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Agenda Item No. 6

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Healthy Living and Social Care Scrutiny Committee: 22nd  November, 2016

 

Report of the Director of Social Services

 

Annual Report of the Vale, Valleys and Cardiff Regional Adoption Collaborative, 1st April 2015 to 31st March 2016

 

Purpose of the Report

  1. To provide Scrutiny Committee with the Annual Report and review of the Collaborative.

Recommendations

  1. That Committee notes the report and the work undertaken to date.
  2. That Committee agrees to receive annual reports in line with the requirements of the Partnership Agreement which underpins the Collaborative.

Reason for the Recommendations

1& 2 To enable Committee to exercise scrutiny of this key statutory function.

Background

  1. On 28th November 2014, Cabinet approved the business case, service delivery model and implementation plan for creating the Vale, Valleys and Cardiff Regional Adoption Collaborative. The recommendations in the report were resolved also by the Cabinets in Cardiff, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr Tydfil during December 2014. The Vale of Glamorgan Council acts as host authority for the Collaborative, which became operational on 1 June 2015.
  1. On 2 November 2015, Scrutiny Committee considered a report outlining the progress made following implementation and agreed to receive a further report in line with the requirements of the Partnership Agreement for the Collaborative.

Relevant Issues and Options

4.       The governance structure of the Collaborative involves a Joint Committee and a regional Management Board. The Joint Committee involves the lead Cabinet Member from each of the four local authorities and Heads of Service; it meets twice a year. The Management Board meets bi-monthly. It comprises the Heads of Service from the four local authorities which make up the Collaborative and representatives from Health, Education and the Voluntary Sector. The Management Board was chaired by the Director of Social Services for the Vale of Glamorgan until July of this year when the role transferred to the Director of Social Services for Merthyr Tydfil CBC. In line with the Partnership Agreement, this position will rotate on a yearly basis between the Directors of the four local authorities. The Regional Adoption Manager reports to the Management Board and Joint Committee.

6.       The requirement to review the work of the Collaborative and provide an Annual Report to Scrutiny Committee is set out in the Partnership Agreement. In addition, Regulation 22 of the Local Authority Adoption Service (Wales) Regulations 2007 and Section 15 2 (c) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 (Joint Adoption Arrangements) (Wales) Directions 2015 require the Collaborative to review the quality of its service and to provide an annual report to the Director of Operations of the National Adoption Service. It is envisaged that the Annual Report attached at Appendix 1 will meet all these requirements. The Management Board and the Joint Committee approved the Annual Report of the Collaborative on 13 September 2016 on 7 October 2016 respectively.

8.       The report outlines the performance and work of the service for the period 1st April 2015 to 31st March 2016. The narrative of the report covers the period from implementation and some quantitative information contained in the report is only available from this date. Certain data has been broken down by local authority.

9.       The report summarises the progress, achievements and areas for development of the Collaborative against the regional plan put in place to deliver the service during the first year and the priorities set by the National Adoption Service.

10.     The report includes information on :

  • staffing and service development;
  • Adoption Panel functioning and membership;
  • advertising and marketing;
  • performance in relation to children referred and placed for adoption;
  • placement disruption;
  • adopter enquiries and approvals;
  • adoption Support, service user engagement and consultation;
  • external monitoring and governance;
  • complaints and compliments.

11.      The report highlights the activity and workload of the Collaborative for the first ten months of operation. The demand for services has been consistently high, with a significant growth in the need for Adoption Support services. The review has demonstrated positive performance in relation to the timely placement of children for adoption, the recruitment and assessment of adopters and providing an improved service to birth parents. However, meeting the level of demand for Adoption Support has posed and is highly likely to continue posing significant challenges to the service.

12.      Establishing the Collaborative has represented a significant organisational change to the way in which adoption services are delivered. This has created challenges but also provided opportunities to develop services differently. By enabling a more consistent and unified approach to service delivery, providing a clearer picture of need and resource and highlighting gaps in provision and areas for development, collaborative working is beginning to show real benefits. Our priority is to build upon what has been achieved to date, to further develop the service to meet the needs identified and to ensure that performance levels are maintained and enhanced in key areas.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

13.      The annual budget for the Collaborative was approved by the Joint Committee in December 2015. The Committee also approved a plan to carry forward an underspend in the budget during the first year of operation into the 2016-17 budget. These monies have been used to:

  •    support a pilot project to enhance Adoption Support;
  •    increase placement opportunities for children;
  •    provide specialist training for staff and adoptive families; and
  •    develop the Collaborative's website and materials to ensure compliance with the Welsh Standards.
  •    The underspend was also used to fund the increase in NI contributions from April 2016 and the 2016/17 pay award of 1% on a one off basis for the year 2016/17.

14.      An Internal Audit review of the Collaborative was undertaken by the Bridgend and Vale Partnership. A report in respect of Part One of the audit process was produced in September 2015. The report concluded "that the effectiveness of the internal control environment is considered to be sound and therefore substantial assurance can be placed upon the management of risks".

15.      Confirmation was received in September 2016 that the Wales Audit Office had formally signed off the accounts for the Adoption Collaborative for 2015/2016. This information has been conveyed to regional partners and to the Joint Committee.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

16.      Regional working has enabled staff to specialise in service areas. However, the functional service delivery model that was introduced (with work allocated to specialist teams) has not been fully implemented because of the need to deploy staff to meet service demand. With agreement from the regional management team, staff are able to undertake some flexible working from home to reduce travelling time across the region and improve service efficiency.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

17.      The Partnership Agreement underpinning the operation of the Collaborative sets out the functions delegated to it on behalf of the partner authorities. The Collaborative has complied with the Agreement and has continued to deliver the delegated functions.

18.      The Adoption and Children Act 2002 (Joint Adoption Arrangements) (Wales) Directions 2015 prescribe the governance and reporting requirements of regional Collaboratives. The composition of the Management Board fully complies with these requirements and the regional service has complied with all reporting requirements to the National Adoption Service.

Crime and Disorder Implications

19.      There are no specific crime and disorder implications associated with this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

20       In considering this matter, decision-makers must have regard to the Council's duties under the Equality Act 2010. Pursuant to these legal duties, Councils must, in making decisions, have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations on the basis of protected characteristics.

21.      The equalities implications were set out in the Equality Impact Assessment appended to the Cabinet report approved on 28th November, 2014. The Collaborative promotes equality of opportunity at the point of adopter enquiry. The single point of contact for those requiring support services has made responses more consistent. Collaborative working has also increased placement opportunities, from within both the regional service and externally.

Corporate/Service Objectives

22.      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.

23.      The provision of a quality Adoption Service meets the outcomes expressed in the Social Services Directorate Service Plan 2015/19.

24.      To provide children and young people with a clearly planned journey through care and to achieve permanence wherever appropriate to do so is a key principle underpinning the Council's Corporate Strategy for Children who Need Care and Support 2016-19.

Policy Framework and Budget

25.      This is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

26.      The need to consult and obtain feedback from service users has been identified as a key priority for the Collaborative.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

27.      Healthy Living and Social Care

Background Papers

Social Care and Health Scrutiny Committee 2nd November, 2015: Update on the new Vale, Valleys and Cardiff Regional Adoption Collaborative

Contact Officer

Rachel Evans, Head of Children and Young People Services

Officers Consulted

Vale, Valleys and Cardiff Regional Adoption Collaborative Management Board and Joint Committee.

Responsible Officer

Philip Evans, Director of Social Services

 

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