Agenda Item No. 7
The Vale of Glamorgan Council
Healthy Living and Social Care Scrutiny Committee: 6th November, 2017
Report of the Director of Social Services
Annual Report of the Vale, Valleys and Cardiff Regional Adoption Collaborative, 1st April 2016 to 31st March 2017
Purpose of the Report
To provide Scrutiny Committee with the Annual Report and review of the Collaborative.
That Committee notes the report and the work undertaken to date.
That Committee continues 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.
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 fully operational on 1st June 2015.
On 2nd 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. This was considered on 22nd November 2016, with agreement that reports would continue to be received on an annual basis.
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 Merthyr Tydfil until July of this year when the role transferred to the Director of Social Services for Rhondda Cynon Taf. 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.
5. 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 performance of the Collaborative has been routinely reviewed by the Management Board and the Joint Committee.
6. The report outlines the performance and work of the service for the period 1st April 2016 to 31st March 2017. It summarises the progress, achievements and areas for development against the regional plan put in place to deliver the service and the priorities set by the National Adoption Service.
7. 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;
adopter enquiries and approvals;
adoption support, service user engagement and consultation;
external monitoring and governance;
complaints and compliments.
8. The report highlights the activity and workload of the Collaborative for its first full year of operation from 1st April 2016 - 31st March 2017. The region has maintained and improved performance in key areas such as the matching and placement of children for adoption and the provision of life journey material. It is however apparent that the increased workload in terms of referrals of children for adoption, children waiting for placements and for adoption support services has impacted upon performance in other areas, particularly the timely recruitment and assessment of adopters. This coupled with the downturn in the number of enquiries received from prospective adopters makes effective recruitment of adopters a key priority going forward. Meeting the level of demand across the range of functions for which the Collaborative is responsible has posed, and is highly likely to continue to pose, significant challenges to the service and therefore its partner authorities.
9. 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 has the potential to demonstrate further 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. The outcome of the Best Value Review currently being undertaken will help to inform how best the Collaborative does that, and where there are resource challenges for consideration.
Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)
10. The 2017/18 budget for the Collaborative was approved by the Joint Committee in December 2016. The Committee also approved a plan to carry forward an underspend into the 2017/18 budget. These monies have been used to support the continuation of a pilot project to enhance adoption support pending the outcome of the Best Value Review of the service.
11. An Internal Audit review of the Collaborative was undertaken by the Bridgend and Vale Partnership. A report was produced in June 2017. The purpose of the audit was to determine compliance with relevant Financial Procedure Rules and related policies and procedures to ensure a satisfactory control environment was in operation so that the Wales Audit Office Annual Return for 2016/17 could be duly signed. The audit concluded that reasonable assurance was achieved, noting robust budget monitoring and reporting processes, and compliance with governance arrangements. Two procedural recommendations were made regarding receipts and delegation and these have been fully addressed.
Sustainability and Climate Change Implications
12. 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)
13. 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.
14. 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
15. There are no specific crime and disorder implications associated with this report.
Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)
16. 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.
17. 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. The Collaborative has also complied with the requirements of the Welsh Language Standards.
18. The work of the Regional Adoption Collaborative supports Well-being Outcome 4 of the Corporate Plan and specifically Objective 8, Safeguarding those who are vulnerable and promoting independent living.
19. The Collaborative responds to the priorities set out by the National Adoption Service.
20. The provision of a quality Adoption Service meets the outcomes expressed in the Social Services Directorate Service Plan 2015/19.
21. 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
22. This is a matter for Executive decision.
Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)
23. The need to consult and obtain feedback from service users has been identified as a key priority for the Collaborative.
Relevant Scrutiny Committee
24. Healthy Living and Social Care
Social Care and Health Scrutiny Committee 2nd November, 2015: Update on the new Vale, Valleys and Cardiff Regional Adoption Collaborative
Rachel Evans, Head of Children and Young People Services
Vale, Valleys and Cardiff Regional Adoption Collaborative Management Board and Joint Committee.
Lance Carver, Director of Social Services