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Agenda Item No

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

Cabinet Meeting: 16 June, 2014

Report of the Cabinet Member for Children's Services

Children and Young People Services - Commissioning Strategy and Action Plan 2013-2018

Purpose of the Report

1.         To update Cabinet on progress made in implementing the Children and Young People Services Commissioning Strategy and Action Plan 2013-18.

Recommendations

That Cabinet:

1.         Notes the progress made in delivering the Children and Young People Services Commissioning Strategy Action Plan.

2.         Refers this report to the Social Care and Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committees, for information.

3.         Continues to receive six-monthly progress updates.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1. 2. & 3. To provide Members with opportunities to exercise oversight of a key strategic

               document for the Council.

 

Background

2.         On 4th March 2013, Cabinet considered the draft Children and Young People Services Commissioning Strategy and Action Plan.  A copy of the Strategy is attached at Appendix 1.  As recommended by the Social Care and Health Scrutiny Committee, Cabinet endorsed the objectives and principles it contained and asked for regular progress updates on delivery of the action plan.

3.         Mindful of  the need for the Council to meet statutory responsibilities and to deal with the significant financial pressures, the Strategy contains 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 are accurately assessed and receive the proper response, so that the right children are accommodated at the right time.  This includes 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 meet the diverse range of children’s needs.

·               To give children clearly planned journeys through care which remain focused on achieving care plans; prevent drift; enable them to be reunited with family and friends where possible; provide them with stable placements and opportunities to exit the care system positively.

4.         Increasing demand for children and young people to become looked after and the need to find appropriate placements for them were noted as putting the budget for Children and Young People Services under severe pressure. 

Relevant Issues and Options

5.         To ensure that the Strategy is implemented effectively, work  has been focused on the following key areas:

·               preventing children and young people becoming looked after where this is not necessary to safeguard their welfare;

·               enabling those who do come into care to be rehabilitated back to their family network, where it is safe to do so;

·               providing the best possible outcomes for those who remain accommodated; and

·               increasing the range of placement options available for looked after children.

6.         An updated Action Plan is attached at Appendix 2 and confirms good progress in the first year of the Strategy.  Many of the actions have been completed while other longer-term measures are on track and on time.  It will be important to ensure a continuing and coordinated effort that builds on the achievements to date.

7.         At this stage, no additional actions have been included in the Plan but we will continue to deliver on those in place, focusing on:  

·               increasing the number of foster carers who can provide respite, with a view to supporting families to stay together;

·               through Permanency Panel, ensuring that plans for permanency consider the range of available options and that children do not remain looked after for longer than necessary and that those who need to remain looked after are appropriately matched in their placements;

·               developing the multi-disciplinary 'team around the child' approach to providing placement support, to increase stability and reduce disruption.

8.         This work will continue against the backdrop of ongoing robust arrangements in the Placement Panel and Complex Needs Panel that seek to ensure all admissions to care are appropriate in the first instance and that, where possible, children are supported to remain within their families.

9.         Related reports relating to the Annual Report of the Fostering Service and our Annual Placement Review will be presented to Scrutiny Committee in June and July and will provide more detailed information about activities in this area.  It is likely that the Action Plan will need updating in response to recommendations arising from the recent 'Inspection of Safeguarding and Care Planning of Looked after Children and Care Leavers who exhibit vulnerable or risky behaviours'.  This is a national inspection by CSSIW aimed at evaluating and providing assurance in respect of the quality of safeguarding and care planning practice across Wales.  Inspection fieldwork has been undertaken in all the Local Authorities in Wales.

10.      The Children and Young People Services Divisional Management Team (DMT) will continue to be responsible for overseeing delivery of 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. 

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

11.      The Commissioning Strategy focuses on:

·               preventing the need for statutory interventions and provision of care and accommodation;

·               managing the increasing expectations and demand for help and support;

·               managing the ongoing reductions in budgets and the need to prioritise service delivery to those most in need.

12.      Increased demand for children and young people to be looked after and for appropriate placements to be found can result in significant overspends in the budget for Children and Young People Services.  Development of this Strategy has been aligned with the Social Services Budget Programme.  A comprehensive report on the financial impact of the Commissioning Strategy and related activity (such as the Fostering Service Recruitment Strategy, the invest-to-save business case and the joint budget for residential care placements with the Learning and Skills Directorate) will be presented to Cabinet as soon as possible once further work has been undertaken to look at placement patterns and end-of year budget reports.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

13.      There are no sustainability and climate change implications as a result of this report.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

14.      Safeguarding vulnerable children and young people including Children in Need, Child Protection and Looked After Children are the statutory responsibility of the Council as set out in the Children Act 1989 and other related legislation and guidance.

Crime and Disorder Implications

15.      There are no crime and disorder implications as a direct result of this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

16.      There are no equal opportunities implications as a direct result of this report.

Corporate/Service Objectives

17.      To support children and young people to enjoy a healthy life free from abuse, victimisation and exploitation.

18.      To ensure that all children and young people have a safe home and community which supports their physical and emotional wellbeing.

Policy Framework and Budget

19.      This is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

20.      The provision of appropriate support to safeguard and promote the wellbeing of children and young people is a Vale wide responsibility.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

21.      Social Care and Health and Learning and Skills.

Background Papers

The Cabinet Minute C1238 from the meeting on 4th March 2013 requires that Cabinet receives regular progress updates on the delivery of the action plan.

Contact Officer

Karen Conway, Operational Manager, Children and Young People Services

 

Officers Consulted

Corporate Management Team

 

Responsible Officer

Philip Evans, Director of Social Services