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Agenda Item No

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Cabinet Meeting: 14 July, 2014

 

Report of the Cabinet Member for Children's Services

 

Joint Funding of Residential Placements for Children Looked After by the Council

 

Purpose of the Report

1.         In July 2013, a joint budget was established between Learning Skills and Social Services to meet the education and social care costs of placements in residential homes in respect of children with highly complex needs who are looked after by the Council.  This report is intended to update Cabinet on the way in which the one-year pilot scheme has operated, and to seek approval for it to continue.

Recommendations

1.         That Cabinet approves continuing the joint budget between Learning and Skills and Social Services to meet the education and social care costs of residential placements for children with highly complex needs who are looked after by the Council.

2.         That Cabinet approves the virement of £18,500 from the Learning and Skills budget to the Social Services budget as a proportionate contribution towards the increase in the 2014/15 joint budget.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1&2. To ensure efficient and effective financial management of residential placements for

         children looked after by the Council.

 

Background

2.         Before the joint budget was established, the costs incurred by the Council in providing residential placements for looked after children were funded from budgets held separately by both the Social Services and the Learning and Skills Directorates.  It should be noted that, where Continuing Health Care funding applies, contributions may be received from the Cardiff & Vale University Health Board (UHB).  The Social Services budget was used to fund care placements for looked after children who had a high level of complex needs or challenging behaviour and who had been assessed as requiring specialist residential care placements.  The Learning and Skills budget was used to fund the educational needs of children and young people who had complex needs and who had been assessed as requiring specialist educational provision outside the county's mainstream and special schools.  The process for determining how costs should be allocated to either Social Services or Learning and Skills had been difficult and time consuming and lacked clarity and consistency.

3.         These children and young people are few in number but they are especially vulnerable.  Meeting their assessed needs is a corporate parenting priority for the Council, especially as there are often significant safeguarding concerns present at the time when placement decisions are made.  Finding an appropriate specialist setting for them is inherently problematic.  The use of ad hoc arrangements for agreeing contributions to the overall cost of specific placements sometimes undermined the effective and timely planning that is required.     

4.         Both Directorates and the UHB made a commitment to putting in place joint assessment, planning and decision-making processes that would ensure prompt placements and better outcomes for these children.  Following discussions about possible changes in arrangements for funding placements, it was decided to scope the possibility of establishing a joint placement budget with access only through the Complex Needs Panel.  This was intended to facilitate proper corporate decisions to be made about how best to meet the individual needs of our most challenging looked after children.  The proposal was agreed by Cabinet in June 2013 and the scheme became operational from 1st July, initially as a pilot scheme for one year.

Relevant Issues and Options

5.         All looked after children requiring specialist residential placements are considered at the Children and Young People Services multi-agency Complex Needs Panel.  It comprises relevant senior officers from Social Services, Learning and Skills and the UHB. The Terms of Reference for the Panel, attached at Appendix 1, include the following criteria for presenting cases:

·           Any looked after child or young person who has been assessed as having additional challenging or complex needs which cannot be met in local mainstream provision and which require the provision of residential care.

·           All children and young people in existing residential provision for review by the Panel on a minimum six-monthly basis.

6.         Once a child has been identified as being eligible for funding from the joint budget, all the costs of caring for the child and meeting their needs are charged to that budget, i.e. the total cost of the whole package of support for the individual child or young person.  These costs include the residential care placement, all transport costs, respite care costs and any additional service provision required to support the placement.

7.         The budget holder for the joint budget is the Head of Children and Young People Services who has responsibility for monitoring and reporting the budget position.

8.         During 2013/14, placements for 23 young people were funded from the joint budget.  The number of placements currently funded in 2014/15 is the same but the cohort of young people has changed.  Six of the 2013/14 placements have ended: three where the young person has turned 18, one where the young person's mental health needs have resulted in them being sectioned and placed in a hospital setting, one where the placement type was stepped down to foster care and one where the young person was successfully rehabilitated home.  Six new placements have been made during the year; two involved adoption breakdowns where the nature of the behaviour/young persons needs required immediate placement in residential care, three where all alternative options with extended family and in foster care had been tried, and one where the care package for a young person with disabilities needed to be increased to full-time residential care. 

