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SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (SOCIAL CARE AND HEALTH)

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 16th June, 2014

 

Present: Councillor R.L. Traherne (Chairman); Councillors R.J. Bertin, K.J. Geary, Dr. I.J. Johnson, Ms. R.F. Probert, J.W. Thomas and S.T. Wiliam.

 

Also present: Councillors S.C. Egan and C.P.J. Elmore.

 

 

61        APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE –

 

These were received from Councillors Mrs. M.E.J. Birch (Vice-Chairman), Ms. R. Birch and Ms. K. Edmunds.

 

 

62        MINUTES –

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 19th May, 2014 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

63        DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST –

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

64        CHAIRMAN’S ANNOUNCEMENT –

 

The Chairman began the meeting by informing Members that a visit to the Extra Care Facility had been arranged for 14th July 2014.  He also advised Members that a workshop to discuss the Director of Social Services’ Annual Report would be arranged for some time during July. 

 

 

65        REVENUE AND CAPITAL MONITORING FOR THE PERIOD 1ST APRIL TO 30TH APRIL 2014 (DSS) –

 

As it was very early in the financial year, the current forecast for Social Services was a balanced budget.  In addition to increased demand for services, there was pressure on the Directorate to achieve its savings targets for 2014/15 onwards.

 

A table and graph setting out the variance between profiled budget and actual expenditure to date and the projected position at year end were attached at Appendix 1 to the report.  The appendix also included a graph showing the trend in Adults Services expenditure to budget for the year to date.

 

Children and Young People's Services - The major issue concerning this service was the continued pressure on the children’s placements budget.  Any increase in the number of children becoming looked after by the Council over the year could have a significant impact on the service.  The Joint Budget for Residential Placements for Looked After Children was set this year at £3.335m.  This represented the current commitment against the budget as at 1st April 2014 and an increase in the budget of £185k from the previous year.  10% of this increase would be funded by Education.

 

Adult Services - The major issue concerning this service was the continued pressure on the Community Care Packages budget.  This budget was extremely volatile and could be adversely affected by outside influences.  While the budget was currently showing a breakeven position, there would be great pressure on this budget throughout the coming year and Committee will be advised of any change in this position.  From 1st  April 2014, Welsh Government approved an increase in the weekly cap for charging for non-residential services from £50 to £55 per week.

 

Appendix 2 to the report detailed financial progress on the capital Programme as at 30th April 2014.  Not included were requests for unspent committed expenditure to be slipped in 2013/14 into 2014/15.  A request for the slippage would be included in the closing down report to be presented to a future Cabinet meeting.  The Operational Manager – Accountancy advised Members that within Appendix 3 project reference A10 relating to extra care should show a RAG status of amber as opposed to red as indicated in the report provided. 

 

A Committee Member, with reference to the £75k savings required to be made this year, queried whether any budgetary savings for the progressive years could be brought forward into this current financial year.  In reply the Operational Manager advised Members that the saving programme for this year would be agreed via the Medium Term Financial Plan but it was anticipated that further savings would be likely to be required on top of those identified.  The Director of Social Services commented that any changes to service provision would require a considerable amount of lead in time particularly in respect of consultation and engagement and would require careful planning and forward thinking. 

 

In response to a Member’s query regarding the level of support provided to carers the Head of Business Management and Innovation informed the Committee that £27,000 work of savings were planned for 2015/16 and that a review of the service

was being undertaken. 

 

A Committee Member enquired if there were any plans to change the eligibility criteria.  In response the Committee was advised that the Welsh Government was planning to introduce an all-Wales level of eligibility but as this was likely to be set at the same level currently agreed by the Council, there would be very little impact from the Welsh Government proposals.  The Deputy Minister was due to make a comment on this imminently. 

 

In referring to the plans around service remodelling and the projected 4% increase in demand for services, Members noted that the Council will need to find new ways of working with effective use of preventative and early intervention schemes.  The use of volunteers was discussed and Committee were informed that they do make a very valuable contribution to many service areas. 

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the position with regard to the 2014/15 revenue and capital monitoring be noted.

 

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

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       That Members are aware of the position with regard to the 2014/15 revenue and capital monitoring relevant to this Scrutiny Committee.

 

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

 

 

66        UPDATE ON THE SOCIAL SERVICES BUDGET PROGRAMME 2013/14 (DSS) –

 

Committee was updated on the progress made in delivering the Social Services Budget Programme for 2013/14. 

