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Agenda Item No. 9

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Healthy Living and Social Care Scrutiny Committee: 18th July, 2016

 

Report of the Director of Social Services

 

Draft Corporate Strategy for Children who Need Care and Support and Action Plan 2016 - 2019

 

Purpose of the Report

1.       To advise Scrutiny Committee of progress in developing a draft Corporate Strategy for Children Who Need Care and Support and an associated Action Plan for 2016-19.

Recommendations

That Scrutiny Committee:

  1. Notes the progress made in developing a new Corporate Strategy and Action Plan for Children Who Need Care and Support to replace the current single directorate Children and Young People Services Commissioning Strategy.
  2. Refers the draft Strategy and the associated Action Plan to Cabinet recommending it be endorsed as a Council-wide Strategy for Children who need Care and Support.

Reason for the Recommendations

1&2    To provide Members with opportunities to exercise oversight of a key strategic development for the Council.

Background

2.       As recommended by the Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health), Cabinet agreed a Children and Young People Services Commissioning Strategy and Action Plan in March 2013. Cabinet asked for regular progress reports on delivery of the action plan and these updates were provided to Scrutiny Committee on a six-monthly basis. The last update was presented to Scrutiny Committee on 5th January 2015 and it was then agreed that these updates would cease while a Council-wide Strategy was being developed.

3.       The decision to develop a Corporate Strategy was a direct consequence of the workshop hosted by the Corporate Parenting Panel in 2015 and including Elected Members and officers from across the Council. Recognising the responsibility on all parts of the Council in promoting positive outcomes for children in need of care and support, Corporate Parenting Panel encouraged the Council to develop a strategy that would reflect these shared commitments. The draft Corporate Strategy and Action Plan, attached at Appendix 1, is the product of the work that has followed.

4.       Mindful of the need for the Council to meet its statutory responsibilities and at the same time to deal with significant financial pressures, the Strategy builds on the four key objectives included in the original document:

  • To support families to stay together and reduce the need for children to be looked after by ensuring a focus on early intervention and preventative action across all service provision for children, including statutory and independent providers.
  • To manage risk confidently and provide support at the 'edge of care' by making sure that need and risk are accurately assessed and receive the proper response, so that the right children are accommodated at the right time. This includes supporting families by making private arrangements within their wider family networks.
  • To provide and commission a flexible and affordable mix of high quality placements that meet the diverse range of children's needs.
  • To give children clearly planned journeys through care which remain focused on achieving care plans; prevent drift; enable them to be reunited with family and friends where possible; provide them with stable placements and opportunities to move on from the care system positively.

Relevant Issues and Options

5.       Children and young people who need care and support, including those looked after by the Local Authority and not by their parents or within their wider families, are amongst the most vulnerable in society.

6.       Under the new Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014, the whole Council has a responsibility towards making sure that people in need of care and support receive the right help at the right time in order to improve their well-being and protect them from harm. This means:

  • identifying and assessing children who need care and support as early as possible;
  • helping them to use the strengths in their families and resources in their communities to provide help and support; and
  • intervening at a stage which prevents needs becoming critical.

7.       In addition, as Corporate Parents of children who are looked after, it is our responsibility to keep them safe, to make sure that their experiences in care are positive, and to improve the access they have to opportunities for them to succeed in life.

8.       This draft Strategy sets out how the whole Council (including Elected Members and officers) is going to work collaboratively so that we can improve the general well-being of children and young people who need care and support, for whatever reason.

9.       The draft Strategy identifies how the needs of children, young people and their families will be met within the resources available to the Council during the period 2016 to 2019. The document describes the level of care and placements we want to provide and commission for our Looked After Children. It also focuses on all stages of the 'care journey', saying how we will support children in need of care and support and their families to stay together whenever it is safe to do so and so minimise the need for children to become looked after. It describes how the wider Council will contribute to achieving this objective, working alongside Children and Young People Services.

