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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting: 18 November, 2013

 

Report of the Cabinet Member for Children's Services

 

Developing a National Adoption Service for Wales

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         To secure Cabinet approval of the plan to establish a National Adoption Service for Wales, supported by Regional Adoption Collaboratives.

2.         To secure agreement that the Vale of Glamorgan will act as the lead authority for the Regional Collaborative in this area.

 

Recommendations

That Cabinet:

1.         Endorses the proposals for achieving a National Adoption Service in Wales as set out in the report of the Association of Directors of Social Services (ADSS) Cymru.

2.         Agrees in principle that the Vale of Glamorgan will act as the lead authority for the Regional Collaborative in this area.

3.         Requests a further report be brought to Cabinet once further details are available and before a final commitment is given.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1 & 2     To ensure that the Council's statutory functions regarding the provision of

              an Adoption Service are fully met, in accordance with legislation and guidance.

 

3.           To ensure that Cabinet is aware of this development and continues to

              exercise effective oversight of this key function.

 

Background

3.         Adoption must be seen in the broader context of planning placements and permanence for children and as part of an integrated system of services for meeting their needs and promoting their well-being.  Children in care must have plans for permanence in place which consider the full range of permanence options and which are put into effect with appropriate urgency.  Adoption Services are complex, provided to a wide range of service users from very young children who are being placed for adoption to older adults who are seeking to be re-united with their birth families.

4.         The creation of a National Adoption Service is a key policy strand for Welsh Government.  If enacted, the Social Services and Well-Being (Wales) Bill will allow Ministers to prescribe arrangements by local authorities.

5.         In response to this imperative and working closely with the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA), ADSS Cymru produced a functional model for delivery of Adoption Services across Wales.  A copy of this report is attached at Appendix 1.  The outline proposal developed by ADSS Cymru was agreed in principle by Leaders at WLGA Council in April.

6.         The model was endorsed by the Expert Advisory Group on Adoption established by Welsh Government.  Subsequently, in a Written Statement on 25th April 2013, the Deputy Minister for Children and Social Services endorsed the proposals for achieving a National Adoption Service and the development of a Functional Model for the delivery of services across Wales, as presented by ADSS Cymru and the WLGA.  A copy of the Written Statement is attached at Appendix 2.

 

Relevant Issues and Options

7.         The proposals provide an ambitious but realistic pathway for creating an effective and responsive National Adoption Service.  This will help to ensure:

·           A new direction for the delivery of Adoption Services that is particularly suited to the Welsh context.

·           Timely implementation of the improvements required.

·           An increase in the pace of collaboration and the capacity to build sustainable services for the future.

·           A reduction in bureaucracy and a streamlining of service delivery.

·           An improvement in service accessibility for all key stakeholders.

·           Maintenance of the essential integrity and coherence between all elements of Adoption Services, to prevent a mismatch between the needs of children requiring adoption placements and the adopters being recruited.

·           Long-term and lasting improvements to address the weaknesses identified in some elements of current service provision.

·           A central place for the significant contribution made by the Voluntary Sector as valued co-producers and delivery partners.

·           Collective opportunities for local authorities to respond effectively to rising pressures within the care system.

 

8.         The proposal will be underpinned by a National Standardised Performance Framework that will allow the National Adoption Service to identify, review and highlight key performance measures.  The framework will set performance thresholds and make clear the Welsh Government’s minimum expectations for timeliness in the adoption system, for both the child and prospective adopter.

 

9.         The National Adoption Service will be responsible for:

·           establishing a National Board;

·           monitoring the delivery of services in accordance with the national performance framework;

·           producing an Annual Report and action plan;

·           developing a national marketing and awareness raising strategy;

·           providing a single point of contact for anyone seeking information about adoption;

·           providing a database of information;

·           developing and maintaining a National Adoption Register;

·           co-ordinating Adoption Panels, Panel Members, Pre-Approval Training, Post Adoption Support Services and provision of the Independent Review Determination Service.

·           acting as a Centre of Excellence for Adoption in Wales.

 

10.      The functional model proposes that five Regional Adoption Collaboratives are established, to deliver the functions of the National Service including:

·           ensuring compliance with legislation, regulation and the performance management framework;

·           recruitment and assessment of prospective adopters;

·           ensuring appropriate matching of children;

·           provision of the whole range of support services including birth parent counselling, step parent adoptions, intermediary services and letterbox contact; and

·           ensuring effective links are maintained with local authorities Children’s Social Services.