9.         In line with Children and Young People Services Commissioning Strategy, all options to prevent inappropriate use of looked after children accommodation are explored.  Where accommodation is required, all efforts are made to manage young people in the 'lowest tariff' setting possible.  The Strategy also includes an active programme to return young people from higher cost placements outside Wales to settings within Wales, and ideally within the Vale of Glamorgan.  Of the cohort of 23 young people, seven have been moved in these circumstances and four of these placement changes resulted in reduced costs.

10.      Use of external residential care provision remains an area of challenge for the Council and for other local authorities.  Costs have exceeded available budgets.  However, management of these placements has been assisted considerably by introduction of the joint budget.  It has provided clarity regarding financial contributions and consistency in decision-making.  There is evidence of cross-directorate ownership and all placement decisions are made jointly between Social Services and Learning and Skills.  In the absence of needing to debate the level of directorate contribution in each individual case, all discussions are focused appropriately on meeting complex needs and made in the context of shared resources.  Panel members are aware of budget constraints and ensure that all alternatives are explored.  The annual external placement audit completed jointly by Social Services and Learning and Skills representatives in November 2013 ensured a focus on outcomes.  It provided an opportunity to identify young people who may be suitable for placement moves to more local, lower cost provision.  One of the consequences is the newly commissioned residential provision which will be available in the Vale of Glamorgan during the Summer of this year.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

11.      The joint budget for 2013/14 was £3,150,000.

12.      The budget was established by transferring the existing Learning and Skills expenditure of £320,000 with the remaining balance of £2,830,000 being transferred from Social Services.  This provided a percentage ratio of 90% Social Services and 10% Learning and Skills on existing placement spend levels.  UHB contributions via continuing health care arrangements continued unchanged.

13.      The budget expenditure for 2013/14 was £3,579,000, a variance of £429,000.  In accordance with the agreement about allocating an overspend, £40,000 was charged to Learning and Skills and £389,000 to Social Services at year end.

14.      The joint budget for 2014/15 was set at current commitments as at 1st April 2014, a sum of £3,335,000.  10% of the increase in the budget will be funded by Learning and Skills.  As part of the Social Services Budget Recovery Programme, a cost saving of £150,000 is expected against this budget but this is offset during 2014/15 by the awarded cost pressure of the same amount.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

15.      There are no direct implications arising from this report.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

16.      The Learning and Skills and Social Services Directorates of the Local Authority have separate and distinct duties and powers.  These will continue to be delivered as they are currently.  Subject to compliance with financial regulations and audit requirements, there are no legal implications in setting up this internal budget.  Each Directorate continues to exercise their respective duties and responsibilities.

Crime and Disorder Implications

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

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

18.      There are no equal opportunity implications arising from this report.

Corporate/Service Objectives

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

·           To ensure that all children and young people have a safe home and community which support their physical and emotional well-being.

·           To improve outcomes for learners deemed to be vulnerable due to a range of factors affecting their general well-being.

Policy Framework and Budget

19.      This is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

20.      The appropriate Chief Officers have been consulted.  This report does not require Ward Member consultation.

Relevant Scrutiny Committees

21.      Social Care and Health, Lifelong Learning

Background Papers

Cabinet Meeting: 17 June, 2013

Report of the Cabinet Member for Children's Services - Joint Funding of Residential Placements for Children Looked After by the Council

 

Contact Officer

Carolyn Michael, Senior Group Accountant

 

Officers Consulted

Corporate Management Team

Officers in Learning & Skills and Children & Young People Services

Accountant - Education and Schools

Legal Services

 

Responsible Officer:

Philip Evans, Director of Social Services

Jennifer Hill, Director of Learning and Skills

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