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Agenda Item No

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting: 29 July 2013

 

Report of the Cabinet Member for Children's Services

 

Proposed merger of the Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs)

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         Further to agreement being given in principle by Cabinet on 3rd December 2012 to the proposed merger of the Vale of Glamorgan LSCB and the Cardiff LSCB, this report seeks final endorsement of the merger and support for a review to consider the place of the merged LSCB within the overall framework for strategic and statutory partnerships.

Recommendations

That Cabinet:

 

1.         Endorses merger of the two Boards.

2.         Requests that Vale of Glamorgan Local Service Board reviews the place of the merged LSCB within the overall framework for strategic and statutory partnerships. 

3.         Receives regular reports outlining the progress made by the new regional LSCB and whether it is delivering the intended benefits.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.         For endorsement across the two Local Authority areas so that a full merger of the two Boards can take place.

2.&3  For Elected Members to exercise effective oversight of this important change in

 arrangements for safeguarding children and to ensure that the safeguarding agenda is central to all partnership working arrangements..

Background

2.         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 area.

3.         The objectives of an LSCB are 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; and

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

4.         In the Vale of Glamorgan, constituent agencies of the LSCB include:

·           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

·           Public Health Wales

·           The Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) Cymru

·           NSPCC

5.         While the role of Social Services will always be pivotal to the effectiveness of the LSCB, all the constituent agencies recognise that a consistent multi-agency approach is needed to ensure robust safeguarding arrangements.  It is essential that all key safeguarding agencies keep an equal and diligent focus on arrangements to protect children. 

6.         On 18th 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 footprint should move to a regional grouping based upon the Public Service Delivery model.  It was the Deputy Ministers intention to include this as one of the measures to be taken forward through the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Bill.  In advance of the legislation being put in place, the Deputy Minister expressed an expectation that LSCBs would begin planning for the change into the wider collaborative model as soon as possible. 

7.         Exactly one year later, the Deputy Minister made a further written statement in reply to consultation responses to the proposed legislation that dealt specifically with the safeguarding aspects.  The Deputy Minister 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 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 have been properly assessed and discharged before the legislation requires the change.  The Rhondda Cynon Taff and Merthyr LSCBs have already merged, as have the LSCBs in Neath Port Talbot, Bridgend and Swansea.

8.         The Association of Directors of Social Services (ADSS) Cymru Safeguarding Group has been tasked with monitoring the actions outlined in the safeguarding element of the Local Government Implementation Plan, produced in response to the national ten-year strategy for social services.  A key action in the plan is to review and evaluate the development of regional safeguarding boards across Wales with the aim of influencing the Social Services and Wellbeing Bill in its development.  To support local authorities to develop effective regional safeguarding children boards, the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) and ADSS Cymru have commissioned a project, 'Transforming governance into collective action: Developing a shared knowledge base for regional safeguarding children boards'.  Led by Professor Jan Howarth, it involves a national seminar, regional development days for each Board and a report identifying best practice.

Relevant Issues and Options

9.         Cabinet has agreed in principle to a merger of the separate LSCBs in the Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff, to form a single regional board.

10.      It has been acknowledged that, done properly, 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 will enable the LSCBs to make better use of the staff who help to manage the work of the Boards and to secure more consistent levels of support from constituent agencies (by way of contributions to the budget and providing facilities as payment in kind).  In reducing commitments to meetings and task groups, there are clear benefits for the Cardiff & Vale University Health Board, Probation and the NSPCC.  This is less apparent in the case of the local authorities and the police divisions, although agreements between them about shared representation would have merit.

11.      Locally, the Vale of Glamorgan and the Cardiff LSCBs have some of their constituent agencies in common and a number of agencies are represented by the same person on both boards.  Current arrangements are closely aligned.  For example, the Boards have a similar structure which includes standing Sub Groups and Task and Finish Groups.  The Training Sub Group has been a merged operation for some time and this joint work has been very successful.  More recently, the Vale Policy and Procedure Sub Group has included some representation from Cardiff.  A number of operational policies have been developed jointly.

