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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting: 16 December, 2013

 

Report of the Cabinet Member for Children's Services

 

Review of the Resolutions Fostering Service

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         To inform Cabinet about the outcome from an independent review of the Resolutions Fostering Service commissioned by the Resolutions Management Board. 

Recommendations

1.         That Cabinet notes the content of the review report, the preferred option recommended by the Resolutions Management Board and the fact that formal consultation with Resolutions foster carers and Resolutions staff members in respect of the preferred option will now start.

2.         That Cabinet authorises the Head of Children and Young People Services, as the Council's representative on the Resolutions Management Board, in consultation with the Cabinet member for Children's Services, to agree implementation of the required processes following conclusion of the formal consultation.

3.         That Cabinet refers the report to the Social Care and Health Scrutiny Committee as part of the consultation process.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.         To confirm Cabinet support of the independent service review and the preferred option recommended by the Resolutions Management Board.

2.         To enable the Resolutions Management Board to implement the required processes following conclusion of the formal consultation.

3.         To enable the Scrutiny Committee to be consulted.

Background

2.         In 1993, Mid Glamorgan County Council established a fostering scheme specifically for young people who were remanded to the care of a local authority in criminal proceedings.  Following Local Government reorganisation, a number of councils agreed to collaborate in maintaining this provision - Bridgend, Caerphilly, Merthyr Tydfil and the Vale of Glamorgan.  Because the scheme was physically based in its area, Bridgend County Borough Council (CBC) agreed to host and manage the service.

3.         During 2001/02, demand for remand placements fell while demand for placements for young people with other complex and challenging behaviours increased.  In response, the scheme was changed, to provide for this area of need.  It was renamed the Resolutions Adolescent Fostering Team, which became the Resolutions Fostering Service in 2009.

4.         The service is managed through a Management Board comprising the Heads of Children's Services from the four partner local Authorities, a representative of the Youth Offending Services in the partner authorities, the Accountant for Bridgend CBC and the Team Manager of the scheme.

5.         In June 2013, the Management Board agreed to commission an independent review of the service.  This decision was made as a result of the following factors:

·           developments across the South East Wales Improvement Collaborative (SEWIC) region in delivering more specialist in-house and externally provided fostering services;

·           inability of the service to increase the numbers of approved foster carers as intended; and

·           resignation of the Team Manager, who had been in post for the previous ten years.

 

Relevant Issues and Options

6.         The report of the review is attached at Appendix 1.  It shows that the service was not able to increase the number of placements available on the scale intended, despite significant efforts over several years by the four Heads of Service as Board Members and other support staff and notwithstanding engagement of external consultants for a period of six months.  Since 2004, the maximum number of carers recruited in any one year has been four and no new fostering assessments are being undertaken currently.

7.         During the same period, the service has been successful in bringing down the unit costs of placements through a small increase in the number of placements available and by reviewing the terms and conditions of the carers.  The average cost of a placement from Resolutions fell to £681 per week in 2012/13.  This made Resolutions placements financially competitive with placements in the independent sector but not with other types of in-house provision.  Even to maintain this unit cost, with no increase in the numbers of carers approved, would require vacancy levels to be very low.  To bring the unit cost down to £600 per week would require 34 young people to be in placement and there are currently 26.

8.         Payments to Resolutions carers are higher than those paid to in-house foster carers.  The difference is a minimum of £28.24 per week per young person to a maximum of £103.83 per week per young person.  On average, Resolutions carers are paid more (£395 per week) than Independent Fostering Agency (IFA) carers (£352 per week).  In addition, Resolutions carers receive more generous supplementary allowances.  These financial comparisons are important, especially as the participating local authorities believe that their own Level 3/4 in-house carers provide placements for young people with similar complex and challenging needs to those of Resolutions carers.

9.         A majority of Resolutions carers live in Bridgend (six of the 18) and Bridgend has the largest number of placements within the service (13 out of 26).  There are four carers living within the Vale of Glamorgan at present.  This Council has three young people in Resolutions placements currently.

10.      The scope of the review was to ascertain whether the current service is appropriate, effective, affordable and meets the strategic priorities of the partner authorities.  Resolutions staff and carers were engaged in the review and their views are included in the review report.  The review is also set within the context of developments within the SEWIC regional collaboration arrangements where in principle agreement has been reached to move to a regional approach to marketing and recruitment of foster carers, as a first step towards possible regional service delivery.  This is seen as a key part of any strategy to match the level of in-house fostering placements with increasing demand. 

11.      The review identified a number of options for the Management Board to consider.  

·           Option 1: The service continues. This would mean that a new Team Manager is appointed and a clear business plan and marketing strategy for the service developed. The service could continue to be hosted by Bridgend or one of the other partner local authorities.

