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Agenda Item No. 6

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Healthy Living and Social Care Scrutiny Committee: 13th June, 2016

 

Report of the Director of Social Services

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council Fostering Service

 

Purpose of the Report

  1. To update Scrutiny Committee on implementation of the Foster Carer Recruitment Strategy 2015/16.
  2. To provide Scrutiny Committee with an overview of the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales Annual Inspection 2015/16 and the Review of Quality of Care Report for 2015/16 produced by the Council.

Recommendations

That Scrutiny Committee:

 

  1. Notes the progress made to date in implementing the Foster Carer Recruitment Strategy.
  2. Notes the content of the Quality of Care Report and the positive findings of the CSSIW Annual Inspection.

Reasons for the 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 are fully met, in accordance with legislation and guidance.

Background

  1. Where children and young people are unable to live within their own families, the Vale of Glamorgan Council aims to provide high quality alternative family placements which will promote the child's well-being and development. This is achieved primarily by using approved in-house foster carers.
  2. The Vale of Glamorgan Fostering Service is provided by the Placements and Permanency Team. It is responsible for recruiting, assessing, preparing, training and supporting mainstream and relative (or 'kinship') foster carers. Mainstream foster carers are those who provide placements for any child subject to their age approval criteria, whereas relative foster carers have been approved specifically for a named child or children.
  3. Under the provisions of the Care Standards Act 2000 and associated Regulations, the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) undertakes an annual inspection of local authorities which provide a Fostering Service. The inspection for the Vale of Glamorgan took place during early March 2016 and the inspection report is attached at Appendix 1.
  4. Under Regulation 42, there is a requirement to complete an Annual Review of the Quality of Care provided by the Fostering Service. The Review report follows a format prescribed by CSSIW. The report for 2015/16 is attached at Appendix 2.
  5. The Children and Young People Services Commissioning Strategy 2013 -18 identifies that, where children and young people cannot be supported to remain with their birth families, they will be placed with foster carers within the Vale of Glamorgan. Where demand for placements exceeds that available within the Council service, placements are procured from Independent Fostering Agencies (IFAs) at significant additional cost and sometimes at some distance from the area. A key priority for the Division is 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.
  6. A Fostering Service Recruitment Strategy was presented to Scrutiny Committee in March 2013 and updated in March 2015. The Strategy identifies four key recruitment priorities:
  • Placements for young people aged 11-16 years who present 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 are willing to make a commitment to provide accommodation for young people for as long as they may require it, in keeping with the new 'When I am Ready' requirements which were likely to be introduced under the Social Services and Well-being Act.
  1. To achieve these priorities, we aimed to:
  • increase enquiry rates to the service to 100 per year, using local and regional advertising campaigns;
  • increase the enquiries to assessments conversion rate by 15%;
  • increase the number of carers offering placements for sibling groups by a minimum of two per year;
  • increase the number of carers offering teenage placements by a minimum of two per year;
  • increase the number of carers offering respite/short breaks placements by a minimum of two per year; and
  • reduce the demand for IFA placements by 25%.
  1. 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.
  2. Publicity and advertising is the critical first step in the process of recruiting more foster carers. However, it is just one step and needs 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.

Relevant Issues and Options

Foster Carer Recruitment Strategy 2015/16 and Review of the Quality of Care 2015/16 (Regulation 42)

