THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL
CABINET: 4TH MARCH, 2013
REFERENCE FROM SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (SOCIAL CARE AND HEALTH): 11TH FEBRUARY, 2013
“847 CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE SERVICES – COMMISSIONING STRATEGY AND ACTION PLAN 2013 – 2018 (DSS) –
Councillor C.P.J. Elmore, with the consent of the Committee, advised that Budget discussions had been undertaken and Social Services must take their share of the cuts.
Councillor Elmore stated that he agreed with the report in principle but it was necessary to see how the budget was developed.
Committee were provided with an opportunity to consider the final draft of the Children and Young People Services Commissioning Strategy and Action Plan 2013-18, attached at Appendix 1 to the report.
It was known that children and young people looked after by the Local Authority rather than by their parents or within their families were among the most vulnerable groups in society. As their Corporate Parents, it was the Council’s responsibility to keep them safe, make sure their experiences in care are positive and improve their life chances.
Given the need to meet statutory responsibilities and to deal with the significant financial pressures faced by the Council, there was a need to focus on:
· preventing children and young people becoming looked after where this is not necessary to safeguard their welfare
· enabling those that do come into care to be rehabilitated back to their family network were it is safe to do so
· providing the best possible outcomes for those who remain accommodated.
The Strategy focuses on these three key stages in the “care journey”.
The Strategy contained four key objectives:
· To support families to stay together and reduce the need for children to be looked after by ensuring a focus on early intervention and preventative action across all service provision for children, including statutory and independent providers.
· To manage risk confidently and provide support at the “edge of care” by making sure that need and risk were accurately assessed and received the proper response, so that the right children were accommodated at the right time. This included supporting families by making private arrangements within their wider family networks.
· To provide and commission a flexible and affordable mix of high quality placements that met the diverse range of children’s needs.
· To give children clearly planned journeys through care which remained focused on achieving care plans, prevent drift, enable them to be reunited with family and friends were possible, provide them with stable placements and opportunities to exit the care system positively.
These objectives were underpinned by the following key principles:
· the responsibility for meeting the needs of children and young people looked after or at risk of becoming looked after rests across all services for children, including statutory and independent providers
· the majority of children were most likely to thrive and achieve good outcomes if they were cared for within their own families
· preventative services and early intervention to support children in need and their families should be provided to give them every chance to stay together
· where children cannot be supported within their immediate family, families will be supported to make private arrangements within their wider family and friendship networks and, where necessary, make these arrangements permanent through the use of Residence Orders and Special Guardianship Orders
· formal kinship fostering arrangements would be explored as the preferred alternative arrangement where it was necessary for the local authority to share parental responsibility or to intervene in managing risk and protecting children
· where a child’s needs could not be adequately met through the arrangements described in the principles above, the majority would have their needs best met in a substitute family – preferably with in-house foster carers and, if not, with Independent Fostering Agency carers (wherever possible, living in the Vale of Glamorgan)
· residential care placements would be made only where the complexity and challenge of meeting a child or young person’s needs meant they were unable to live within a family setting or where a young person was subject to a Secure Remand
· placement should be local, to enable children and young people to remain in their communities, maintain their networks and minimise disruption in their lives
· placements should be defined in terms of the child / young person’s needs. It was the role of the Placement Panel to agree that a child should become looked after and to consider the most appropriate type of placement to meet their needs with due consideration given to the available resources
· all Looked After Children of statutory school age should receive appropriate education provision regardless of their placement and ability to access mainstream schooling. Providing appropriate support to enable engagement in education was just as important as finding suitable care placements for Looked After Children
· placements should support a positive transition to independence, adulthood, education, employment, training and, where applicable, resettlement back into the community from custodial settings (i.e. enabling young people to succeed in achieving their aspirations).
Developing the Strategy marked a start; it was delivery of the objectives included in it and the actions that would make the difference. A number of the key actions contained within the Strategy had already been put in place and these were beginning to show positive outcomes. However, successful implementation of the Strategy would require a continuing and co-ordinated effort that was Council-wide and which included other Divisions and service providers.
The Children and Young People Services Division Management Team would be responsible for overseeing delivery of the Strategy and the action plan, monitoring the impact on children and their families and driving forward the focus on reducing admissions to care and increasing reunification to family and friends as a key priority for the Directorate. Scrutiny Committee would receive six monthly progress updates.
Concern was expressed about the effect of welfare cuts, including homelessness. Members also spoke on the volatility of the Looked After Children budget. Committee was advised that it would soon receive a report dealing with the issue of recruitment for Foster Carers.
Members were also advised that any homeless 16 or 17 year old had the option of being classed as “Looked After” following an assessment which demonstrated a need to be accommodated.
(1) T H A T the content of the Children and Young People Services Commissioning Strategy and Action Plan be noted.
(2) T H A T the impact that successful delivery of the Strategy was intended to have on improving services within the context of achieving agreed savings targets be noted, although Committee considered that savings in family support services would have an adverse impact on the costs of Children’s Services.
(3) T H A T the report be referred to Cabinet with a recommendation that it endorses the objectives and principles contained within the document and the action plan.
(4) T H A T the report be referred to Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) for information.
(5) T H A T Committee receives regular progress updates on the delivery of the action plan.
Reason for recommendations
(1-5) To provide Elected Members with the opportunity to consider the Commissioning Strategy, to influence the priority areas for future development and to exercise appropriate oversight of this key function for the Council.”
Attached as Appendix - Report to Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health): 11th February 2013