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Agenda Item No.

 

THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL

 

CABINET: 14TH JULY, 2014

 

REFERENCE FROM SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (SOCIAL CARE AND HEALTH): 16TH JUNE, 2014

 

 

“67      UPDATE ON THE DEVELOPMENT OF FAMILIES FIRST SERVICES (DSS) –

 

The Children and Young People Partnership Manager had been asked to update the Scrutiny Committee on the way in which the Welsh Government Families First Grant had been used to deliver multi-agency, early intervention services in the Vale of Glamorgan. 

 

In April 2012, the Welsh Government replaced the Cymorth Grant with the Families First fund.  The funding criteria were revised, away from the provision of open access and universal services towards targeted services for those children and families most in need.  In the model of need and service provision which had been adopted in the Vale of Glamorgan, attached at Appendix 1 to the report, this meant services at tiers 2 and 3. 

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council acted as the recipient body for the grant on behalf of the Children and Young People Partnership.  In response to the funding changes and the revised criteria, the Partnership established a multi-agency Project Management Board to draft the service model for Families First and to plan implementation.  Membership comprised representatives of the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board (UHB), the Vale Centre for Voluntary Services (VCVS) and the Council.

 

During 2011-12, the transitional year from Cymorth to Families First, the Welsh Government allocated £1,27m to the Vale of Glamorgan.  An additional £250,000 was transferred into the Revenue Support Grant for supporting partnership working and participation by children and young people.  A Families First Plan and spreadsheet, covering the period up to 31st March 2017 and approved by Welsh Government, was set out in Appendix 2 to the report.  On this basis, the Council would receive a grant of £1,534,990 each year on behalf of the Children and Young People Partnership.

 

At the heart of the Families First programme was recognition that some of the difficulties which children and young people experienced were a consequence of factors affecting other members of the family.  On the basis of evidence from other programmes such as Flying Start, a consensus had emerged that the best way to support families (particularly those in poverty) was through whole-family services which were provided in an integrated way by a range of agencies and professional disciplines and which were tailored to the needs of individual families.  This 'Team Around the Family' approach had been used extensively across the UK; evaluation studies had been positive.  In the Vale of Glamorgan, Families First funding was used to provide the Families Achieving Change Together (FACT) Team which used this approach, a range of bespoke projects that support the long-term aims of the programme and some co-ordination and support capacity.

 

The provision of integrated services at tiers 2 and 3 was aimed at reducing the numbers of families requiring higher level, more intensive and very often more costly services from all statutory agencies.  The aim was to provide holistic support to children, young people and families who did not meet the threshold for statutory services at the point of referral but who were likely to meet that threshold in the absence of early intervention. 

 

It was critical to the success of the project that the services commissioned through Families First were responsive and flexible enough to meet varying levels of need and demand as determined by an assessment of the families.

 

The programme currently provided funding for the following projects: 

 

·                FACT

·                Raising awareness of welfare rights

·                Family support programme

·                Disability Focus

·                Partnership for Young Parents (expanded to be Vale wide)

·                Putting Families First

·                Young people support programme

·                Young carers.

 

Two new projects had been funded from April 2013:

 

·                the C-Card scheme - incorporated as part of an existing project and managed by Learning and Skills;

·                Family mentoring and volunteering - incorporated as part of an existing project and internally and externally provided.

 

All the projects were described in Appendix 3 to the report, together with an update on what they had achieved to date.

 

Based on the Families First Plan and spreadsheet for the period up to 31st March 2017, as approved by Welsh Government, the Council would receive a grant of £1,534,990 each year on behalf of the Children and Young People Partnership.  However, Welsh Government had highlighted a potential reduction in the grant of 3% (approximately £50,000) for the financial year 2015/16.

 

Members, in noting the increase in the number of referrals and the slow rate of exits from the service while also alluding to the increase in threshold, requested more regular reports be provided to the Committee on a six monthly basis. The Children and Young People Partnership Manager informed Members that the trends experienced within the Vale were mirrored in other parts of Wales. The remit of the service was based on a 12 week short term intervention strategy but in reality most cases were of a complex nature that required greater and more prolonged periods of support. Further to this, the Director of Social Services commented that the Council was bound by directives given from the Welsh Government and had a duty to deliver the service and to allocate resources. It would be possible to inform Welsh Government of the issues and challenges being faced.

 

In response to a query from the Chairman regarding the potential allocation of funding from other projects to the FACT team, the Director of Social Services advised Members that every strand of Children Service’s were facing increased demand. The FACT programme was different from the regional Intensive Family Support Service which is also grant funded from the Welsh Government but where the scheme was much more prescriptive. He went on to comment that the service programme arrangements were being regularly monitored and that the Directorate would look again at issues of service demand and capacity. There was strong recognition that the service worked with families in poverty and that families do value the service and support received.

 

A Committee Member enquired as to what was the feedback received from service users.  In response the Children and Young People Partnership Manager advised Members that feedback and comments were generally very positive and that they do not receive many complaints, people have withdrawn from the service and disengaged from the process but this can be mainly attributed to people moving away from the area. 

 

Referring to the completion of the Young Carer project scoping exercise in January 2014 a Committee Member queried as to when the service would be redesigned.  In response Members were advised that it should be completed by October 2014.  Members went on to further query as to how many young carers did officers think were actually out there in the community.  In response the Partnership Manager advised Members that the number of young carers could be in the range of several thousand and this had been based on previous studies undertaken and carried out within local schools.  There were far more young carers out there than were known to the service and many young carers were reluctant to come forward and declare the full extent of their situation to the relevant agencies. 

 

Referring to the £45,000 allocated for raising awareness of welfare rights for this financial year, a Committee Member sought clarification as to how this money was to be spent.  The Committee was informed that this included three elements; the first related to a direct payment to the Citizens Advice Bureau so that advice could be given to FACT team service users in order to maximise their claims for benefit and financial assistance.  The second related to the Citizen Advice Bureau undertaking training for the wider Families First workforce so that they were fully informed of all the related issues.  Finally, the third element involved the  targeting of young people within schools with the aid of SWOOSH and is aimed at helping them to understand how to manage their money as well as informing young people of where they can turn for help and support. 

 

Members expressed the view that the FACT team faced significant challenges and had many cases of a complicated nature. 

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the use made of the Families First Grant be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the Committee continues to receive annual updates on progress.

 

(3)       T H A T the report be referred to Cabinet for consideration.

 

(4)       T H A T a further report be received in six months’ time detailing how the Council can meet the challenges of service demand for services for families, encompassing Welsh Government grants, regional and partnership working arrangements.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To ensure that Members are kept informed about developments.

 

(2)       To ensure that the Committee was able to exercise appropriate oversight of this important strand in the overall strategy for delivering effective children and family services, including the financial and legal responsibilities undertaken by the Council as grant recipient body on behalf of the Children and Young People Partnership.

 

(3)       To assess the level of resources allocated to meet demand.

 

(4)       To ensure proper scrutiny of the service area.â€

 

 

 

Attached as Appendix - Report to Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health): 16th June, 2014