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Agenda Item No.

 

THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL

 

CABINET: 12TH JANUARY 2015

 

REFERENCE FROM SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (SOCIAL CARE AND HEALTH): 1ST DECEMBER 2014

 

 “643 UPDATE ON HOW THE COUNCIL IS MANAGING INCREASED DEMAND FOR FAMILY SUPPORT SERVICES (DSS) -

 

 The Head of Children and Young People Services presented the report, the purpose of which was to update the Scrutiny Committee as to how the Council was meeting the challenges of increased demand for family support services. 

 

Attached at Appendix 1 to the report was the tiered model of services that was in place to guide the way in which resources were allocated and to help with the decision making of individual cases. 

 

Work to implement the model within Children and Young People Services and in partnership with other Directorates across the Council, the NHS, the Third Sector and the independent sector had produced significant results.  By ensuring a focus on early intervention and preventative action the service had been able to support families to stay together and to reduce the need for children to be looked after.  This had helped the service to manage demand for care and support at lower levels of intensity / intrusiveness.

 

There was a growing recognition that some of the difficulties which children and young people experience were as a consequence of factors affecting other members of the family.  Consensus had emerged that the best way to support families was through whole family services provided in an integrated way tailored to the needs of individual families. 

 

Most family support services were provided through the use of fixed-term grants from WG that required robust arrangements for partnership working between agencies.  The Head of Children and Young People Services talked through some of the funding programmes and schemes associated with Children’s Services. 

 

Families First funding was provided to Local Authorities to improve outcomes for children, young people and families.  A Families First Action Plan would set out how the programme would be implemented and would contribute towards nationally assessed outcomes.  The Families First in the Vale of Glamorgan programme currently provided funding for the following projects:

 

• Families Achieving Change Together (FACT) Team

• Raising awareness of welfare rights

• Family support programme

• Disability focus

• Partnership for young parents

• Putting families first

• Young people support programme

• Young carers

• C-Card scheme

• Family mentoring and volunteering.

 

 

It was noted that the critical success of the Families First programme was the “Team around the Family” approach, which had been used extensively across the UK with good evidence for positive outcomes. 

 

In deprived areas of Wales, Flying Start targeted Early Years programme for families with children under four years of age.  This programme was universally available to all eligible children and their families in the areas where the service runs.  The core elements of the programme included:

 

• Free quality, part-time childcare for two-three year olds

• An enhanced health visiting service

• Access to parenting programmes

• Early language development.

 

 

Members were advised that the Integrated Family Support Service (IFSS) helped families to stay together by encouraging them to take positive steps to improve their lives.  Referrals were made to the service when there were concerns about the welfare of children such as substance misuse, domestic violence or abuse, history of violent or abuse behaviour or mental health issues.

 

Families who experienced such difficulties may be at risk of having their children placed into care or having their names placed on the Child Protection Register.  The IFSS worked with families to help them make positive changes so that any concerns were lessened and children could safely remain at home.  It provided targeted support and helped connect Children’s and Adult Services, focusing on the family as a unit.

 

The Communities First programme provided funding to narrow the economic, education / skills and health gaps between the most deprived and more affluent areas.  There were three strategic objectives that helped to achieve these outcomes:

 

• Prosperous communities

• Learning communities

• Healthier communities.

 

 

The Youth Engagement and Progression Framework aimed to reduce the number of young people at risk and not in education, employment or training (NEET).  This framework was based around six component elements that aimed to:

 

• Identify young people most at risk of disengagement

• Provide better brokerage and co-ordination of support

• Provide stronger tracking and transition of young people through the system

• Ensure provision meets the needs of young people

• Strengthen employability skills and opportunities for employment

• Provide greater accountability for better outcomes for young people.

 

 

A multi-agency management board was responsible for overseeing Flying Start and Families First and comprised of representatives from the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board (UHB), the Vale Centre for Voluntary Services (VCVS), Learning and Skills and Children and Young People Services.

 

A ‘Poverty Alignment Group’ had been tasked with looking at common features, joint working and closer alignment of project delivery and recently and the Head of Housing and Building Services had recently been given the title of ‘Poverty Champion’.

 

It was critical to the success of the Council’s strategy that the overall range of services commissioned or delivered by the Council was responsive and flexible enough to meet varying levels of need and demand.  This meant avoiding long waiting lists or insufficient throughput within services.  It was nearly always the case that demand for family support exceeded supply and this was becoming even more apparent with growing levels of family poverty and breakdown.  Particular difficulties in managing demand for the FACT team had been noticed.

 

To some extent, this was a consequence of the team’s success in providing very good quality family support services that had produced a significant rise in the number of direct referrals.  It was also possible that reductions in other services and resources meant less preventative work was being done with families which had impacted upon referrals to FACT. 

 

Referrals to FACT were increasing

 

 2013/14

 Number of referrals

 Quarter 1

 80

 Quarter 2

 53

 Quarter 3

 71

 Quarter 4

 85

 Full year total

 289

   
 2014/15

 Number of referrals

 Quarter 1

 82

 Quarter 2

 82

 Half year total

 164



 

 

Members were advised that in response to the high levels of referrals, the team had been undertaking visits to all referring partners (including schools and Headteachers’ meetings) to raise awareness of what constituted an appropriate referral.  Alongside amendments of the referral form, these meetings with referring agencies had helped to improve the standard of referrals and enabled more appropriate allocation of FACT resources.  There was a very issue regarding the increasing complexity of referrals, requiring the FACT team to work at a higher threshold than WG had originally intended.  This was experienced on a national level across the whole of Wales and was not particular to the Vale.