 

During 2013/14, the Directorate was required to find savings totalling £2.15m.  In order to progress the savings programme and to reduce the savings required in future years, the Directorate had set itself a savings target for 2012/13 which was £403k in excess of the figure required.  £110k of these savings were allocated against the 2013/14 target, with the remaining £293k being allocated against the 2014/15 target.  The actual saving to be achieved during 2013/14 was therefore £2.040m. The table below summarises the Budget Programme for 2013/14 to 2016/17 as approved during 2013/14.

 

 

Year

Savings

Required

£000

Savings

Identified

£000

In Year

Surplus/

(Shortfall)

£000

Cumulative

Surplus/

(Shortfall)

£000

Additional 2012/13

savings

 

403

403

403

2013/14

2,150

2,040

(110)

293

2014/15

838

579

(259)

34

2015/16

1,700

1,776

76

110

2016/17

1,315

1,391

76

186

TOTAL

6,003

6,189

 

 

 

 

The following table shows the progress made during 2013/14 for each of the identified Social Services savings.

 

Project

Target Saving £000

Actual Saving £000

Position

LAC Residential Care Placements

200

0

Jointly funded budget overspent by £429k

Reduction in Contract Spend to fund SLAs

80

80

Achieved

Managed Budget Reduction

 

190

190

Achieved

Administrative Support

 

20

20

Achieved

TOTAL CHILDREN’S

490

290

 

  

Project

Target Saving (£000)

Actual Saving (£000)

Position

 

 

 

 

Reconfigure VCRS

40

40

Achieved

 

Meals on Wheels

 

32

15

Budget overspent by £17k.  Price rise in 2014/15 will achieve saving

Care Packages Budget Reduction

685

685

Achieved. Budget underspent by £19k

Managed Budget Reduction

 

183

183

Achieved

Supported Accom Learning Disabilities

150

150

Achieved

Residential Services

 

200

0

Negotiations still ongoing with Hafod

Service Level Agreement

 

40

40

Achieved

Income Generation

 

100

100

Achieved

Provision of Food to Trinity

 

13

13

Achieved

Office Accommodation

 

7

7

Achieved

TOTAL ADULTS

 

1,450

1,233

 

Managed Budget Reduction

75

75

Reorganisation is only partially complete; however, staff vacancies contributed to achieving the saving

Funding to Carers Support Services

 

25

25

Achieved

TOTAL BUSINESS, MGT & INNOVATION

100

100

 

 

 

 

 

TOTAL SOCIAL SERVICES

2,040

1,623

 

 

The Operational Manager – Accountancy advised Members that the £200,000 target savings for residential services was not achieved but negotiations were still ongoing with Hafod regarding Ty Dewi Sant and Ty Dyfan. 

 

A Committee Member sought clarification regarding the care packages budget and asked the Operational Manager – Accountancy to comment on how the budget position had suddenly shown a £19,000 underspend which was in contrast to regular updates which showed a significant overspend.  In response Members were advised that the Council was able to achieve an underspend in the service area as a result of deferred payments which related to charges on properties of people within residential care.  The timing of money received related to the sale of property and it was therefore difficult to predict the level of income being received.  Further to this point the Director commented that the level of income received demonstrated good foresight by the Council in relation to the deferred payment scheme that was introduced a few years ago.  The deferred payment scheme gave service users assistance in regard to payments for their care packages and the Council recognised the unpredictable nature of when income can be received.  The Committee agreed that it would be necessary for future reports to include reference to the deferred payments in order to allow proper scrutiny of the profiled budget during the course of the financial year. 

 

In response to a query regarding the increased level of savings achieved during 2012/13 and if this money was carried forward into financial year 2013/14, Members were advised that the service budgets for 2012/13 had been reduced by £403,000 and this saving had been moved to central Social Services.  £110,000 of these savings was allocated against the 2013/14 savings target and was transferred to the Corporate centre in that year and the remaining £283,000 was allocated against the 2014/15 savings target and was transferred to the Corporate Centre as part of this year’s budget setting. 

 

A Member, referring to the £17,000 budget overspend within the Meals on Wheels service, queried as to how a balanced budget for this year would be achieved.  The Committee in response were advised that the charges for meals had gone up from £3.30 to £4.10 which represented over a 20% increase and that the increased level of income would cover any shortfall.  The Committee went on to query if the Council had received any complaints following the increase in charges.  The Head of Adult Services informed the Committee that a small number of people had indicated that they were not happy with the changes but Members should be aware that the service was previously heavily subsidised and that this would no longer be the case.

