Agenda Item No. 6
The Vale of Glamorgan Council
Healthy Living and Social Care Scrutiny Committee: 10th July, 2017
Report of the Director of Social Services
Children and Young People Services - Annual Placement Review
Purpose of the Report
To outline the actions taken within Children and Young People Services during 2016/17 with regard to placement provision for Looked After Children (LAC) and the priority actions for 2017/18.
That Scrutiny Committee:
Notes the contents of the report.
Receives regular updates through existing reporting arrangements, including the monthly budget programme report and update reports on the Corporate Strategy for Children in Need of Care and Support and the Foster Carer Recruitment Strategy.
Receives a further annual placement review report in July 2018.
That the report is referred to Learning and Culture Scrutiny Committee for information.
Reason for the Recommendations
1-4 To provide Members with an opportunity to exercise oversight of this key statutory function.
Resource management in children's social care is inherently problematic. This is particularly the case in the area of children's placements. Local Authorities face considerable challenges in managing their overall looked after populations, finding appropriate placements, meeting children's support and ensuring the most effective use of placement resources. The number of children with complex needs is increasing and meeting these needs within appropriate placements places pressure on budgets. This cohort of children relates both to those with challenging and complex behaviour and to those with disabilities. Some individual placements are very expensive. The costs of a placement for a child with complex needs can exceed £200k a year.
In Children and Young People Services, a major issue is the continuing pressure on placements for Looked After Children. This is the Division's most volatile budget and the one most dependent upon levels of service demand which are not within the Council's direct control. Each year, Cabinet endorsed the Social Services Budget Programme as the means whereby the Directorate will deliver services within the resources available and meet savings targets. Previously one of the key savings projects being managed as part of the Budget Programme related to residential placements for Looked After Children, with a target of £150k in cashable savings each year between 2014/15 and 2016/17.
Given this context, it is essential that the Council has in place a coherent strategy for meeting the needs of children within allocated resources. Approved by Cabinet, the Corporate Strategy for Children in Need of Care and Support 2016 to 2019 outlines how the Council will meet a number of key objectives, two of which relate directly to Looked After Children. These are:
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, have stable placements and exit the care system positively.
Relevant Issues and Options
Officers have analysed the financial position, the demand for placements and spending patterns and this report is attached at Appendix 1. It demonstrates the volatility of the placement budget and the significant impact individual cases can have on overall expenditure. Key influences include: the increasing complexity of children's needs; the Welsh Government 'When I am Ready' policy which extends the time children can remain in foster placements beyond the age of 18; and the use of remand placements where Local Authorities have become responsible for the costs of looking after children who are not allowed to live at home while they are the subject of criminal proceedings.
With the exception of the increase in placement commitments, the Children and Young People Services Division has made good progress in delivering the actions agreed in the budget programme and the Corporate Strategy, as demonstrated by the regular monitoring reports. Appendix 1 highlights the considerable activity undertaken to date in response to the challenges associated with children's placements and the work streams for the year ahead.
Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)
The Social Services Directorate is committed to achieving a balanced budget. The savings expectations associated with reducing spend on children's placements required £150k in cashable savings each year between 2014/15 and 2016/17. During 2016/17, the overall external placements budget for looked after children was underspent by £309,000. This is a significant improvement on previous years where in 2015/16 the budget was underspent by £183,000, in 2014/15 overspent by £20,000 and in 2013/14 overspent by £496,000. For 2016/17 the joint budget residential was underspent by £262k, the secure/remand was underspent by £73k and the external placement IFA was overspent by £39k.
In the first quarter of 2017/18 there are pressures in this budget as a result of the increasing complexity of need amongst those children and young people we are currently supporting and the associated challenges in identifying placements both internally and externally. This appears to be linked to an emerging national shortage. These pressures will be monitored closely and reported through the budget programme.
Sustainability and Climate Change Implications
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)
There are no legal implications as a direct consequence of this report.
Crime and Disorder Implications
Following the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, local authorities became responsible for the costs of accommodating young people under the age of 18 who are remanded. It is difficult for us to predict how many young people may be remanded into custody or for how long they will be remanded. This area remains high risk.
Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)
Equalities issues have been taken into consideration when producing the Budget Programme, the Corporate Strategy for Children in Need of Care and Support and the Directorate Service Plan.
Effective monitoring assists in the provision of accurate and timely information to Members and officers and, in particular, allows services to better manage their resources.
Policy Framework and Budget
The report is in accordance with the Policy Framework and Budget.
Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)
This report does not require Ward Member consultation.
Relevant Scrutiny Committee
Healthy Living and Social Care
Rachel Evans, Head of Children and Young People Services
Carolyn Michael, Operational Manager Accountancy
Lance Carver, Director of Social Services