Top

Top

Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting: 14 July, 2014

 

Report of the Cabinet Member for Children's Services

 

Developing a National Adoption Service for Wales

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         To progress with the plan to establish the Vale, Valleys and Cardiff Regional Adoption Collaborative (formerly referred to as the Mid and South Regional Adoption Collaborative), in accordance with statutory requirements and as approved by Cabinet on 18th November 2013.

2.         To seek authorisation to develop the business and service delivery model for the Collaborative and to undertake consultation with staff in order to implement the proposed service delivery model.

3.         To secure approval to establish and recruit to the post of the Regional Adoption Manager for the Regional Adoption Collaborative.

4.         To secure agreement to the Vale of Glamorgan Council acting as the host authority for the Vale, Valleys and Cardiff Regional Adoption Collaborative.

Recommendations

That Cabinet:

1.         Endorses progression of the plan to establish the Vale, Valleys and Cardiff Regional Adoption Collaborative.

2.         Authorises the development of the proposed business and service delivery model for the Collaborative and agrees to consultation being undertaken with staff regarding implementation of the proposed service delivery model.

3.         Agrees that the Vale of Glamorgan Council will act as the host authority for the Vale, Valleys and Cardiff Regional Adoption Collaborative.

4.         Agrees that the post of the Regional Adoption Manager is established and advertised by the Vale of Glamorgan.

5.         Notes that a further report will be brought to Cabinet detailing fully the resource, employment and legal implications once a detailed consultation has been undertaken with affected staff and trade unions, and before full implementation of the Regional Collaborative.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1 - 3.   To ensure that the Council's statutory functions regarding the provision of an

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

 

4.         To recruit a manager to lead and coordinate the Regional Collaborative.

 

5.         To ensure that Cabinet continues to exercises effective oversight of this key

            function.

 

Background

5.         The Vale, Valleys & Cardiff Regional Adoption Collaborative is one of the five regional collaboratives which will form part of the National Adoption Service in Wales.

6.         Cabinet will be aware of the proposals for the Service which were contained in the report of the Cabinet Member for Children's Services dated 18th November 2013.  (Appendix 1)

7.         Establishing a National Adoption Service is a key part of the work needed for implementation of the Social Services & Well-Being Act (Wales) 2014. This Act provides the legislative basis for the Service and amends existing primary legislation concerning the provision of local authority adoption services.  It enables local authorities to enter into 'specified arrangements' with other authorities for the provision of adoption services. This also provides Welsh Government with the power to direct local authorities to collaborate where this is not happening.

8.         As part of the process for establishing the National Adoption Service in accordance with the functional model developed by local government and endorsed by the Deputy Minister for Social Services, a National Task and Finish Group has been established to oversee implementation of the Service.  It comprises senior officers from the lead authorities from each regional collaborative, representatives from the voluntary sector, Welsh Government, health and education.  Each regional collaborative has produced a regional implementation plan and reports upon progress on a monthly basis.

9.         Performance measures have also been developed by Welsh Government to underpin the National Service.  From April 2014, regions will be required to report on these measures on a quarterly basis.

10.      Welsh Government has expressed a clear expectation that the regional collaboratives will become operational in 2014.  Three of the collaboratives are already in operation; North Wales, South East Wales and Mid & West Wales.

11.      Within the Vale, Valleys and Cardiff region, a part time Project Development Manager has been appointed to oversee development of the implementation plan.  A detailed analysis of service need within the region has been undertaken, based upon data from the last three financial years; this has provided a basis for consideration of how services can best be planned to meet these needs.

12.      Work has also been undertaken to develop the service specification for the service, including the areas of service for which the collaborative will be responsible and those which will be retained by each local authority.  Local authority adoption services, currently delivered by discrete teams within each individual local authority, will be delivered by the regional adoption collaborative. The responsibilities of the Regional Collaborative will centre around three main functions:

·           All functions associated with the recruitment, training, assessment and support of prospective adopters. This includes inter-country adopters, step-parent and relative adopters.

·           The provision of a family finding, linking and matching service for all children requiring adoptive placements.

·           The provision of a range of adoption support services for children, birth parents and adoptive families pre and post adoption.  This function also includes the provision of counselling for adopted persons seeking access to their birth records and the provision of an intermediary service for persons seeking to trace adopted persons.

13.      Each local authority within the Regional Collaborative will retain responsibility for:

·           The assessment, care planning and review of children in need and referred and placed for adoption.

·           Maintaining the functions of the Agency Decision Maker in respect of children requiring an 'ought to be placed' decision.

·           Assessing the support needs of children requiring adoption.

·           The choice of adoptive placement and working with the family finder in matching the child with prospective adopters.

14.      Against this background, a number of models of service delivery were developed and discussed at workshops with managers and staff.  The preferred model of delivery supports restructuring the Adoption Collaborative into functional teams which can be largely co-located while still supporting local services for family finding.  Agreement to develop plans for this proposed service model was obtained, in principle, during a meeting of the four Directors of Social Services on 2nd May 2014.

15.      The appointment of an overall manager (referred to as a Regional Adoption Manager) to lead and co-ordinate the collaborative is seen as an essential element of the new regional service and this would bring the region in line with service structures being developed in other regions. The post is a new role which does not exist currently and will be specifically created because of the nature of the collaborative arrangement.  Again, agreement to establishing this post was obtained, in principle, during the meeting with Directors, subject to corporate and political approval.    