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the progress made in delivering the Social Services Budget Programme during 2013/14 be noted and the report referred to Cabinet for information.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

That Members were aware of the progress made to date in delivering the Social Services Budget Programme.

 

 

67        UPDATE ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF FAMILIES FIRST SERVICES (DSS) –

 

The Children and Young People Partnership Manager had been asked to update the Scrutiny Committee on the way in which the Welsh Government Families First Grant had been used to deliver multi-agency, early intervention services in the Vale of Glamorgan. 

 

In April 2012, the Welsh Government replaced the Cymorth Grant with the Families First fund.  The funding criteria were revised, away from the provision of open access and universal services towards targeted services for those children and families most in need.  In the model of need and service provision which had been adopted in the Vale of Glamorgan, attached at Appendix 1 to the report, this meant services at tiers 2 and 3. 

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council acted as the recipient body for the grant on behalf of the Children and Young People Partnership.  In response to the funding changes and the revised criteria, the Partnership established a multi-agency Project Management Board to draft the service model for Families First and to plan implementation.  Membership comprised representatives of the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board (UHB), the Vale Centre for Voluntary Services (VCVS) and the Council.

 

During 2011-12, the transitional year from Cymorth to Families First, the Welsh Government allocated £1,27m to the Vale of Glamorgan.  An additional £250,000 was transferred into the Revenue Support Grant for supporting partnership working and participation by children and young people.  A Families First Plan and spreadsheet, covering the period up to 31st March 2017 and approved by Welsh Government, was set out in Appendix 2 to the report.  On this basis, the Council would receive a grant of £1,534,990 each year on behalf of the Children and Young People Partnership.

 

At the heart of the Families First programme was recognition that some of the difficulties which children and young people experienced were a consequence of factors affecting other members of the family.  On the basis of evidence from other programmes such as Flying Start, a consensus had emerged that the best way to support families (particularly those in poverty) was through whole-family services which were provided in an integrated way by a range of agencies and professional disciplines and which were tailored to the needs of individual families.  This 'Team Around the Family' approach had been used extensively across the UK; evaluation studies had been positive.  In the Vale of Glamorgan, Families First funding was used to provide the Families Achieving Change Together (FACT) Team which used this approach, a range of bespoke projects that support the long-term aims of the programme and some co-ordination and support capacity.

 

The provision of integrated services at tiers 2 and 3 was aimed at reducing the numbers of families requiring higher level, more intensive and very often more costly services from all statutory agencies.  The aim was to provide holistic support to children, young people and families who did not meet the threshold for statutory services at the point of referral but who were likely to meet that threshold in the absence of early intervention. 

 

It was critical to the success of the project that the services commissioned through Families First were responsive and flexible enough to meet varying levels of need and demand as determined by an assessment of the families.

 

The programme currently provided funding for the following projects: 

 

·         FACT

·         Raising awareness of welfare rights

·         Family support programme

·         Disability Focus

·         Partnership for Young Parents (expanded to be Vale wide)

·         Putting Families First

·         Young people support programme

·         Young carers.

 

Two new projects had been funded from April 2013:

 

·         the C-Card scheme - incorporated as part of an existing project and managed by Learning and Skills;

·         Family mentoring and volunteering - incorporated as part of an existing project and internally and externally provided.

 

All the projects were described in Appendix 3 to the report, together with an update on what they had achieved to date.

 

Based on the Families First Plan and spreadsheet for the period up to 31st March 2017, as approved by Welsh Government, the Council would receive a grant of £1,534,990 each year on behalf of the Children and Young People Partnership.  However, Welsh Government had highlighted a potential reduction in the grant of 3% (approximately £50,000) for the financial year 2015/16.

 

Members, in noting the increase in the number of referrals and the slow rate of exits from the service while also alluding to the increase in threshold, requested more regular reports be provided to the Committee on a six monthly basis. The Children and Young People Partnership Manager informed Members that the trends experienced within the Vale were mirrored in other parts of Wales. The remit of the service was based on a 12 week short term intervention strategy but in reality most cases were of a complex nature that required greater and more prolonged periods of support. Further to this, the Director of Social Services commented that the Council was bound by directives given from the Welsh Government and had a duty to deliver the service and to allocate resources. It would be possible to inform Welsh Government of the issues and challenges being faced.

