Agenda Item No.
THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL
CABINET: 17TH NOVEMBER 2014
REFERENCE FROM SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (CORPORATE RESOURCES): 15TH OCTOBER 2014
DISABLED FACILITIES GRANTS ANNUAL REPORT 2013-14 (REF) -
Cabinet on 22nd September 2014 was informed of the Council's performance delivering Disabled Facilities Grants during 2013-14 and the challenges for 2014 -15.
Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs) funded the adaptation of privately owned homes to help the resident remain living at their home as independently as possible for as long as possible.
Cabinet and Scrutiny Committees had continually monitored the performance of the DFG Service. Performance of the DFG service continued to improve during 2013-14. During 2013-14 the average time to deliver a DFG was 284 days. This was 62 days less than 2012-13, constituting an improvement of 18% on that year's performance.
The overall target performance for the year 2013-14 was achieved and exceeded. The local performance targets for stages within the DFG process were achieved for the enquiry to approval stage and the stage relating to approval to completion of the works. However, the target for the time taken from first enquiry to an Occupational Therapist (OT) recommendation being received was not met. While additional OT resources were put in place by the DFG service, the OT service had a number of staff on maternity leave. Therefore, the additional staffing resources funded by the DFG service merely served to support existing resources in the OT service. Furthermore, due to the demands on the OT service from priority cases, the OT service was unable to progress the necessary work on the DFG lists, in the way that was anticipated.
A detailed breakdown of the DFG service's performance at 2013/14 year-end was attached at Appendix 1 to the report.
The key challenges for the service during 2014-15 remained unchanged i.e. reduce the delivery time for DFGs and maintain the improvement. Key to achieving further improvement would be the introduction of the contractors Framework and further reduction in the time clients needed to wait for an OT assessment.
As of April 2014, the time a client had to wait for an OT assessment for a DFG was 12 weeks. If the Council was to further improve performance in the delivery of DFGs, this waiting time needed to be reduced to at least five weeks. Based on existing resources, a target of 75 days had been set for 2014-15, which equated to a 10-12 week wait for assessment. This target had been set with regard being given to existing resources.
The OT within the DFG service could not assess all the DFG cases; input into the service was required from the OT service. The OT service prioritised by urgency and allocated in date order. As a result, the OT service was currently dealing with requests for assessments that were older than the requests currently being assessed for a DFG. Until this backlog is cleared the OT service would not be able to allocate cases from the DFG waiting list. The Occupational Therapy Team had secured additional funding from other government sources and despite continued difficulties appointing to short term vacancies, and the covering of maternity leave it was nevertheless anticipated that the team would be back to full establishment by the end of the calendar year.
In addition, the Welsh Data Unit was working with local authorities to develop benchmarking data for private sector housing. The collection of this benchmarking data was being piloted for DFG grants completed during 2013/14. When this data become available to review, it would help the Council to understand in more detail its DFG performance compared to other local authorities and help identify further areas of improvement. This data would also assist in ensuring an even playing field when the average delivery times for DFGs were compared nationally, and how the authority was ranked. There was a concern some local authorities were not measuring like for like performance as a result of a different interpretation of the National Performance Indicator's guidance. When the benchmarking data was available, a further report would be presented to Cabinet to detail comparisons and differences and any further actions required to improve the service.
Cabinet had subsequently
(1) T H A T the report on performance for delivering Disabled Facilities Grant during 2013-14 attached at Appendix 1 to the report be noted.
(2) T H A T the challenges facing the delivery of Disabled Facilities Grants during 2014-15 be noted and a further update report be presented to Cabinet by the end of the year and thereafter quarterly.
(3) T H A T the report be forwarded to the Scrutiny Committees (Housing and Public Protection, Social Care and Health and Corporate Resources) for information.
It was reported that the average time to deliver a DFG was currently 216 days, which was just 9 days off the top quartile figures for the all-Wales average as published for last year.
The Chairman and Members of the Committee welcomed the progress but noted that the Council was still ranked 18th in Wale and questioned whether it was realistic to expect the Council to reach the top quartile figure next year.
The Committee continued to express concern regarding the current performance of Children’s DFGs with the Committee asking officers if parents’ comments had been obtained in relation to those child referrals which had been cancelled. The same point was also made in regard to the families of those applicants who had passed away. The Head of Public Protection indicated that in regard to DFGs for children there were no delays, however, he acknowledged parents expectations were sometimes a problem causing delay and needed to be addressed earlier in the process and the published DFG Guidance document should help to address such issues.
The Committee enquired of officers what additional support they required to effect improved performance, the Committee being aware of issues with staff resources. In response, officers indicated that staffing resources was now less of a problem and additional funding was always welcomed but they were aware of the financial challenges facing the whole of the Council.
A Member of the Committee referred to the Annual Improvement report recently considered by the Council’s Audit Committee and read out the narrative contained in paragraph 44 of the same document which related to the Council’s performance in regard to DFGs, which he considered was worrying. He further reminded the Committee that the WAO would be revisiting the matter as part of their Regulatory Plan for 2014/15. In acknowledging the Council’s performance had improved on previous years, so had other Councils and he was concerned that on this basis the Council would remain in the bottom quartile for performance.
Discussion ensued regarding DFG performance in comparison to private sector housing when compared to DFGs undertaken in the Council Housing Stock. In response the Head of Public Protection indicated that in some instances DFGs were delivered quicker in Council housing stock as there was no need for the Council to go through the mandatory DFG process.
RECOMMENDED – T H A T Cabinet be requested to review the current spend and resourcing of the function in comparison with other local authorities in Wales, particularly in the light of the recent report and comments of the Wales Audit Office in its report to the Council’s Audit Committee.
Reason for recommendation
To ascertain if adequate funding / resources were in place to ensure the Council’s performance improved when compared against other Councils in Wales.