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Agenda Item No.

 

THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL

 

CABINET: 3RD DECEMBER, 2012

 

REFERENCE FROM SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (SOCIAL CARE AND HEALTH): 5TH NOVEMBER, 2012

 

“           PROPOSED MERGER OF THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN AND CARDIFF LOCAL SAFEGUARDING CHILDREN BOARDS (LSCBS) (DSS) –

 

Committee received a report which sought agreement in principle to the proposed merger of the Vale of Glamorgan LSCB and Cardiff LSCB. 

 

As required by the Children Act 2004, the Vale of Glamorgan LSCB and the Cardiff LSCB were established in October 2006, replacing the Area Child Protection Committee in each local authority. 

 

The objectives of an LSCB were to:

 

·                     co-ordinate what is done by each person or body represented on the Board for the purposes of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children in the area of the authority by which it is established

·                     ensure the effectiveness of what is done by each such person or body for those purposes.

 

In the Vale of Glamorgan, constituent agencies of the LSCB included:

 

·                     the Vale of Glamorgan Council

·                     Cardiff and Vale University Local Health Board

·                     Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Local Health Board

·                     South Wales Police

·                     the Wales Probation Trust

·                     Vale of Glamorgan Youth Offending Service

·                     National Public Health Service

·                     Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCAS) Cymru

·                     NSPCC.

 

In October 2011, the Deputy Minister for Children and Social Services made a written statement announcing that the current configuration of LSCBs on a local authority front should move to a regional grouping based upon the Public Service Delivery model.

 

Exactly one year later, the Deputy Minister made a further written statement that specifically dealt with the safeguarding aspects.  She agreed to ensure more robust funding arrangements for Boards and to undertake further work to understand the advantages of Boards having independent Chairs so that they can make more informed choices in this matter (rather than prescribing a uniform approach through legislation).  The Deputy Minister continued to urge all LSCBs to make significant progress in achieving a regional model, thereby ensuring that all the risks had been properly assessed and discharged before the legislation required the change. 

 

The separate LSCBs in the Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff had agreed to look at a potential merger, to form a single regional Board. 

 

It was anticipated that considerable benefits could be achieved by merging the LSCBs.  It would help to ensure consistent alignment of policy, process and practice across all the organisations at a regional level assisting professionals to work together more effectively in safeguarding children.  There would be opportunities to avoid duplication and to share resources.  For example, a merger would enable the LSCBs to make better use of the staff who helped to manage the work of the Boards and to secure more consistent levels of support from constituent agencies. 

 

Locally, the Vale of Glamorgan and the Cardiff LSCBs had some of their constituent agencies in common and a number of agencies were represented by the same person on both Boards.  Current arrangements were closely aligned and the Training Sub Group had been a merged operation for some time and this joint work had been very successful. 

 

However, there were major challenges too.  Detailed agreement would be needed in areas such as:

 

·                     membership

·                     governance and accountability

·                     structures

·                     staffing

·                     funding

·                     integrated work plans

·                     links to other partnership structures in each local authority area

·                     links to any strategic group operating to a South Wales Police boundary

·                     performance management, audit and quality assurance

·                     citizen engagement - children, young people and others

·                     political oversight and scrutiny.

 

Both LSCBs had agreed to consider the possibility of appointing an Independent Chair to chair the LSCB, as was current practice in England.  Perceived benefits of an Independent Chair were that (s)he would:

 

·                     be independent of statutory services to the Board could exercise its local challenge function more effectively

·                     provide a consistent approach and allocate time to commit to their role without other conflicting demands

·                     strengthen the governance and accountability arrangements of the Board

·                     ensure the Board operated effectively and exercised its functions as set out in the Children Act and statutory guidance

·                     quality assured safeguarding processes

·                     provide direction on issues arising from Serious Case Reviews

·                     ensure key national, regional and local issues were brought to the attention of the LSCB.

 

Both Boards were confident that the work to resolve outstanding issues could be achieved in time for a merger by April 2013, if this was approved.  The next step would be for each constituent agency to agree a merger in principle so that a detailed work programme could be produced.  In due course, a more detailed proposal would be produced as the basis for a final decision. 

 

A Member expressed the view that a change from Council-based to regional-based may raise concerns involving accountability, and felt that the Committee should receive a great deal more information than was contained in the report.  Changes to the recommendations contained in the report were proposed, but not seconded. 

 

A further Member expressed support for the appointment of Independent Chairs, whereupon it was

 

RECOMMENDED -

 

(1)       T H A T the proposed merger of the two Boards be endorsed in principle.

 

(2)       T H A T the report be referred to Cabinet and that Cabinet be recommended to endorse the principle of the merger.

 

(3)       T H A T Committee receives a further report when detailed proposals concerning arrangements for running a merged LSCB had been developed.

 

(4)       T H A T the principle of an Independent Chairman be endorsed and that Cabinet be informed accordingly.

 

Reasons for decisions

 

(1&2)  To achieve agreement in principle across the two local authority areas so that work can be undertaken to produce detailed proposals regarding arrangements for running a merged LSCB.

 

(3)       To ensure that Elected Members continue to exercise effective oversight of this important change in arrangements for safeguarding children.

 

(4)       In that they may make more informed choices on these matters.”

 

 

Attached as Appendix - Report to Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health): 5th November, 2012