Agenda Item No. 6


The Vale of Glamorgan Council


Learning and Culture Scrutiny Committee: 20th June 2016


Report of the Director of Learning and Skills


School and Community Based Counselling Service for Young People


Purpose of the Report

  1. To advise Members of the current position and progress in relation to the development of the local school based counselling service in the Vale of Glamorgan.


  1. That Members note the report and the progress to date.
  2. That the Scrutiny Committee (Learning and Culture) continues to monitor progress in the development of the service.

Reasons for the Recommendations

  1. To ensure Members are kept informed of the counselling service and the impact on young people.
  2. To consider the progress that has been achieved.


  1. A key recommendation following the Clywch report in 2004 which was issued by the then Children's Commissioner Peter Clark was the establishment of a counselling service for young people.
  2. The benefits to young people of such a service are well documented and following consultation Welsh Assembly Government launched its National Strategy for School-Based Counselling Service for Wales in April 2008.
  3. In 2008 the Vale of Glamorgan was successful in accessing funding for its proposed model to deliver a counselling service and Barnardo's Cymru Ltd were selected as the preferred service deliverer.
  4. The initial funding for the service allocated in 2008/09 was £42K, and this rose to £192K in 2012/13. The increase each year was to enable the service to grow slowly and ensure all secondary and special schools received a service. From April 2013 funding was provided through the revenue support grant and the remit was expanded to include provision for young people up to 19 years old.
  5. Welsh Government guidance advises that all 8 mainstream secondary schools receive a service of either 1 or 2 days per week. Additional days are allocated for special schools, out of school provision and some primary provision. The service also covers pupil referral units, those receiving home tuition non-attenders and those accessing or entitled to educational support.
  6. In March 2013 the School Standards and Organisational (Wales) Act set in place a legal requirement for all local authorities to secure 'reasonable provision' for an 'independent counselling service' in respect of health, emotional and social needs.
  7. A multi-agency Management Board oversees development of the service in the Vale of Glamorgan, including officers from the Learning and Skills directorate, head teachers and officers from the Public Health Team.
  8. An open procurement process took place during 2013 for the delivery of a School and Community Based Counselling Service in line with the School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013 and with the Council's Standing Orders. Action for Children were appointed as the provider from June 2013 for a 3 year period.
  9. Frustrations were noted during this contract amongst schools and young people about waiting list times, reflecting changes in staffing, recruitment delays, suspension of staff members, the impact of new guidance (in 2013) which broadened access to the service (year 6 and 16-19 years of age) and the popularity and normalisation of the service (young people seeking help and teachers willing to refer to the service, seeing the advantages to the young person's wellbeing). Unrealised projected increases in the number of days offered by the provider within the contract, which should have helped counteract many of these issues were never realised.
  10. In line with the School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013 and with the Council's Standing Orders, an open procurement process was again initiated during 2015/16 for the delivery of a School and Community Based Counselling Service. Refreshed Procurement Documentation (Invitation to Tender) incorporating liquidated damages (seeking to tighten up the contract compliance), led to Action for Children choosing to withdraw from the bidding process. Barnardo's Cymru were successful and appointed as the new provider to start from June 2016 for a 3 year period.

