaigns
  • increase the conversion rates of enquiries to assessments by 15-20%
  • increase the number of carers offering placements for sibling groups by a minimum of 2 per year
  • increase the number of carers offering teenage placements by a minimum of 2 per year
  • increase the number of carers offering respite/short breaks placements by a minimum of 2 per year
  • reduce the demand for IFA placements by 25%.

The Strategy outlined the planned recruitment campaign which included the use of publicity, the media, advertising, presence at community events  and ensuring timely and consistent responses to all enquirers.

 

Publicity and advertising were the critical first step in the process of recruiting more foster carers.  However, it was just one step and needed to be followed by robust and timely initial screening assessments, access to appropriate training for perspective carers, progression through to full assessment and presentation to full Fostering Panel for approval.

 

In order to achieve the approval of a minimum of 6 additional foster carers per annum, dedicated capacity for recruitment, training and assessment needed to be built into the Service.  At a time of significant resource pressures, this capacity could not be found within existing staffing compliment.  Through the Social Services Budget Programme an invest-to-save business case was being developed to request funding from the Corporate Project Fund to provide the additional capacity required. 

 

Having considered the report, it was

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the contents of the report be noted and that the Fostering Service Recruitment Strategy be endorsed.

 

(2)       T H A T the invest-to-save business case being developed to provide additional capacity in the recruitment of foster carers be supported.

 

(3)       T H A T the Committee’s appreciation of the work being undertaken by the foster carers, and their value to the Authority, be conveyed to all foster carers in the form of a letter signed by the Chairman of the Committee.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To ensure that Committee can exercise effective oversight of the Council's statutory functions in relation to providing a Fostering Service and that effective plans are in place to increase the number of foster carers assessed and approved by the Vale of Glamorgan Council in order to meet the demand for placements.

 

(2)       To support all efforts to provide the additional capacity required.

 

(3)       To express the Committee’s appreciation of the work of the foster carers.

 

 

967     3RD QUARTER PERFORMANCE MONITORING REPORTS (DSS) –

 

The Business Management and Innovation, Adult Services and Children and Young People's Services 3rd Quarter Performance Monitoring reports were presented for the Committee's consideration. 

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the 3rd Quarter Performance Monitoring reports be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

In order for the Committee to exercise effective scrutiny of the services.

 

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