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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet - 18th April 2012

 

Report of the Cabinet Member for Housing and Community Safety

 

Review of Disabled Facilities Grant Service Improvements

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To consider the findings of the Internal DFG Audit Report and Welsh Audit Office Report on DFGs, and to agree the proposed action plan in response to the audit reports.

Recommendations

1.             That the findings of the Internal DFG Audit Report and Welsh Audit Office Report on DFGs be noted.

2.             That the proposed DFG Action Plan be agreed.

3.             That the report be forwarded to the Housing and Public Protection Scrutiny Committee for consideration.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.             To apprise Members of the findings of the Internal DFG Audit Report and Welsh Audit Office Report on DFGs.

2.             To agree the proposed DFG Action Plan.

3.             To enable the Housing and Public Protection Scrutiny Committee the opportunity to consider the report.

 

Background

2.             In 2007 Community Well Being and Safety Scrutiny Committee established an Occupational Therapist Task and Finish Group to examine the service.  In December 2008, the group made 17 recommendations to help reduce the waiting times for occupational therapy assessments and the completion of works undertaken using Disabled Facility Grants.  An action plan based on the review recommendations was drawn up and progressed.

3.             Following this review the reported performance for completing a DFG application improved from an average of 1,046 days in 2008/09 to 802 days in 2009/10 to 569 days in 2010/11.

4.             The Vale's Internal Audit section published its findings on the Disabled Facilities Grant Service in August 2011. The report concluded that the internal control environment was unsatisfactory, but only one recommendation and possible risk was considered high priority.

5.             Included in the Internal Audit report was a set of agreed actions to address the issues raised.

6.             In November 2011, the Welsh Audit Office published its review of the Council's Disabled Facilities Service. This report concluded '….the Council is not yet delivering Disabled Facilities Grants effectively, but significant changes are underway that should improve performance.'

 

Relevant Issues and Options

7.             This report outlines the findings of the Internal DFG Audit Report and Welsh Audit Office Report on DFGs.  It also provides information on changes currently being progressed and an update on the current performance of the service. An action plan is attached in Appendix 1 which details the audit's recommendation together with the progress of the service improvements being undertaken.

Internal Audit

8.             As part of the Internal Audit Plan 2011/12, a review was undertaken of the Vale of Glamorgan Council's Grant Agency Service procedures in relation to the awarding and delivery of Disabled Facility Grants.

9.             The Audit Opinion concluded 'the effectiveness of the internal control environment is unsatisfactory and therefore only limited assurance can be placed upon the systems of internal control. This overall opinion is supported by the identification of a combination of fundamental and/or substantial weaknesses where action is considered imperative to ensure that the Council is not exposed to high risks'.

10.        However, the Audit Implementation Plan accompanying the Audit only contained one priority 1 recommendation.  This did not relate to the service provided but related only to the date used to calculate the national performance indicator.  The team had been using DFG Completion Date and not the Certified Date.  This recommendation was implemented before the Audit Report was received, and all performance data reported during 2011-12 has been calculated using the certified date.  On review of the impact of this finding on 2010-11 performance it has been calculated that the average number of days to complete a DFG would have been reduced by 15 days.

11.        The internal report also identified the following areas that required improvement

·               Internal Performance Management Information for the Grants Agency Service

·               Review of the fees and charges for administrating the DFG and providing the Grant Agency Service

·               Review of the list of Private Agents provided to clients not employing the Council's Agency Service

·               Introduction of a system to monitor the reasons for increase in work due to unforeseen problems.

12.        Recommendations from the Internal Audit have been included in the action plan attached to this report as Appendix 1.

Wales Audit Office

13.        During August 2011 the Wales Audit Office conducted a review of the DFG service.  It concluded that 'the Council is not yet delivering Disabled Facilities Grants effectively, but significant changes are underway that should improve performance'

14.        However, in its conclusion the Wales Audit Office 'recognise that the Council in the last four years has questioned the reasons for poor performance and operational procedures, and continues to do so. We are also confident that the manager appointed in December 2010 to head the section responsible for processing DFG applications (known as the Grant Agency Service (GAS) within the Public Protection Service) has the capacity and means to analyse and improve the service.'

15.        The main areas of concern when concluding the service was inefficient were:

·               That although there have been consistent improvements over the last three years, the time taken to process a DFG is still too long and there are big differences in the time taken by the in-house team and by private agents;

·               the recent Internal Audit report rating the financial and administrative controls within the DFG section as ‘unsatisfactory’; and

·               inadequate attention given in the past to the strategic planning of the DFG service.

16.        In relation to proposals for improvement the Wales Audit Office recommended;

·               improved performance through implementing the Internal Audit's recommendations,

·               more modern methods of procurement to be considered,

·               customer feedback obtained, reviewed and processes amended when necessary. 