 

In response to a query from the Chairman regarding the potential allocation of funding from other projects to the FACT team, the Director of Social Services advised Members that every strand of Children Service’s were facing increased demand. The FACT programme was different from the regional Intensive Family Support Service which is also grant funded from the Welsh Government but where the scheme was much more prescriptive. He went on to comment that the service programme arrangements were being regularly monitored and that the Directorate would look again at issues of service demand and capacity. There was strong recognition that the service worked with families in poverty and that families do value the service and support received.

 

A Committee Member enquired as to what was the feedback received from service users.  In response the Children and Young People Partnership Manager advised Members that feedback and comments were generally very positive and that they do not receive many complaints, people have withdrawn from the service and disengaged from the process but this can be mainly attributed to people moving away from the area. 

 

Referring to the completion of the Young Carer project scoping exercise in January 2014 a Committee Member queried as to when the service would be redesigned.  In response Members were advised that it should be completed by October 2014.  Members went on to further query as to how many young carers did officers think were actually out there in the community.  In response the Partnership Manager advised Members that the number of young carers could be in the range of several thousand and this had been based on previous studies undertaken and carried out within local schools.  There were far more young carers out there than were known to the service and many young carers were reluctant to come forward and declare the full extent of their situation to the relevant agencies. 

 

Referring to the £45,000 allocated for raising awareness of welfare rights for this financial year, a Committee Member sought clarification as to how this money was to be spent.  The Committee was informed that this included three elements; the first related to a direct payment to the Citizens Advice Bureau so that advice could be given to FACT team service users in order to maximise their claims for benefit and financial assistance.  The second related to the Citizen Advice Bureau undertaking training for the wider Families First workforce so that they were fully informed of all the related issues.  Finally, the third element involved the  targeting of young people within schools with the aid of SWOOSH and is aimed at helping them to understand how to manage their money as well as informing young people of where they can turn for help and support. 

 

Members expressed the view that the FACT team faced significant challenges and had many cases of a complicated nature. 

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the use made of the Families First Grant be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the Committee continues to receive annual updates on progress.

 

(3)       T H A T the report be referred to Cabinet for consideration.

 

(4)       T H A T a further report be received in six months’ time detailing how the Council can meet the challenges of service demand for services for families. This should include Welsh Government grants, regional and partnership working arrangements.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To ensure that Members are kept informed about developments.

 

(2)       To ensure that the Committee was able to exercise appropriate oversight of this important strand in the overall strategy for delivering effective children and family services, including the financial and legal responsibilities undertaken by the Council as grant recipient body on behalf of the Children and Young People Partnership.

 

(3)       To assess the level of resources allocated to meet demand.

 

(4)       To ensure proper scrutiny of the service area.

 

 

68        "TOGETHER FOR MENTAL HEALTH": LOCAL DELIVERY PLAN (DSS) –

 

The Operational Manager for Mental Health presented the report, the purpose of which was to update Members on the local response to the national strategy "Together for Mental Health" and the implementation of the Cardiff and Vale Delivery Plan. 

 

Welsh Government introduced its "Together for Mental Health Strategy" in October 2012. It set out an ambitious programme of improvements and outcomes for promoting mental health and preventing mental illness. The Strategy recognised the significant impact of mental health problems on the individual, the family, the local community and more widely on the economy.  As a consequence, it brought together a description of intended strategic outcomes for people of all ages, and places responsibility for promoting mental health and preventing mental illness across all national and local public bodies.

 

The Strategy was focused around six high level outcomes:

 

·         The mental health and wellbeing of the whole population was improved

·         The impact of mental health problems and / or mental illness on individuals of all ages, their families and carers, communities and the economy more widely, was better recognised and reduced

·         Inequalities, stigma and discrimination suffered by people experiencing mental health problems and mental illness were reduced

·         Individuals had a better experience of the support and treatment they received and had an increased feeling of input and control over related decisions

·         Access to, and the quality of preventative measures, early interventions and treatment services were improved and more people recovered as a result

·         The values, attitudes and skills of those treating or supporting individuals of all ages with mental health problems or mental illness were improved

·         It introduced the need for local Mental Health Partnership Board to oversee multi-agency implementation. These brought together representation from local authority adult services, children’s services and housing and other key partners including a wide range of NHS Clinical Boards, police, probation and prisons, third sector organisations, and representatives of service users and carers.

 

The Cardiff and Vale Mental Health Partnership Board was set up in 2013 to lead on developing the local Delivery Plan in line with the outcomes set out in the national strategy.