  1. The Fostering Service has been working hard to complete the actions set out in the Recruitment Strategy and in the CSSIW's inspection report from 2014/15. It has been a challenging year for the Fostering Service with several new staff appointments and a new team manager appointed in September 2015. There has been a significant increase in the number of kinship assessments that the Service is being asked to complete during care proceedings within the Court arena. These are required within very tight timescales. 34 kinship assessments were allocated compared with (11 last year) and 15 new kinship carers approved (4 last year). This increase in demand has affected our ability to meet our targets in regards to mainstream foster carers this year. Although the number of kinship assessments is difficult to predict, it is recognised that this form of care can provide positive outcomes where it enables children to remain within their wider families. It is important for the Fostering Service, therefore, to be able to respond to both areas of demand for assessment. Maintaining our ability to do this successfully remains a priority for Children and Young People Services.
  2. During the past year, there has been a national decline in the number of initial enquiries experienced by all fostering services. From 1st April 2015 to 31st March 2016, we received 55 registrations of interest. This is one less than the previous year. Our initial visits to prospective applicants have also been fewer, reducing from 32 during 2014/15 to 22 for 2015/16. We have addressed the drop in initial enquiries by developing a new advertising campaign. For the first time, it will involve television advertising, then using this advert on social media and at local events.
  3. We have sought to maximise the level of interest received by providing regular pre-approval training for prospective applicants. Eleven people have attended since April 2015 and we have received four applications for assessment. We have assessed and approved six new mainstream foster carers during the year. This is a decrease on last year's figure of nine.
  4. There has been a slight increase in the number of de-registrations and resignations in 2015/16 (11) compared to 2014/15 (9). There were five de-registrations of kinship carers, two were a result of the carers obtaining a Special Guardianship Order for the young person placed, two were due to the placement no longer being required and one was due to ill health. There were six de-registrations/resignations of mainstream foster carers during 2015/16: One was deregistered following an investigation of a complaint or allegation; one had their previous looked after child continuing to live with them as an adult and could no longer offer a placement, one adopted the children placed with them, two retired and one was because their circumstances had changed and they no longer wanted to foster. The number of de-registrations varied little from the six that took place in 2014/15. The reasons for de-registrations remain similar from year to year and the data shows a very high level of stability and retention in respect of mainstream (non-kinship) carers.
  5. Whilst there has been movement throughout the year from Independent Fostering Agency (IFA) placements, the number of children placed with Independent Fostering Agencies (IFA) has remained stable at 30. Of the 30 children placed with Independent Fostering Agencies, 23 of these are identified as children's long term placements where a change of placement would not be in their best interests. Enabling children and young people to move on from Independent Fostering Agency (IFA) placements, where appropriate, at the same time as reducing our need to place with Independent Fostering Agencies (IFAs) remains a priority for 2016/17.
  6. To ensure we are meeting need and maximising our capacity, 17 exemptions and variations were agreed during 2015/16; this is an increase of four compared to last year. Exemptions are placements made outside the approval status set by Panel and they are used mainly for teenagers (where there is still considerable pressure on placement availability) and to keep siblings together.
  7. The Fostering Service has delivered 64 foster carer annual reviews from the 74 that were due in the year, i.e. a completion rate of 86%. As at 30th April this year, 95% of foster carers have up to date annual reviews/approvals. Completion of Annual Reviews within timescales remains a priority for the team.
  8. Analysis of our recruitment activity and its impact will inform how the Fostering Service and the Corporate Communications team implement the future rolling programme of campaign activity.

Work has been undertaken with the team to plan recruitment activity for 2016/17. We have recently produced a television advert due to air for two weeks in May and two weeks in October 2016. We have once again agreed to a year-long advertising deal with three local Tesco stores which will see billboards outside the stores and our leaflets inside the stores. Focusing on Foster Carer Fortnight in May 2016, plans have been made to advertise on Vale of Glamorgan bus stops and roundabouts. In addition, we have secured advertising in local play areas, playgroups and restaurants. We plan to take part in a number of local events this year and provide the media with newsworthy stories and features.

  1. The Recruitment Strategy is critical to increasing the numbers of foster carers in the Vale of Glamorgan. The Council is also engaged in helping to develop the National Fostering Framework, one of the four major workstreams within the programme which has been established by the Strategic Steering Group set up by Welsh Government with the task of improving outcomes for children. The aims of the National Fostering Framework are to improve permanency planning for children and the quality of placement provision, make consistent use of best practice models for the recruitment and support of carers, and to support an increase in collaboration and cooperation by all key stakeholders.