·               improvement to the scrutiny, oversight and strategic management of the service by the wider development of qualities and quantity measures to enable Members to evaluate the service and outcomes.

17.        The proposals for improvement have been included in to the action plan attached in Appendix 1.

Progress on Implementing the Action Plan

18.        Over the past 6 months, changes have been implemented within the DFG service and further actions are being progressed.

19.        At the end of the 3rd Quarter of 2011/12, data indicated that the average number of days to complete a DFG from first point of contact was 396 days. Forecasts indicate that the services performance at the end of the reporting year will be better than predicted and will be around 400 days. For 2010/11, the Welsh average for the delivery of DFG's was 387 days.  The Vale's current average performance is within 9 days of this average and will also surpass the Council's target time for 2011/12 of 500 days.

20.        The improvement to the services performance during 2011-12 has been achieved through tighter management of cases.  This improvement will continue into 2012-13 as changes to work procedures and procurement methods are implemented.

21.        As an example of the improvements made to date, in October 2011 a pilot begun in which the Occupational Therapists and the Grant Officers now conduct a joint visit to the applicant's home early in the DFG process. A full review of this pilot is required to assess the implications for both the DFG and OT team.  However, an initial review of this pilot with the DFG team has concluded that there has been a positive impact on delivery times.

22.        To introduce modern procurement methods into the service, the DFG team has been working with the Council's Property Section to develop framework contracts. The first of these contracts concerns the design and installation of Stairlifts.  This framework was referred to Cabinet in January 2012 for approval and the contact commenced at the beginning of February 2012. 

23.        In addition to the stairlift framework, a framework contract is being developed to complete bathroom and kitchen adaptations and to alter access into and around the client's home. Once this procurement exercise has been completed, Cabinet's approval will be sought to enter into contract with the winning contractor. It is envisaged that the contract could commence in the first quarter 2012 with Cabinet's approval.

24.        The introduction of both framework contracts will improve the quality of service to clients who choose to use the Council's Grant Agency service to deliver adaptations. Through these contracts, the time delay between the schedule of works being completed to works starting on site will be reduced and again will have a positive impact for both service users and the Council's performance indicator.

25.        During 2010/11, the delivery times for a DFG were reported separately for children and adults.  The delivery time for a child's DFG was significantly higher than adults at an average of 1,139 days, compared to 544 days for adults. 

26.        The assessment process and adaptation works for children are more complex than adults. A review of these cases were undertaken to determine if additional action to those outline above were required to improve the service.  This review concluded the proposal above should also have a positive impact on the delivery of DFGs for children, and initial data shows this performance over 2011-12 has improved.

Action to enable Members to scrutinise the Service and Outcomes

27.        To enable members to scrutinise the DFG process in more detail from April 2012 additional local performance measures will be reported to Committee that breaks the DFG process down into 3 stages. These will be:

·               Time between OT first contact and OT request for joint visit for DFG.

·               Time between OT and DFG Joint visit and approval of DFG.

·               Time between approval of DFG and completion of works.

In addition, these performance measures will be broken down further to report against children and adult DFGs.

28.        From April 2012 customer satisfaction and outcome measures from a client perceptive will also be collated on completion of each DFG.  This data will also be available to Scrutiny Committee and will be detailed in the Service Plan.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment and Climate Change, if appropriate)

29.        There is an identified capital budget for the approval and payment of Disabled Facilities Grants

30.        The Occupational Therapy Team currently has vacancies owing to a number of factors. The ability for the team to sustain the current improved waiting times for assessment for the DFG will be difficult to maintain. Options have been considered within Adult Services to resolve both the current problems and provide the service with a sustainable structure in the longer term.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

31.        There is a statutory duty on the Council to provide Disabled Facilities Grants under the Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996.

Crime and Disorder Implications

32.        There are no crime and disorder implications arising from this paper

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

33.        There are no equal opportunities implications arising from this paper

Corporate/Service Objectives

34.        Corporate Objective

To encourage the development of a diversified and sustainable community by working in partnership to improve the quality of life of the Vale’s residents.

Policy Framework and Budget

35.        This report is a matter for Executive Decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

36.        No consultation required for this paper.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

37.        Housing and Public Protection

Background Papers

Internal Audit Report - Disabled Facilities Service

Welsh Audit Office Report - Delivery of Disable Facilities Grants, Vale of Glamorgan

 

Contact Officer

Elen Probert, Principal Housing and Pollution Officer 01446 709833

 

Officers Consulted

Adult Service - Joanna Thomas

Finance Service - Laura Davis

Legal Service - Mike Walsh

Corporate Service - Sarah Jeffery

 

 

Responsible Officer:

Peter H Evans, Director for Legal, Public Protection and Housing Services

 

 

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