 

The Cardiff and Vale Delivery Plan was attached at Appendix 1 to the report and it contained sections to address the following areas:

 

(a)       Promoting better mental wellbeing and preventing mental health problems

(b)       A new partnership with the public

(c)        A well designed, fully integrated network of care

(d)       One system to improve mental health

(e)       Delivering for mental health.

 

Noting that the annual report related to 2012/13, a Committee Member queried that as the action plan was devised 15 months ago, what had been achieved over that time.  Discussion then ensued on the following points:

 

1.         Page 5 – Action 2.4 To further reduce levels of suicide and serious self-harm. 

Update: that the Talk to Me Strategy had been relaunched with greater focus on cases where there is a high risk of suicide. 

2.         Page 12 – Action 7.1 To ensure that there was a concerted effort to sustainably reduce the stigma and discrimination faced by people with mental health problems. 

Update: the Time to Change Wales (TTCW) scheme had been rolled out in order to reduce stigma about mental health and to actively promote a positive image in the media.

3.         Page 18 – Action 11.2 To ensure effective transition between adult and CAMHS Services. 

Update: the introduction of CAMHS Champions within Adult Services in order to more quickly identify people needing services and support. 

4.         Page 27 – Action 13.1 To ensure service users of all ages are safeguarded from harm while accessing mental health services. 

Update: that a review of the service arrangements had been delayed following the late legal introduction of the Social Services Wales Act. 

 

In response to a question regarding the level of resources required to meet service demand, the Committee was informed that there were three distinct populations.  The first related to individuals suffering serious or significant mental health issues and represented 2% of the referral rate, and compared to other areas the Vale of Glamorgan was well resourced.  The second related to those people with a moderate mental health illness and was categorised by people being intermittently referred to their GP but who may receive some form of long term care.  Recently there had been a significant increase within the Cardiff and Vale of the number of referrals received.  This had risen to around 400 referrals per month.  The third, and final group, related to those people who were never known to Social Services and a significant part of the delivery plan was to promote mental health and reduce the stigma in order to improve engagement with this population group. 

 

Referring to the level of suicide and serious self-harm a Committee Member sought clarification as to whether there had been any impact as a result of the recession.  In response Members were advised that the number of individuals presenting at A&E with deliberate self-harm had increased over the past 10 years but this could not be directly attributed to the economic downturn.  However in the last year following the introduction of the Housing Benefit cap and the bedroom tax there had been a spike in the number of people expressing distress, self-harm and suicidal thoughts.  Further to this point the Committee was informed that serious self-harm cases were common.  It is a fact that with 1 in 10 cases of people with mental health problems there were also underlining issues of self-harm. 

 

Alluding to the challenges faced in respect of monitoring of the Third Sector and the service users accessing their services, the Committee was advised that during the forthcoming months the Social Services Directorate would have a chance to review a number of the Service Level Agreements (SLAs). 

 

Members when querying the term "psychosis" were informed that this related to individuals who have severe mental ill health and the main characteristics experienced were delusions and hallucinations. 

 

A Committee Member, when querying the level of support that could be expected by young people suffering from ME, who undertake the transition from Children’s to Adult Services, was advised that the need for ongoing support and care would be identified following a detailed assessment. 

 

The Chairman, referring to Appendix 1 of the Action Plan, noted that there was no Housing Officer from the Vale of Glamorgan represented within the Cardiff and Vale Mental Health Partnership Board.  The Head of Adult Services was unclear whether this was the actual case and would seek clarification that the appropriate appointment had been made.

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the content of the report be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T a further and more timely report relating to the 2013/14 action plan is presented to the Committee as soon as it is available.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To inform Scrutiny Committee of progress made in collaboratively developing services which will deliver the outcomes defined in the "Together for Mental Health" Strategy.

 

(2)       To provide Members with an up to date assessment around the developments of the delivery of the Together for Mental Health Action Plan.

 

 

69        VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL FOSTERING SERVICE (DSS) –

 

The Operational Manager for Children and Young People Services presented the report, the purpose of which was to update Members on the implementation of the Foster Carer Recruitment Strategy 2013/14 and also to provide an overview of the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) Annual Inspection 2013/14 and the Review of Quality of care Report for 2013/14 produced by the Council. 

 

The CSSIW inspection for the Vale of Glamorgan took place during February and March and the inspection report was attached at Appendix 1 to the report.

 

Under Regulation 42 there was a requirement to complete an Annual Review of the Quality of Care provided by the Fostering Service.  The Review report followed a format prescribed by CSSIW.  The report for 2013/14 was attached at Appendix 2 to the report. 