CSSIW Annual Inspection of the Fostering Service

  1. At the time of the Inspection in March 2016, the Fostering Service was supporting 57 mainstream and 31 relative (kinship) foster carers, providing placements for 114 looked after children.

At that time, 195 children and young people were Looked After by the Council.

  1. The Inspectors concluded that the Fostering Service:

•        is effectively managed and a new manager is in place;

•        is child centred with motivated staff;

•        has good systems for consultation and quality assurance

•        provides good support and guidance to foster carers; and

•        Is responsive to addressing issues raised by inspections or audits.

  1. A number of improvements made since the 2015 Inspection were validated. These include the appointment of a manager, improved monitoring systems, better training and up to date reviews.
  2. The Inspectors identified two areas of compliance, together with a few areas for improvement.

The first relates to failing to notify CSSIW of a change in the manager of the fostering service. This was immediately rectified and written notification given.

The second area relates to ensuring the reasons for placements ending with foster carers are fully recorded on the 'record of placements' template. This was immediately rectified and the template updated. The improvement areas around foster carer's supervision, agreements and delegated agreements were noted and will be implemented.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

  1. Costs incurred during 2015/16 were contained within the overall Children and Young People Services budget. The 'When I am Ready' scheme enables young people in foster care to continue living with their foster carers once they turn 18. It allows them to remain in a stable and nurturing family environment up to the age of 21, or up to age 25 if they are completing an agreed programme of education or training. It also provides them with the opportunity to develop their skills and confidence so they can make a successful transition to more independent living. 'When I am Ready' was set up by the Welsh Government in 2015 to prepare local authorities for their new legal duties under the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Act. These new duties came into force in April 2016. Local authorities are required to set up local 'When I am Ready' schemes in line with the national guidelines set out in the Code of Practice relating to Part 6 of the Act. The new requirements are likely to have significant resource requirements and the Fostering Service is monitoring the impact locally.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

  1. Local placements for children reduce the need for long journeys by families and social workers.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

  1. The provision of a quality Fostering Service is mandated by legislation, regulation and guidance.

Crime and Disorder Implications

  1. Some children who are looked after can engage in criminal behaviour, although this is not the norm. Ensuring a suitable range of placements assists in enabling us to match children to the most appropriate placement. A representative of the Youth Offending Service attends the Placement Panel to ensure full consideration of a child's needs in this area and to maximise opportunities for joint working.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

  1. Placing children locally in families helps to increase our ability to cater for their cultural and linguistic needs.

Corporate/Service Objectives

  1. The actions set out in this report help the directorate to help achieve the following corporate and service objections:

•        Children and young people are engaged and supported to take full advantage of life opportunities in their community and beyond - Corporate Plan Outcome 2013-17.

•        The Vale of Glamorgan achieves good outcomes for service users and carers through its arrangements to protect vulnerable people and success in promoting independence and social inclusion - Social Services Directorate Service Plan 2013-17.

•        To provide and commission a flexible and affordable range of high quality placements - Children and Young People Services Commissioning Strategy 2013-18.

Policy Framework and Budget

  1. This is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

  1. The provision of a quality Fostering Service is a Council wide responsibility and there are no matters in this report relating specifically to any individual Ward.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

  1. Healthy Living and Social Care

Background Papers

Social Care and Health Scrutiny Committee: 11.03.13 - The Council's In-House Fostering Service

Social Care and Health Scrutiny Committee: 15.07.13 - The Council's In-House Fostering Service

Social Care and Health Scrutiny Committee: 16.06.14 - The Council's In-House Fostering Service

Social Care and Health Scrutiny Committee: 15.06.15 - The Council's In-House Fostering

Contact Officer

Karen Conway, Operational Manager, Children and Young People Services

Officers Consulted

Placements and Permanency Team

Head of Children and Young People Services

Corporate Management Team

Responsible Officer

Philip Evans, Director of Social Services

 

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