 

11.      Each local authority will retain responsibility for the following:

·           assessment and care planning and reviewing of Looked After Children and young people;

·           ensuring the Agency Decision Maker functions are fulfilled;

·           assessment of the Adoption Support needs of children for whom the plan is adoption;

·           involvement in the matching and linking of children and adopters;

·           providing birth parent counselling;

·           making applications to the Courts for appropriate orders; and

·           attending Adoption Panels where proposed matches are being considered.

 

12.      The proposed five regional collaboratives are:

·           North Wales – Wrexham, Flintshire, Gwynedd, Conwy, Denbighshire and Ynys Mon;

·           South East Wales – Blaenau Gwent, Monmouthshire, Torfaen, Newport and Caerphilly;

·           West & Mid Wales – Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Powys;

·           Western Bay – Bridgend, Neath Port Talbot and Swansea; and

·           Mid & South Wales – Cardiff, the Vale of Glamorgan, Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda-Cynon-Taff.

 

13.      One local authority within each collaborative will act as the lead authority for the delivery of the regional roles and functions and will host the service.  Current plans for this region are that the Vale of Glamorgan will act as the lead authority.  The Senior Responsible Officer from the lead/host authority will be a member of the National Board.  These collaboratives are currently at different stages of development.  For example, North Wales have been operating a Regional Adoption Service for a number of years.  It is planned that all five Regional Collaboratives will be established by April 2014.

14.      Each Region has an implementation plan, led by a Head of Service from one of the local authorities.  They have engaged with operational managers and staff directly affected by these changes. Staffing structures are being developed and consultation with the appropriate Unions is taking place.  Formal consultation processes are being put in place for staff most directly affected.  Appropriate accommodation is also being sought, where necessary for groups of staff being brought together to form one service.  Two workshops are planned for early 2014 to examine the work being done to look at the governance and partnership arrangements required to underpin the new Regional Service and also resourcing and financial modelling issues.  This will ensure as much consistency as possible in the delivery of the five Regional Services but also proper regard for the need to take proper account of local issues.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

15.      A Task and Finish Group has been established with representatives from Welsh Government, ADSS Cymru, Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW), British Association for Adoption and Fostering (BAAF), Voluntary Adoption Agencies and each of the five Regional Collaboratives.  It is overseeing a robust change programme for implementing the functional model.

16.      It is recognised that Programme Management capacity is required to drive through these changes in a timely fashion and the Deputy Minister has awarded £50k to ADSS Cymru to support implementation. 

17.      Each Region has established a project team to take the lead role in establishing the Regional Service and this Region has some dedicated staffing capacity in place to undertake some of the detailed work that is required.

18.      There will be issues about resourcing each of the Regional Services and the new National Service elements.  More work is being undertaken to establish detailed costings and further advice will be provided to Cabinet once this information is available about the position for our Region. 

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

19.      The detailed plan for establishing the regional service in this area will address the need to deal with sustainability issues.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

20.      Adoption services are governed by detailed Statutory Regulations and it is acknowledged that changes to these Regulations will be required in due course.  However, progress in implementing key aspects can be made pending the required changes.  In advance of any legislative requirements that may be included in the Social Services and Well-Being (Wales) Bill, each local authority will need to make its own decision regarding the case for change.

Crime and Disorder Implications

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

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

22.      There is considerable evidence regarding the difficulties we experience in finding adoptive families for children who need them and the new service is intended to tackle these obstacles.

Corporate/Service Objectives

23.      Children and young people are engaged and supported to take full advantage of life opportunities in their community and beyond - Corporate Plan Outcome 2013/17.

24.      The provision of a quality Adoption Service meets the outcomes expressed in the Social Services Directorate Service Plan 2013/17.

25.      To provide children and young people with a clearly planned journey through care and to achieve permanence wherever appropriate to do so is a key principle underpinning the Council's Children and Young People Services Commissioning Strategy 2013/18.

Policy Framework and Budget

26.      Existing policy and procedures will need to be reviewed and revised to incorporate the impact of delivering adoption services at local, regional and national levels.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

27.      Provision of an adoption service is a Council wide responsibility. 

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

28.      Social Care and Health.

Background Papers

None

 

Contact Officer

Rachel Evans, Head of Children and Young People Services

 

Officers Consulted

Colette Limbrick, Operational Manager, Children and Young People Services

 

Responsible Officer:

Philip J Evans, Director of Social Services

 

 

 

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