Relevant Issues and Options

  1. Robust monitoring and evaluation systems are in place to comply with Welsh Government requirements, and the Management Board continues to oversee the service. The service continues to report to Welsh Government as required and is part of any Estyn inspection that takes place of the local authority or individual schools. Feedback is collected from school staff and pupils.
  2. Between April 2015 to March 2016, 478 young people undertook an episode of counselling (this was an increase of 96 young people on the previous year)15 of these were primary school pupils and 34 were part of the community counselling and included those referred by post education providers or the Out of School Team. This equated to 3049 individual sessions (289 more session than last year), with females accounting for approximately 60% of those accessing the service. Traditionally young people access the service as they get older, this year the peak was in year 9 & 10. Approximately 50% of young people self-refer to the service through various mechanisms including electronically. This shows a slight reduction on last year, but supports the continuation of the normalisation of the service within schools.
  3. Of those seen by a counsellor, 19 young people reported being a 'Looked After Child' (LAC), a significant increase on previous years. Low numbers of LAC had been discussed by the Management Board and raised with the appropriate staff working directly with LAC, so this increase is seen as positive. 104 young people identified themselves as having a special educational need or a disability, which equates to approximately 20% of service users, most of whom are within mainstream education.
  4. The main issues for referral (presenting issues) are family, anger and stress issues. Predominant issues highlighted during counselling include family, stress, pupil self -worth and anger. Self-harm and depression are areas that appear to be increasing within both presenting and predominant issues, with self-harm spiking within the summer term. This information has previously been highlighted to those schools with significant increases and shared with the Educational Psychology (EP) team. This has led to the EP team devising action plans with three schools to implement early intervention strategies. Since the implementation of Action Plans a review in November 2015 saw all 3 targeted schools show reductions.
  5. The self-harm reduction plans focused largely on increased use of SELFIE and corresponding intervention/support at early signs of emotional distress.  There were also plans for schools to access training from the Primary Mental Health Service and additionally to give parents tools to help them better support their children. Bereavement and anxiety around achievement were significant themes.    There has been limited access to support for self-harm outside of the counselling service. CAMHS will only see if accompanied by a mental health issue - and have long waiting lists, social services don't always see it as their role.  All the counsellors have also undertaken or participated in a Self-Harm seminar in April 2016.
  6. YP Core is used as a tool to assess psychological wellbeing. Outcome data continues to show significant positive progress for the young people undertaking counselling. The YP Core tool shows a consistent 5 to 6 point reduction in pre and post counselling scores on a scale of 0 (Healthy) to 40 (Severe). The Annual report (Appendix A) demonstrates areas covered within the YP Core scale. The reduction in outcome scores pre and post counselling is the same as last year, but, lower than in previous years and lower than the national average. This is felt to be partially down to counsellors working with the young people to complete the outcome tool (previously this was self-scored) and it is felt that by having a better understanding of the questions, young people are scoring themselves more appropriately.
  7. A small number of child protection issues have been identified through individual counselling sessions and positive links have been developed with the Intake and Family Support Team within Social Services. The numbers being referred to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) also remain low, but informal feedback from CAMHS suggests that those referrals to CAMHS are considered more appropriate referrals. At a National level, thresholds for accessing CAMHS services appear to be rising. Currently the number of young people accessing both CAHMS services and counselling is not formally collected, but informal feedback suggest there are a significant number with these young people who are arriving with higher needs and therefore remaining in counselling longer.
  8. It is envisaged that the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board's Children and Young Peoples Services projects including an Emotional Wellbeing Service which are in the early stages of roll out will complement the counselling service by offering a raft of preventative and intervention services. These are at various levels of development.
  9. The annual report (attached as Appendix A) refers to a service review that has been undertaken by Action for Children.
  10. Feedback from young people using the Post Counselling Questionnaire (PCE) is positive. From 277 returned questionnaires (an increase of 102% on last year) young people strongly agreed or agreed that:
  • 97% counselling enabled them to talk about their feelings and thoughts.
  • 96% felt comfortable with the counsellor and would use the service again.
  • 71% reported improved relationships with their family.
  • Of the 45% who reported that attendance at school was problematic prior to counselling, 74% reported that counselling had made it easier to attend.
  1. Informal and formal reports from individual professionals and teachers highlight the benefits and satisfaction of counselling for young people. Feedback indicates high levels of satisfaction within schools of the counsellors' practice, professionalism and attitude to young people. The biggest area for improvement would be additional counselling time. Action for Children Counselling project lead offers meet with schools on a termly basis to discuss emerging issues.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

  1. Welsh Government has allocated funding, which is part of the Revenue Support Grant. The Learning and Skills Directorate has utilised this funding to procure a service from June 2016 for £170,200 (was185,000) per year for 3 years (until May 2019).

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

  1. The Community Based Counselling Service contributes to the Sustainable Development principle of ensuring a Strong, Healthy and Just Society

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

  1. Under the School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013 local authorities are required to make reasonable provision for counselling services for registered pupils receiving secondary education at maintained schools in their area and to those receiving secondary education at other schools in their area. Welsh Ministers may by regulations require provision for independent counselling in primary schools and/or at other locations.
  2. Inspections of local authorities are carried out under Section 38 of the Education Act 1997 which provides that Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education and Training Wales (HMCI) 'may, and, if requested to do so by the Secretary of State, shall, arrange for any local authority to be inspected'. Estyn's Common Inspection Framework includes learner well being as a reporting feature.
  3. The inspectorate has powers relating to section 51 of the Children Act 2004, namely in co-operating to improve the wellbeing of children.

Crime and Disorder Implications

  1. In delivering an effective counselling service vulnerable young people are listened to, supported and helped to deal within their own issues, thereby reducing the risk of negative and anti-social behaviour and reducing the risk of entering into criminal activity now and in the future.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

Welsh Government guidance on the development of a universal counselling service ensures all young people aged 11-19 have equal access to the service regardless of perceived need.

Corporate/Service Objectives

  1. There is a commitment in the Children and Young People's section of the Corporate Plan, under An Active and Healthy Vale: "We recognise the importance of prevention and early intervention to improve and maintain well-being and to promote independence and healthy living. Objective 5: Raising overall standards of achievement 'secure improved outcomes for groups of learners at risk of underachievement, such as those entitled to free school meals'.

Policy Framework and Budget

  1. This is a matter for executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

  1. Not applicable

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

  1. Learning and Culture

Background Papers


Contact Officer

Mark Davies, Children and Young People's Partnership Manager

Officers Consulted

Mike Glavin, Head of School Improvement and Inclusion

Gill Toon, Principal Educational Psychologist

David Davies, Lead Officer Inclusion

Carolyn Michael, Operational Manager

Responsible Officer:

Jennifer Hill, Director of Learning and Skills