 

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 of Glamorgan.  Where demand for placements exceeded that available within the Council service, placements were procured from Independent Fostering Agencies (IFAs) at significant additional cost and sometimes at some distance from the area.  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  Fostering Service Recruitment Strategy was developed and presented to Scrutiny Committee in March 2013.  The Strategy covered the period from 1st April 2013 to 31st March 2014 and identified four key recruitment priorities for the 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.

 

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

 

Publicity and advertising was 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 prospective carers, progression through to full assessment and presentation to Fostering Panel for approval.

 

To ensure that at least six additional foster carers are approved each year, there would a required need to establish a dedicated capacity for recruitment, training and assessment within the Fostering Service.  At a time of significant resource pressures, this capacity could not be found within the existing staffing complement.  Through the Social Services Budget Programme, an invest-to-save business case was developed to request funding from the Corporate Project Fund in order to provide the additional capacity required.

 

Foster Carer Recruitment Strategy 2013/14 and Review of the Quality of Care 2013/14 (Regulation 42)

 

The Fostering Service had been working hard to complete the actions set out in the Recruitment Strategy and, through secondment of an experienced social worker from within the Placements and Permanency Team, a Recruitment Officer was appointed in July 2013.

 

Beginning with Foster Carer Fortnight in May 2013, the Service had worked closely with Corporate Communications to increase advertising activity, including radio interviews, newspaper features and distribution of new leaflets and posters. The service had implemented the fostering recruitment best practice guide produced by the South East Wales Improvement Collaborative (SEWIC) and close monitoring of performance against these standards was taking place.

 

From 1st April 2013 to 31st March 2014, the Service had received 92 registrations of interest.  This was a 61% increase on the total figure for last year (57).  Initial visits to prospective applicants had increased from 31 during 2012/13 to 49 for 2013/14.

 

The Service had provided regular pre-approval training for prospective applicants, with 35 people attending since April 2013 and had received 30 applications for assessment.  The Service had assessed and approved eight new mainstream foster carers during the year.  This had exceeded the recruitment strategy target of six and was the same as last year's figure.  It was expected that the increase in fostering applications received during 2013/14 would see benefits in terms of overall numbers of approvals in 2014/15 with 13 assessments already underway.

 

There had been a decrease in the number of de-registrations and resignations in 2013/14 (17) compared to 2012/13 (18).  There were 11 de-registrations of kinship carers, 6 of which were a result of the carers obtaining a Special Guardianship Order for the young people placed.  The other four kinship de-registrations occurred because the placement was no longer required and one was caused by bereavement.  There were six de-registrations/resignations of mainstream foster carers during 2013/14:  two resigned following an investigation of a complaint or allegation; one as a result of bereavement; one had their previous Looked After Child continuing to live with them as an adult and could no longer offer a placement, one moved to another agency and one because their circumstances had changed and they no longer wanted to foster.  The number of de-registrations varied little from the seven that took place in 2012/13.  The reasons for de-registrations remain similar from year to year and the data showed a very high level of stability and retention in respect of mainstream (non-kinship) carers.

 

There had also been a reduction in the number of children placed with IFAs from 30 during 2012/2013 to 28 during 2013/14.  The reduction in the use of IFAs remained a priority for 2014/15.

 

To ensure that the Council was meeting need and maximising capacity, 12 extensions and exemptions were agreed during 2013/14, this was an increase of seven compared to the previous year.  Exemptions were placements made outside the approval status set by Panel and they were used mainly for teenagers, where there was still considerable pressure on placement availability, and to keep siblings placed together.

 

The Fostering Service had delivered a 4.7% increase in the number of foster carer reviews conducted.  At 31st March 2014, 98.7% of foster carers had up to date Annual Reviews / approvals, compared to 94% in 2012/13 and 84% in 2011/12.  Completion of Annual Reviews within timescales remained a priority for the team. 

 

Analysis of recruitment activity and its impact would inform how the Fostering Service and Corporate Communications implemented the future rolling programme of campaign activity. 

 

Work had started with the Corporate Communications Team to plan recruitment activity for 2014/15.  With support from Visible Services advertising had been placed on roundabouts in Barry.  The Service hoped to extend this to other areas of the Vale of Glamorgan and possibly to some Council vehicles.  Targeting Foster Carer Fortnight in May 2014, plans had been made to advertise in Vale of Glamorgan bus stops and train stations.  In addition, the Service was working with the Learning and Skills Directorate to facilitate networking through schools.  The Service planned to take part in a number of local events this year and provide the media with newsworthy stories and features.

