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The Vale of Glamorgan Council

Cabinet Meeting: 11 May, 2015

Report of the Cabinet Member for Children's Services and Schools

Developing a National Approach to Advocacy

Purpose of the Report

1. To make Cabinet aware of work being undertaken to develop a national approach to the provision of independent advocacy to some groups of children and young people and of the immediate implications for the contractual arrangements currently in place in the Vale of Glamorgan.

 

2. To seek Cabinet approval for extending, until 31st March 2017, the existing contractual arrangement with the National Youth Advocacy Service (NYAS) for the provision of independent advocacy services to children and young people, in line with Financial Control Regulations and Contract Standing Orders.

Recommendations

1. That Cabinet note the work being undertaken to develop a national approach to advocacy and the immediate implications for our current contractual arrangements.

 

2. That the existing contractual arrangement with NYAS is extended to 31st March, 2017, recognising the need for taking into account the implications of any national approach that may emerge when drawing up a service specification for any future tendering exercise.

 

3. That the Managing Director, the Director of Social Services and the Head of Legal Services be authorised to negotiate and agree terms and conditions with the service provider within the Council’s contracting procedures. That the Head of Legal Services be authorised to prepare, complete and execute the required legal documentation. 

Reasons for the Recommendations

1 - 3. To ensure continuing provision of an independent advocacy service to children and

  young people known to Social Services within the Vale of Glamorgan whilst the

  development of a national approach to advocacy is taken forward.

Background

3. NYAS is a provider of independent and rights-based advocacy, support and legal services to children and young people which helps to give them a voice when decisions are being made that have a significant impact on their lives.

 

4. The advocacy service promotes children’s rights as set out in the Children Act 1989, the Children Act 2004 and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which seeks to guarantee the right of any child or young person to be consulted in decision making and to be ‘provided the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child or young person, either directly or through a representative or an appropriate body in a manner consistent with the procedural rules of national law.’

 

5. Following a procurement process, the Council entered into a contract with NYAS in June 2011 to provide an advocacy service, initially for a one-year period to:

  • any child or young person in the child protection system;
  • any looked after child or young person;
  • any child or young person at the point of leaving care.

6. This service replaced the ad hoc and 'spot purchasing' arrangements that had existed previously in the Vale of Glamorgan.  To ensure continuity of service delivery, the arrangements made in June 2011 were maintained while the feasibility of a partnership arrangement with five other South Wales local authorities was explored in detail. 

 

7. Evaluation of the business case in relation to the possibility of a regional project concluded that there would be significant cost implications to the Vale of Glamorgan Council if it became a partner in such an enterprise.  A decision was made at that time to withdraw from the regional project board.

 

8. The Council went on to re-commission an independent advocacy service in June 2012 specifically for the Vale of Glamorgan and the successful provider was NYAS.  The contract has been extended since this time and it is due to expire on 30th June, 2015.

Relevant Issues and Options

9. In October 2014, Ministers reviewed a range of evidence and concluded that there was a need to bring a refreshed focus and impetus to securing children’s rights and entitlements ahead of the implementation of the Social Services and Well-Being (Wales) Act 2014 and the extended entitlements on advocacy for all ages.  Key stakeholders including ADSS Cymru, the Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA), the Chair of Ministerial Expert Group on Advocacy (MEGA), the Children’s Commissioner and the Welsh Government Lead on Statutory Advocacy were invited to form a Strategic Leadership Group (SLG) for Advocacy.

 

10. The work of this group is underpinned by a Task and Finish Group that has been established by ADSS Cymru.  Membership includes representatives from WLGA, Welsh Government, CSSIW, the Children’s Commissioner's Office, each of the Social Service Collaboratives and Advocacy providers.  Phil Evans is acting as advisor to the group. Involvement by ADSS Cymru and the WLGA in this work is central to ensuring that local authorities are able to influence the development of a national approach to advocacy. 

11. The group is tasked with:

  • identifying and developing the key components for a National Approach to Advocacy; and
  • seeking to ensure delivery of this approach via lead authorities within Social Services Regional Collaboratives.