Relevant Issues and Options

16.      The exercise undertaken in analysing service needs within the boundaries of the new collaborative has identified a number of areas where improvements in the service provided to children, prospective and approved adopters and birth parents are required.  It highlighted the large number of children in the region requiring adoptive placements but also the potential to increase the number of adopters being recruited.

17.      The models of service delivery considered have focused upon the strengths and weaknesses of different structures acknowledging the areas for improvement and those strengths which need to be maintained. The preferred model attempts to develop the benefits of a specialist focus for the service while ensuring a structure which maintains links with local authority childcare teams and supports local practice.

18.      During the engagement process, staff have accepted the need to improve practice in certain areas and recognised that maintaining the current way in which services are delivered is not an option.  The Performance Management Framework will require regions to drive up performance, particularly in respect of recruiting adopters and placing children for adoption, and to focus upon meeting targets.

19.      Restructuring the way adoption services are delivered and pooling resources will provide opportunities for new ways of working and creative practice in all key areas.  Within the region, there are already examples of developments in collaborative practice which are having a positive benefit upon the service, including joint training of adopters and sharing adoptive placements.

20.      Currently, an external adoptive placement (i.e. outside the local authority) costs between £13k and £27k.  It is anticipated that working collaboratively with our regional partners will increase the pool of potential in-house placements and provide opportunities to use resources more effectively. 

21.      One local authority within each regional collaborative acts as the lead authority for the delivery of the regional roles and functions and hosts the service.  As set out in the report to Cabinet in November, it is proposed that the Vale of Glamorgan will act as the lead authority.  The Vale of Glamorgan remains committed to undertaking this role and the responsibilities attached.  Its Adoption Service was inspected by CSSIW in January 2014 and the inspection report was very positive. 

22.      The appointment of the Regional Adoption Manager is a key priority in taking forward implementation of the regional collaborative, bringing together staff and teams and co-ordinating services within the collaborative.  Recruiting to this post is a crucial milestone in making the regional collaboration operational.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

23.      A Finance Technical Group has been established comprising members from the finance departments of each of the four authorities.  An exercise has been undertaken to identify the outline budget based upon submissions from the group.

24.      The proposed managerial and staffing structure to support the preferred service delivery model has been costed and currently on the basis of the current analysis it is expected that the outline costs can be met within existing budgets in each authority of the Collaborative.

25.      A Human Resources Technical Group has also been established, with representatives from each of the authorities.  There are staff employed within each authority who will be affected by the proposed changes and as such there are both Human Resource and Employment Law implications.

26.      Workshops were held with managers and staff between November 2013 and January 2014 where potential models of service delivery were discussed before the four Heads of Service agreed a preferred model. Managers and staff have been briefed on the general principles but a period of formal consultation with staff and relevant trade unions is now required.

27.      The proposed staffing and management posts are outlined in the report attached at Appendix 2. The Regional Adoption Manager is a new post and the post-holder will be employed by the Vale of Glamorgan Council.  A Job Description and Person Specification are attached at Appendix 3.

28.       Accommodation options for the service are currently being explored and costed.  A Technical Group to consider ICT and Information Governance has also been established.

29.      Cabinet will be provided with a further report detailing the full resource implications (financial, including hosting costs, employment and legal) once the consultation process with staff has been commenced and before full implementation of the Regional Collaborative.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

30.      The number of children waiting for adoptive placements exceeds the number of placements currently available.  Restructuring the way adoption services are delivered and pooling resources should provide opportunities for new ways of working and creative practice in all key areas, including the potential to increase the number of adopters being recruited.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

31.      A legal (Inter-Authority) agreement will need to be developed to underpin the framework, governance, role, functions, responsibilities and liabilities of each of the partner authorities within the Regional Collaborative and to outline the role and functions of the host authority.  This agreement will include a finalised service specification.

32.      In considering the governance aspects of the Collaborative, it will be necessary to identify those areas of service which can be delegated to the Collaborative and those which will remain with the authorities.  This work is currently being undertaken and will be reflected in the finalised service specification.

33.      As set out above, there are employment law implications for the Collaborative.  These include Tupe (Transfer of undertakings regulations). 

34.      In respect of the legal implications, a Legal Technical Group has been established and each authority has input into this group. 

Crime and Disorder Implications

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

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

36.      There is considerable evidence about the difficulties local authorities are experiencing in finding adoptive families for children who need them and the collaborative is intended to tackle these obstacles.

37.      An Equality Impact Assessment will be completed.

Corporate/Service Objectives

38.      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.

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

40.      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

41.      Work has commenced to review and revise existing policies and procedures to incorporate the impact of delivering adoption services at a local, regional and national level.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

42.      Provision of an adoption service is a Council wide responsibility.  Levels of consultation undertaken and planned are detailed within the body of the report. A briefing on the service structure will be prepared for key stakeholders once the structure has been agreed.

43.      Staff and the recognised unions within each respective authority have already been made aware of the proposals and have made some input into the process to date.  This will continue throughout the process.  More formalised consultation in accordance with employment law requirements will also be undertaken. 

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

44.      Social Care and Health

Background Papers

Report of the Cabinet Member for Children's Services - Developing a National Adoption Service - 18th November 2013

 

Contact Officer

Rachel Evans

Head of Children and Young People Services

 

Officers Consulted

Corporate Management Team

 

Responsible Officer

Philip Evans

Director of Social Services

 

 

Share on facebook Like us on Facebook