 

The Recruitment Strategy was critical to increasing the numbers of foster carers in the Vale of Glamorgan.  The Council was also engaged in the regional work being undertaken by the South East Wales Improvement Collaborative (SEWIC).  This was focusing specifically on proposals for developing more wide-ranging advertising, recruitment and training opportunities through a regional marketing centre.  A report would be presented to Cabinet in June seeking in principle agreement for the Vale to work with other local authorities in the area in developing the business case for a marketing centre.

 

CSSIW Annual Inspection of the Fostering Service

 

At the time of the Inspection in February 2014, the Fostering Service was supporting 52 mainstream and 21 relative foster carers (kinship), providing placements for 104 Looked After Children. 

 

At the same time, 184 children and young people were Looked After by the Council.

 

The Inspectors concluded that the Fostering Service:

 

-         was effectively managed;

-         was child centred;

-         had good systems for consultation;

-         provided good support and guidance to foster carers; and

-         had good systems to inform placement making and matching.

 

A number of improvements made since the 2013 Inspection were validated.  These included the new revised foster carer handbook and a new outcome based foster placement agreement (for placement making and matching and monitoring the goals for children throughout the placement).

 

The Inspectors identified three areas of compliance and improvement.  These were seen as isolated breaches and not representative of the Fostering Service as a whole.

 

The first related to closer monitoring of the educational attainment, progress and school attendance of children placed with our foster carers. Previously, the Service had closely monitored the educational attainment / progress of all Looked After Children and reported on these collective outcomes.  The Inspectorate requested separate records to differentiate between children placed with the Council’s own in-house carers.  This action was underway and the Learning and Skills Directorate would in future provide the Council with separate monitoring figures for children placed with in-house foster carers.

 

The second area related to ensuring joint carers both receive regular ongoing refresher training.  Where there were joint applications to become foster carers (e.g. husband and wife), both received 'Skills to Foster' and induction training.  Following their approval it was usual that one carer became the main carer and attended the majority of professional development training.  However, the Council needed to ensure that all carers received at least the minimum amount of training.  This was now in place with dedicated training sessions in the evenings and weekends for those carers who may work during the day.

 

The final area did not relate directly to the Fostering Service but related to recording of statutory visits by child care social workers. It was identified that, in one case, the narrative report of a statutory visit by a social worker was not recorded within timescales.  The Service would be auditing all statutory visits to ensure compliance with the Vale’s recording policy.

 

Referring to the 20% conversion rate from enquiries to assessment Members were advised that nationally the conversion rate level varies between 10-20% annually and the target setting had been difficult to set out. 

 

In referring to the number of foster carers who had achieved the QCF Level 3 qualification, the Committee was informed that the drop did not represent a significant problem as there was a large current cohort of carers who would, over the next few months, attain their QCF level 3. 

 

The Committee sought officers’ views as to how the targeted reduction and the demand for IFA placements would be achieved.  In response the Operational Manager for Children and Young People advised the Committee that greater focus had been placed on issuing special guardianship orders for Looked After Children where appropriate and placements within IFAs are regularly audited.  The situation was also closely monitored on a weekly basis with close scrutiny placed by regular placement panels. 

 

A Committee Member, referring to the level of training offered to foster carers, was advised that the range of training offered was shown under Appendix 1 on page 41 of the Fostering Services Review of the Quality of Care report.  The vast majority of foster carers were pleased with the range and level of training offered and that many Level 3 foster carers were embarking on training also offered to social workers.  Feedback from foster carers was received regularly from the Foster Carers Forum and this gave opportunity for foster carers to inform the Council of any changes they wanted to see. 

 

In response to the Committee’s query regarding the progress of SEWIC regional recruitment project, Members were advised that SEWIC had agreed to set up a regional marketing agency to encourage recruitment if sufficient Local Authorities come forward to join.

 

Following a Member’s query regarding the implementation of the Welsh Government’s "When I am Ready" Strategy, the Committee was advised that the Welsh Government was still to receive feedback from some of the pilot areas so there may be some amendments to the Strategy.  This would have an impact on the service within the Vale but the service was already configured to allow post 18 foster care and although this would impact on the number of foster carers available, there would be a need for the Council to increase the number of new foster carers coming on stream. 

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the progress made to date in implement the Foster Carer Recruitment Strategy be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the content of the Quality of Care Report and the positive findings of the CSSIW Annual Inspection be noted.

