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Agenda Item No.

 

THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL

 

CABINET: 9TH FEBRUARY, 2015

 

REFERENCE FROM SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (SOCIAL CARE AND HEALTH): 5TH JANUARY, 2015

 

“745 PRESENTATION – CSSIW NATIONAL INSPECTION OF SAFEGUARDING AND CARE PLANNING OF LOOKED AFTER CHILDREN AND CARE LEAVERS WHO EXHIBIT VULNERABLE OR RISKY BEHAVIOUR –

 

Ms. Pam Clutton, the Lead Inspector for the CSSIW, commenced the presentation by providing a brief background summary.  She advised that Members would be aware of national issues regarding sexual exploitation of children and young people that had recently been reported within the press.

 

This would be the first time since 2009 that all Local Authorities within Wales had been inspected.  The main focus was on Looked After Children aged 11+ who exhibited risky behaviour and, as part of the review, ten case files from each Local Authority had been inspected. 

 

Members were advised that the inspection methods had been changed with a new approach adopted that included meetings with all relevant partners in order to establish what worked and what could have been done better.  By adopting this approach, it was felt that this would help to better get the message across that corporate safeguarding was the responsibility of everyone. 

 

In evaluating the corporate leadership, the inspection had highlighted that this was an area of strength within the Vale of Glamorgan.  Safeguarding of vulnerable children and young people had been identified as a corporate priority.  Within the Vale of Glamorgan it had been acknowledged that the service had been able to show what differences child protection arrangements had made and were able to evidence real benefits to service users. 

 

There was also clear leadership and a positive culture within the management team.  The workforce had been stable with managers and staff evidencing a strong commitment to improving outcomes for Looked After Children and young people. 

 

Areas of development in relation to corporate parenting included the need to give greater consideration as to whether a more co-ordinated approach to implementing improvements for Looked After Children could be achieved from the development of a corporate parenting strategy.  There was also an identified gap around planning that could be filled by establishing a collective profile of vulnerable children and the risks they experience. 

 

In considering care and pathway planning within the Vale of Glamorgan, the inspection highlighted that there was a clear shared understanding and commitment from staff to safeguard young people in order to improve their outcomes.  There were also some good examples of risk assessments which were comprehensive and resulted in clear safety plans.  However, it was not always evident whether young people had been fully engaged in the process.

 

The Council had effectively identified and responded to the need to increase the range of placements available, especially for those young people with challenging behaviour and additional needs. 

 

The inspection had noted concerns around the capacity of services for children and adolescents with emotional and mental health issues and this was a common theme identified throughout the whole of Wales. 

 

Many care leavers had expressed a positive response in answering queries regarding support they had received from their personal advisors, which was timely and effective. However, some care leavers had expressed concerns about changes to their allocated social worker and who to go to when seeking support and guidance.

 

A further area of improvement had been identified which was the need to tackle some inconsistencies in the completion of core assessments which, in some cases, lacked analysis and were not routinely updated. 

 

The Police had expressed concerns around their level of engagement in the implementation of the protocol for missing young people and considered that this should be revisited to ensure that the arrangements were clearly understood and working effectively.  This may have been the consequence of changes in staffing within the local Police unit responsible.

 

The Committee was advised that, with regard to arrangements around safety and better outcomes for young people, the work of the Independent Reviewing Officer was an area of development.  Within the Vale of Glamorgan, most Independent Reviewing Officers had very good knowledge of the Looked After Children that they worked with.  However, in some cases, Independent Reviewing Officers appeared reluctant to refer concerns and issues up to higher authorities such as the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Services (CAFCASS). 

 

Consideration should also be given to whether there could be a more consistent approach to support Looked After Children to engage in planning how to develop services. 

 

A Committee Member, referring to the need for better engagement with Looked After Children, queried whether there were any suggestions that the CSSIW could provide in order to improve this.  In response, the Lead Inspector advised that there was a need for more regular opportunities to sit down with the young people to discuss the range of issues affecting them and provide information around how they could access support when needed. 

 

In response to a question regarding the impact of budgetary pressures placed upon the Police service, the Lead Inspector voiced the opinion that this had had a negative impact.  Most young people were only truly comfortable talking to or engaging with individuals and professionals that they fully knew and trusted.  Changes to individual Police Officers had meant that many young people did not have full confidence to openly engage with the Police.

 

A Committee Member queried whether the CSSIW had had the opportunity to review the service’s action plan and asked whether there were any areas within the action plan that the service should prioritise over the next few months.  The Lead Inspector advised that this was a difficult question to answer as the inspection was very focussed on a small cohort of children and it was difficult for the CSSIW to monitor and comment on each individual action plan.  She went on to advise that, even with the most rigorous arrangements, things could still go wrong.  The key was around ensuring that social workers, who would usually be working on their own, were fully supported and supervised within their role. 

 

Further to this, the Committee was advised that the CSSIW will be monitoring and tracking the performance of individual local authorities through its routine arrangements and the CSSIW will react and respond should any concerns be identified.

 

The Chairman queried whether it was fair to say that not all young people wanted to engage.  In response the Lead Inspector stated that, yes, she would accept this.  However, it was useful to continually talk about child protection arrangements with young people in order to get the message across to them that there was someone that cared for them and provided support during stressful and emotional times.  There was a need for Councils to have confidence to engage with young people at that level and to continually ensure that young people were fully aware of the support network that was available to them. 

 

The Chairman, in highlighting the Committee’s concerns around mental health services offered to children and adolescents, queried as to when a strategy to tackle these issues would be devised.  In response, the Lead Inspector advised that from the perspective of the CSSIW, they had observed that most Local Authorities worked within their own arrangements and guidelines and that levels of support offered were generally very good.  There however was an issue around clinical diagnosis of mental health issues and there was a clear need for improvements to be made around the provision and the range of services available.  This clearly came back to the level of investment and funding made available to the Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service. 

 

At this point, the Director of Social Services stated that the Welsh Government was looking at ways forward to develop the mental health services for children and adolescents.  A national report covering the inspection of all the 22 Authorities in Wales was to be published imminently and the Vale of Glamorgan had proactively developed an action plan to tackle some of these issues at a local level.  There was a need to wait for the national picture in order to strengthen some of the recommendations contained within the Local Authority’s action plan produced in response to its own inspection.  It was right to say that there was a new level of urgency following cases of sexual exploitation and that the Police were keen to look at issues around missing people.  He further advised that there was a need to build upon the momentum generated by the work of CSSIW and that the service in the Vale needed to be vigilant in all cases.  He commended the work of staff involved with working with Looked After Children and this had given the service a position of strength on which to build. 

 

The Committee was keen to receive an update to the action plan, particularly in relation to the level of engagement with Looked After Children. 

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1) T H A T the key messages to emerge from the inspection, including areas of progress and areas for improvement, and the action plan produced in response to the recommendations be noted.

 

(2) T H A T the report and presentation of the National Inspection of Safeguarding and Care Planning for Looked After Children and Care Leavers who exhibit vulnerable and risky behaviours, be referred to Cabinet.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1) To ensure that Members are kept informed about outcomes from independent inspection of Social Services’ performance in the Vale of Glamorgan.

 

(2) To update Cabinet of the key messages to emerge from the inspection.”

 

Attached as Appendix – Report to Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health): 5th January, 2015

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