10.     Developing this draft Strategy is the start of the journey. Delivering the objectives set out here will make a difference to the quality of life and the outcomes achieved for some of the most vulnerable children and young people in the Vale of Glamorgan. To make this happen will require continuing and coordinated effort across the Council and other service providers. Relevant strategic plans in all Directorates will need to reference this document, and funding decisions taken in one area must not materially disadvantage this most vulnerable group of children and young people.

11.     The Corporate Parenting Panel and the Cross Directorate Corporate Strategy Management Team will be asked to oversee delivery of the Strategy, monitoring the impact so that children and their families who are better supported remain together and driving forward the focus on reducing admissions to care and increasing reunification to family and friends as a key priority. We can only achieve this with the help and support of the wider Council.

12.     The draft Strategy includes an Action Plan which demonstrates the commitment of Directorates in working towards these shared goals. We will need the support of Elected Members and the corporate planning team to make sure that the necessary cross-Council links are made. As a result, this draft Strategy and the associated Action Plan will continue to be live documents, regularly reviewed as progress is made. Our commitment to children in need of care and support, to the principles set out in this Strategy and to working together to provide the best possible services will remain steady.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

13.     The draft Corporate Strategy focuses on:

  • preventing the need for statutory interventions and provision of care and accommodation;
  • managing the increasing expectations and demand for help and support;
  • managing the ongoing reductions in budgets and the need to prioritise service delivery to those most in need.

14.     Demand for children and young people to be looked after and for appropriate placements to be found creates pressure in this Council's budgets, most significantly in Children and Young People Services and Learning and Skills. Recognising the financial benefit to the Council as a whole and the opportunities to improve the outcomes for children, the draft Strategy aligns the responsibilities across Directorates and offers a shared commitment to achieving the agreed objectives.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

15.     Effectively managing our overall Looked After Children population is essential in ensuring best use of resources across public services.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

16.     As set out in the Social Services and Well-being Act and other related legislation and guidance, safeguarding vulnerable children and young people in need of care and support is a key statutory responsibility of the Council.

Crime and Disorder Implications

17.     There are no crime and disorder implications as a direct result of this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

18.     The draft Strategy operates on the principle that all children in need of care and support should be given the opportunity to achieve their potential, to be the best that they can be. This shared commitment across all Council Directorates enhances the Council's ability to meet its statutory responsibilities and the expectations which arise from our role as corporate parents.

Corporate/Service Objectives

19.     The draft Strategy relates directly to each of the four Well-being Outcomes included in the Council's Corporate Plan 2016-20:

  • An Inclusive and Safe Vale
  • An Environmentally Responsible and Prosperous Vale
  • An Aspirational and Culturally Vibrant Vale
  • An Active and Healthy Vale.

Policy Framework and Budget

20.     This is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

21.     The provision of appropriate support to safeguard and promote the wellbeing of children and young people in need of care and support is a Vale-wide responsibility. The draft Strategy has been endorsed by the Council's Corporate Parenting Panel.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

22.     Health Living and Social Care

Background Papers

Report to Cabinet 4th March 2013: Children and Young People Services Commissioning Strategy and Action Plan 2013-18

Contact Officer

Rachel Evans, Head of Service Children and Young People Services

Officers Consulted

Mike Ingram, Operational Manager, Public Housing Services

Pam Toms, Housing Solutions and Supporting People Team Leader

Dave Knevett, Operational Manager, Leisure

David Davies, Lead Officer Inclusion, Learning and Skills

Martine Coles, LAC Education Co-ordinator and Lead Professional EAL

Andy Borsden, Lead Officer, Youth and Community Learning

Adrian Unsworth, Operational Manager, Human Resources

Helen Scarrett, Corporate Training and Organisational Development

Karen Conway, Operational Manager, Children and Young People Services

Alison McDonald, Operational Manager, Children and Young People Services

Corporate Management Team

Responsible Officer

Philip Evans, Director of Social Services