Agenda Item No. 4
THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL
LEARNING AND CULTURE SCRUTINY COMMITTEE: 19TH SEPTEMBER, 2016
REFERENCE FROM HEALTHY LIVING AND SOCIAL CARE SCRUTINY COMMITTEE: 18TH JULY, 2016
“185 CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE SERVICES – ANNUAL PLACEMENT REVIEW (DSS) –
The Operational Manager for Children and Young People Services presented the report, the purpose of which was to outline the actions taken by the Children and Young People Services during 2015/16 with regard to placement provision for Looked After Children (LAC) and the priority actions for 2016/17.
The report stated that Local Authorities across Wales faced considerable challenges in managing their overall Looked After populations, finding appropriate placements, meeting children’s support needs and ensuring the most effective use of placement resources. In addition, the report advised that the number of children with complex needs was increasing and meeting those needs within appropriate placements was placing significant pressures on Council budgets. This cohort of children related both to those with challenging and complex behaviour and to those with disabilities.
In Children and Young People Services, the major issue was the continuing pressure on placements for LAC. This was the Division’s most volatile budget and the one most dependent upon levels of service demand which were not within the Council’s direct control. Each year, Cabinet endorsed the Social Services Budget Programme as the means whereby the Directorate would deliver services within the resources available and to meet savings targets. One of the key savings projects being managed was part of the current Budget Programme relating to residential placements for LAC. There was a target of £150,000 in cashable savings each year between 2014/15 and 2016/17.
Officers had analysed the financial position, the demand for placements and spending patterns. Their report was attached Appendix 1. It demonstrated the volatility of the placement budget and the significant impact individual cases could have on overall expenditure. Key influences included:
The increasing complexity of children’s needs
The Welsh Government “When I Am Ready” policy which extended the time children could remain in foster placements beyond the age of 18 and
The use of remand placements where Local Authorities had become responsible for the costs of LAC who were not allowed to live at home while they were the subject of criminal proceedings.
The Chairman, in querying the time taken around the revocation of Care Orders was advised that this would depend upon the individual circumstances surrounding a case. It was the Court that decided whether or not to revoke a Care Order, based on application from the Local Authority and submissions from relevant parties.
A Committee Member queried the involvement of LAC within the decision-making process. In reply, the Operational Manager for Children and Young People Services stated that all children and young people were at the heart of the decision making process for their placements and all LAC had statutory reviews to which they were able to contribute.
The Committee raised a query regarding the rate of LAC within the Vale of Glamorgan. In reply, the Head of Children and Young People Services commented that the rate of LAC was just as important as the number, and that the Service was satisfied with both. She advised that over the last few years the Service had not seen a reduction in the numbers of LAC, but there had been a change in the type of placements provided. These changes, such as the reduction in the number of residential placements and an increase in placement with parent and kinship placements, were an intentional strategy by the Council. It was important to view these changes over the longer term and that it was recognised that it was wrong to make decisions based on purely financial considerations. Overall, the Service was content with where it was, but there was a need to promote the Council’s Corporate Strategy once endorsed by Cabinet.
Further to these comments, the Operational Manager for Children and Young People Services added that the work around the Foster Care Recruitment Strategy would impact on the number of placements available. It had been recognised that the Vale had an ageing population of Foster Carers and so it was important to maintain the focus on recruitment.
The Committee, having considered the report,
(1) T H A T the contents of the report be noted.
(2) T H A T a further Annual Placement Review report be presented in July 2017.
(3) T H A T the report be referred to the Learning and Culture Scrutiny Committee for its consideration.
Reason for recommendations
(1-3) To provide Members with an opportunity to exercise effective oversight of this key statutory function.”
Attached as Appendix – Report to Healthy Living and Social Care Scrutiny Committee: 18th July, 2016