 

(3)       T H A T the Fostering Service be congratulated for a most positive inspection and the excellent work being effected.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1&2)  To enable Scrutiny Committee to exercise oversight of this key activity within Children and Young People Services and to assure Scrutiny Committee that the Council’s statutory functions in relation to providing a regulated fostering service be fully met in accordance with legislation and guidance.

 

(3)       To offer the Committee’s thanks for the high standards within the Fostering Team.

 

 

70        ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY – TASK AND FINISH GROUP – SCOPE (DR) –

 

The purpose of the report was to appoint the membership of the Task and Finish Group and to approve the Scope for the Group. 

 

Members were advised that in undertaking the review it was envisioned that the following meetings / sessions would be arranged:

 

·         Demonstration of a range of assistive technology equipment

·         Briefing session by the Telecare Manager of the service within the Vale of Glamorgan

·         A detailed review of the budgetary and financial considerations

·         Engagement with a service user and his or her carer; and

·         An assessment of the findings from the joint review with Cardiff regarding the provision of Telecare.

 

On completion of these and depending on the findings of the review up to this stage, careful consideration of the further work of the Group would take place. 

 

Having considered the report it was subsequently

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the membership of the Assistive Technology Task and Finish Group be Councillors R.J. Bertin, Mrs. M.E.J. Birch, K.J. Geary, Dr. I.J. Johnson, Ms. R.F. Probert and R.L. Traherne.

 

(2)       T H A T the proposed Scope and timescale for the review be approved as attached at Appendix 1 to the report.

 

(3)       T H A T reports of the Task and Finish Group be referred to the Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health) for consideration.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1&2)  To progress the review.

 

(3)       To seek comments / approval on any recommendations of the Group prior to referral to Cabinet.

 

 

71        SCRUTINY COMMITTEE WORK PROGRAMME (DR) -

 

The work programme contained a list of reports that were scheduled for submission to future meetings of the Scrutiny Committee which would include financial monitoring reports, performance monitoring reports, pre-Cabinet decision scrutiny reports as identified within the Cabinet Forward Work Programme, together with reports requested by the Scrutiny Committee itself.  The work programme schedule was attached at Appendix 1 to the report.  It was also noted that the Committee had agreed to receive a further report regarding "Together for Mental Health" Local Delivery Plan and a comprehensive report on support to families.  Members also agreed that a report entitled "Range of Service Providers" would be included within the work programme.  This would focus on the private sector, third sector and other providers in order for Members to have a better understanding of the full range of services available in the Vale.

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the work programme set out at Appendix 1 and amended as agreed be endorsed for publication.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To confirm the Scrutiny Committee’s work programme for 2014/15.

 

 

72        MATTER WHICH THE CHAIRMAN HAD DECIDED WAS URGENT -

 

RESOLVED - T H A T the following matter which the Chairman had decided was urgent for the reason given beneath the minute heading be considered.

 

 

73        CLOSURE OF CROSSROADS CARE CARDIFF AND VALE (DSS) –  (Urgent by Reason of the Need to Ensure Timely Information is Provided Regarding the Closure of Crossroads Care Cardiff and Vale)

 

In presenting the report the Head of Business Management and Innovation advised the Committee that on 11th June 2014 the Council was notified that Crossroads Care Cardiff and Vale were to cease trading at the end of that day.  The staff of Crossroads Care would work with the administrators, Cardiff Council and other parties to ensure that the sudden closure created as little disruption for service users as possible. 

 

The organisation provided support to a generic range of carers in Cardiff and provided a small number of non EMI support packages within the Vale of Glamorgan.  In total 4 adults and 2 children within the Vale of Glamorgan were supported by Crossroads Care Cardiff and Vale and all care packages were secure. 

 

Crossroads Care in the Vale (EMI) was an entirely separate charity and a separate company limited by guarantee.  This organisation provided a specialist service and only supported carers for those with late onset mental illness.  This service only operated within the Vale.  Crossroads Care in the Vale (EMI) provided support to individuals in the community and provided a specialist day care provision in Barry.  These services had not been affected by the events in Cardiff.

 

The Director of Social Services commented that the reason for the demise of the organisation was not clear at present. Other service providers go out of business because they get their business model wrong or cost tenders badly.  He reflected upon the sustainability of organisations like Crossroads Care Cardiff and Vale and recognised the need to help them during difficult times noting the significant impact the disruption in services would have on service users.

 

The Chairman thanked the Head of Business Management and Innovation for the timely report and information briefing. 

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the report be noted.

 

Reason for recommendation

 

To update elected Members.

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