Commentary: The skills and expertise required of a new manager are in short supply across the region.  There is no guarantee that the appointment of a new manager would bring the increase in the number of carers within a realistic timescale.  The introduction of a specific Resolutions marketing strategy would contradict the SEWIC regional approach currently under development. 

 

·           Option 2: The service is brought to an end. This requires that Resolutions staff would be offered redeployment opportunities.  Carers could choose to:

 

·           remain approved by Bridgend CBC with protection until March 2015.

·           apply to transfer to another partner Local Authority with protection until March 2015.

·           apply to transfer to any other Local Authority.

·           apply to transfer to an Independent Fostering Agency.

·           cease to foster.

 

Commentary: This option recognises that, despite considerable investment over the last ten years in terms of finance and staff time, the service has not grown as intended.  It brings to an end a service that has been under critical scrutiny for some time and recognises the changes that will be required through other regional developments. 

 

·           Option 3: The service is sold on the open market. This would require agreement by the carers as without the carers there will be little to sell. Implications for Resolutions staff would also need to be considered.

 

Commentary: This option requires that all or most of the carers agree and this is unlikely to be achieved.  Partner authorities would be liable to pay the unit cost imposed by the purchasing organisation and this would improve the overall market position of that organisation, perhaps unfairly.

 

·           Option 4: The service is maintained in its current state with existing interim arrangements but no action is taken to recruit more Resolution carers and gradually the service will cease to function.

Commentary: This means the service would be allowed to run down with no clear decision being made.  Carers are likely to drift away from the service and will inevitably be approached by independent fostering agencies.

 

12.      The Resolutions Management Board has met to consider the review report and concluded that Option 2 is the preferred option. 

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

13.      Under the current service arrangements, each placing authority pays for individual placements at the current unit cost; therefore, the more placements a local authority has, the more it has to budget for the service.  In comparison to in-house foster care, a Resolutions placement is high cost but, in terms of Independent Fostering Agencies, a Resolutions placement is competitive.  The Vale of Glamorgan Children and Young People Services Division actively promotes the use of in-house foster care provision first before seeking Resolutions or IFA placements   It is anticipated costs to Children’s Services if Resolutions were no longer available would remain similar.  With the current strategy in place to increase the number of in-house placements, it is intended to reduce this authority's reliance on independent foster placements.   

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

14.      Placing children closer to their own communities is likely to have significant benefits for them but also reduces the amount of travel involved in supporting the placement and the child.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

15.      Based on the preferred option, there will be HR implications for the remaining staff employed within the Resolutions Service.  As the employing authority, Bridgend County Borough Council will use their own relevant HR policies and procedures to manage these issues as necessary. 

Crime and Disorder Implications

16.      There are no crime and disorder implications arising as a result of this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

17.      The option agreed by the Management Board means that Resolutions foster carers will have choices to make in terms of their future fostering roles.  Unless foster carers choose to cease fostering, all the children and young people in placement with the service will be protected by the interagency transfer protocol to which all fostering agencies adhere.  This effectively means that, if carers chose to remain with Bridgend, transfer to a partner local authority or to an IFA, the Resolutions placements that they have will be able to transfer with them.  Case responsibility will remain with the placing local authority for the duration of the placement.  In this way, such a transfer would not adversely impact on the young people in placement.  For carers, their terms and conditions could be protected if they chose to remain with Bridgend or a partner local authority but would be likely to change if they chose to transfer to an IFA.

Corporate/Service Objectives

18.      Social Services in the Vale of Glamorgan review, plan, design and develop quality services that deliver best value for money to improve outcomes for individuals.

19.      To provide affordable high quality placements that meet the diverse range of children's needs is a key principle underpinning the Council's Children and Young People Services Commissioning Strategy 2013/18.

Policy Framework and Budget

20.      This is a matter for Executive decision. 

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

21.      All relevant parties had the opportunity to engage in the independent review.  This includes representatives from partner local authorities (Bridgend, Caerphilly, Merthyr Tydfil and Vale of Glamorgan), Resolutions foster carers and Resolutions staff.  The final review report and the Management Board’s preferred option will now be shared with staff and carers and a formal consultation process will be followed.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

22.      Social Care and Health.

Background Papers

Children and Young People Services - Commissioning Strategy 2013-18

Contact Officer

Rachel Evans, Head of Children and Young People Services

 

Officers Consulted

Bridgend CBC as host authority has taken financial and legal advice.

 

Responsible Officer

Phil Evans, Director of Social Services

 

 

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