 

The success of FACT was dependent upon whether the service improved the key issues identified at initial assessment, via the distance measured tools used by the team (JAFF scores and Outcome Star).  Due to the increasing complexity of issues within the families referred, members of FACT were working with families for longer.  There was an inherent challenge for the team in determining whether to close cases more quickly and not achieving positive changes or continue to work until the outcomes were achieved.  In summary, where statutory services focused on working with families to reduce risk, FACT were working on lowering risk as well as improving outcomes and emotional wellbeing for the whole family. 

 

The FACT team no longer held a waiting list, this was in order to ensure that referrers themselves did not stop working with families.  In recognising the move away from Tier 2 referrals where FACT should be focusing, the Families First Management Board had allocated resources to the development of a Resource Panel.  Where families were to be referred to FACT and assessed to be below the current threshold, they would be referred to the Resource Panel.   This would operate until March 2015 as a trial in order to:

 

• Identify which partners could or should provide alternative support

• Challenge partners to ensure they were supporting children and families in line with their statutory duties

• Help inform planners where there were genuine gaps in provision for further consideration by the Families First Management Board.

 

In reference to the Families First Plan, Members had been advised that it was delivering 11 effective projects.  Since 2012/13, there had been an increase of 57% in the number of families benefiting from the Families First services with an increase of 80% in the number of children and young people. 

 

The report highlighted that Families First had worked closely with Communities First and Flying Start to ensure families received seamless and holistic services.  Across these partnerships some Families First were expanded through the secondment of Communities First staff that helped deliver the same family support models (Transitions and Putting Families First).  The Family Support Programme was managed by Flying Start as this project reflected a Flying start model of delivery into an area that was not yet eligible for Flying Start funding.  As a consequence, the Vale had been able to expand successful projects and increase the numbers of children, young people and families receiving a service.  This model of working, pioneered in the Vale of Glamorgan and joining up the three main poverty related grant programmes, was not being promoted at a national level.  Families First was making a significant contribution to the development of the Engagement and Progression Framework (EPF).  Much of this work was delivered in conjunction with the Youth Service and the current provision was being audited by the EPF.  Once identified, a key worker would be assigned and a referral to support systems made, again seeking to reduce the need for more intensive forms of provision.

 

From April 2013 to March 2014, a total of 367 young people categorised as NEET were positively engaged through Communities First, Vibe Experience, G2E, the Young Parents’ Partnership and the People Business Wales.

 

The Chairman expressed the view, alluding to the huge demand for services and the challenges around lack of resources and short term funding, that it may be preferable if all grant money was allocated as part of the Council’s Revenue Support Grant (RSG) and he also referred to the number of annual grants and the potential for duplication.  In response to this, the Head of Children and Young People Services stated that there was a need to agree closer working arrangements and better alignment between service providers and it was her view that this approach should be taken further, particularly in order to tackle the poverty agenda across the Council. 

 

A Committee Member queried as to how the allocation of grant monies could be rationalised.  The Director of Social Services advised that greater devolution of funding would be an asset.  Current Welsh Government (WG) guidelines around grant funding were aimed at tackling specific problems, thus it was not possible to transfer funding from one service area to another.  In his opinion, it would be useful if grant funding was part of the overall RSG and this would help better manage needs on a local level.  He also alluded to the disparity of some grant funding which, in some cases, could last seven to eight years and in some cases funding was not flexible enough.

 

In reference to exit strategies in relation to the ending of grant funding, the Committee was advised that in the example of the cessation of the funding for the Intermediate Care Fund, some Local Authorities had employed staff on long term contracts and were now faced with the prospect of considerable redundancy pay outs.  This was something that the Vale of Glamorgan had been able to avoid.

 

In response to a question regarding the pilot development of a resource panel, the Head of Children and Young People Services informed Members that the resource panel was seen as a way of intervening below the FACT threshold and supporting more effective engagement between agencies.  It would also provide an opportunity to address the quality of referrals in order to inform appropriate allocation of resources.  

 

Further to this, a Committee Member went on to query whether any good practice had been identified in other Local Authorities in order to make this process work more effectively.  The Committee was advised that no good practice examples had been identified elsewhere. 

 

Referring to the publication of the Welsh Index of Multiple Deprivation, a Committee Member queried whether the service was able to drill down into data at the Lower Super Output Area (LSOA) or was data available at more general geographical areas.  In reply, Members were informed that the service was able to provide both.  The service would be able to identify exactly where people came from and the service would use data as a way to identify where resources were best allocated. 

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1) T H A T the approach taken to provide appropriate levels of family support services in order to manage growing demand, especially within the service provided by the Families Achieving Change Together team, be noted.

(2) T H A T the report be referred to Cabinet in order to highlight concerns around the number of grant funding streams and the short term nature of funding.

(3) T H A T the Scrutiny Committee receives a further update report in six months’ time.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

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

(2) To raise awareness of the number of grant streams available and the short term funding arrangements.

(3) To further apprise Members of developments within this important service area.”

 

 

Attached as Appendix – Report to Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health): 1st December 2014 

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