12. A key principle underpinning the work of the Strategic Leadership Group and the Task and Finish Group is to ensure the involvement and engagement of children and young people at key stages during development and delivery of the national approach.  This will be taken forward through engagement, consultation and participation with existing groups at local, regional and national levels.

 

13. As shown in the diagram below, an advocate can operate at a number of different levels. However, the remit of the Task and Finish Group is to look specifically at the provision of independent professional advocacy (Level 1) as commissioned by local authorities for looked after children, children in need and other specified individuals.

 

Developing-a-National-Approach-to-Advocacy

 

14. The Group is seeking to drive forward and support the delivery of the national approach to statutory advocacy services for these groups of children and young people through developing the following key components:

  • a revised National Standards and Outcomes Framework
  • a commissioning framework aligned to the National Standards and Outcomes
  • a performance management framework and  a common reporting template
  • an agreed approach to the ‘active offer’ of advocacy
  • common and consistent implementation plans
  • National and Regional Governance arrangements
  • a communications strategy, which includes regular information updates

15. It is anticipated that the work will be concluded in October 2015 by which time a plan should be in place covering all the elements needed by local authorities to commission an independent advocacy service.  The work of the Strategic Leadership Group and the Task and Finish Group will include consideration of the potential for a regional delivery model based on health board footprints.  There is a need to engage Education and Health in this work.  Again, the Strategic Leadership Group and the Task and Finish Group are considering how best this can be achieved. 

 

16. ADSS Cymru's involvement in this work is central to ensuring local authorities are able to influence the development of a national approach to advocacy.  It is important for the Vale of Glamorgan to maintain its existing advocacy arrangements during the change period so that we can continue to fulfil our statutory responsibilities until such time as we have full information about our future requirements and the arrangements for how these will be delivered.  Should the national arrangements be in place prior to the end of the requested extension period, the appropriate notice would be served on the current contract.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

17. The costs of the arrangements for providing an advocacy service in the Vale of Glamorgan are £22,582.61 for the current contract year, which would rise to £23,348.87 per annum from 1st July 2015.  Although a cost calculator was developed by the Chair of the Ministerial Expert Group on Advocacy (MEGA), in order to identify what local authorities should be paying for advocacy, it has not been properly validated.  The Senior Leadership Group will look at it again once there is clarity about how the component parts of the cost calculator may be relevant going forward. 

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

18. There are no sustainability or climate change implications arising from this report.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

19. The provision of independent advocacy services for some groups of children and young people who receive care and support from Social Services is a statutory responsibility for the Council.

Crime and Disorder Implications

20. There are no crime and disorder implications as a result of this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

21. Independent advocacy for groups of especially vulnerable children and young people within the Vale of Glamorgan can contribute significantly to their wellbeing.

 

22. In April 2013, the Children's Commissioner for Wales published 'Missing Voices, Missing Progress', a review of the delivery of independent advocacy for Looked After Children, care leavers and children in need.  This review confirmed the responsibility on all agencies to ensure that children and young people can get access to independent advocacy and called on Welsh Government to provide clearer strategic direction on the development of a preferred model of service delivery for advocacy across Wales.

Corporate/Service Objectives

23. "Children and young people are engaged and supported to take full advantage of life opportunities in their community and beyond" - Corporate Plan Outcome 2013-17.

 

24. "The Vale of Glamorgan achieves good outcomes for service users and carers through its arrangements to protect vulnerable people and success in promoting independence and social inclusion" - Social Services Directorate Service Plan 2013-17.

Policy Framework and Budget

25. This is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

26. Independent Advocacy Services for Children and Young People is a Vale-wide responsibility. 

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

27. Social Care and Health.

Background Papers

None

Contact Officer

Rachel Evans, Head of Children and Young People Services

Officers Consulted

Gaynor Jones, Team Manager, Contracting and Finance, Social Services

Responsible Officer:

Philip J Evans, Director of Social Services

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