12.      To support progression of the merger, it was agreed to merge the Business Planning Sub Groups of both LSCBs and task this group with developing a Constitution for the joint Board.  A 'Governance Task and Finish Group' was set up to draft the Constitution.  The Vale of Glamorgan provided the legal advice to the group.  At a meeting of both Boards in January 2013, the Constitution was ratified subject to final minor amendments being made by the Business Planning Group.  These amendments were made and the final version was circulated; it is attached at Appendix I

13.      It had been intended, subject to Cabinet endorsement, to proceed to a merged Board in April 2013.  This timetable had to be extended while Cardiff Council have considered their position about having an independent Chair for the Board.  At a joint meeting of the Cardiff and Vale LSCB's on the 3rd July 2012 a Chair and Vice Chair for the merged Board were appointed.  Discussions have progressed to the point that the newly formed Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan LSCB Executive Board is working actively to drive forward the merger.  The Executive Board wishes to pursue integration into one LSCB while they continue to keep under review the issue about independent chairing, taking into account the outcome of the work by Professor Howarth and the progress of the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Bill.  It is the recommendation of the Executive Board that both Council Cabinets approve the merger on this basis at the same time.  The Cabinet in Cardiff Council will be considering this matter at its meeting on September 9th.

14.      Cardiff and Vale of Glamorgan LSCBs have agreed the need for two posts to support the merged Board (a Business Manager and an Administration Officer), hosted by Cardiff Council.  The job evaluation process within Cardiff Council has recently been completed and the posts are ready for advertisement once Cabinet approval for the merger has been secured in both Councils.

15.      Safeguarding vulnerable groups and the provision of effective preventative services is a core priority for all statutory partners.  The establishment of the Cardiff and Vale Local Safeguarding Children Board provides both Councils with the opportunity to review governance arrangements, lines of accountability and working relationships across all statutory and strategic partnerships to ensure that the safeguarding agenda is central to all our work.  This proposed review should be considered and endorsed by the Vale Local Service Board (LSB).

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

16.      Merging the LSCBs provides opportunities to avoid duplication and to share resources.  It is not anticipated the Vale of Glamorgan's resource commitment to a merged board would increase.  Funding agreements regarding the Business Manager and Administration Officer have been made on a multi-agency basis and reduce the Vale of Glamorgan's existing costs for LSCB staffing by £6,500.  These savings have already been taken into account as part of the existing Social Services Budget Plan.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

17.      The merger would provide opportunities to avoid duplication, to share resources and to reduce the volume of meetings.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

18.      The Children Act 2004 requires the local authority to have an LSCB.  Duties of the local authority to ensure that children are properly safeguarded and protected from harm are set out in legislation.  Section 28 of the Children Act 2004 imposes a duty on local authorities to make arrangements for ensuring that their functions are discharged having regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.  Section 31(9) of the Children Act 2004 states that two or more local authorities in Wales may discharge their respective duties by establishing a Local Safeguarding Children Board for their combined area.

19.      In considering the important governance issues as part of the merged arrangements, legal advice has been sought throughout.

Crime and Disorder Implications

20.      There are no crime and disorder implications arising directly from this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

21.      There are no equal opportunity implications as a direct result of this report.  An Equality Impact Assessment has been undertaken by both the Vale of Glamorgan Council and Cardiff City Council on the merger.

Corporate/Service Objectives

22.      The changes in LSCB arrangements set out in this report would assist the Council in meeting the following corporate objectives:

·           "Safeguard the wellbeing of vulnerable children and young people so that they have a healthy life, physically and emotionally, which is free from abuse, victimisation and exploitation and homes which support their physical and emotional wellbeing".

Policy Framework and Budget

23.      This is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

24.      There are no implications for individual Wards as a direct result of this report.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

25.      Social Care and Health

Background Papers

Cabinet Report 'Proposed merger of the Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs)', 3.12.12, C1924

Statements of the Deputy Minister, 18.10.11 and 18.10.12

Equality Impact Assessments - Cardiff and Vale LSCB

 

Contact Officer

Philip Evans, Director of Social Services

 

Officers Consulted

Corporate Management Team

 

Responsible Officer

Philip Evans, Director of Social Services

 

 

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