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THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL

CABINET: 19TH OCTOBER 2015

REFERENCE FROM AUDIT COMMITTEE: 21ST SEPTEMBER 2015

WALES AUDIT OFFICE REPORT: IS THE DISABLED FACILITIES GRANT SERVICE PROVIDING AN EFFECTIVE RESPONSE TO USER NEEDS (MD) –

Committee received a report on the results of the review of Disabled Facilities Grants (DFGs) undertaken by the Wales Audit Office (WAO) during 2014/15.  

The review focused on whether the Council’s DFG service was providing an effective response to user needs.  

The WAO concluded that “the Council has met its original objective of improving the speed of delivery of DFGs but evaluation focuses on a narrow range of information and service planning is not sufficiently strategic because:

  • The focus on time targets for key stages in the process has improved delivery times and there appears scope for further refinement of processes;
  • Performance evaluation has been based upon a narrow range of indicators and there is scope to utilise other service related data to provide a better picture of performance.
  • The Council lacks a strategic plan for the service and data review suggests a probable future reduction in the number of disabled facilities grants at a time when the Council forecast increasing demand.”

The report made four proposals for improvement:

  • P1: Implement a process review that assesses arrangements from the service user perspective and has regard to the implementation of change by other Councils
  • P2: Establish a broader range of measures that enable the effectiveness of the DFG service to be evaluated in terms of meeting user needs and the efficiency of resources being deployed as well as monitoring the speed of delivery
  • P3: Adopt “plain English” principles to assess revisions necessary to current guidance documents and future publications / advice for service users
  • P4: Introduce measures that can be used to establish a corporate understanding of the way in which the service and others contribute to supporting independent living.

Discussions ensued on the contents of the report, including the following:

-    It was agreed that one of the objectives of DFGs was to permit people to live in their own homes for longer.  
-    Did the applicants feel that the DFG works had improved their lives?
-    Providing large, complicated documents to potential applicants for DFGs was not appropriate.  Simple overviews of the process would be more effective.
-    Improvements to the way DFG applications are dealt with had been impressive and the Council was now in the second quartile of Welsh Authorities.  
-    The budget for DFGs had recently been increased although there was potential for more certainty in budget setting and there was a concern that budget increases were potentially not sufficient to meet increasing demand.
-    There was a need to investigate how the DFG performance figures could be linked to other of the Council’s Performance figures.
-    In terms of assessing the effectiveness of an objective, i.e. to permit people to live in their own homes for longer, it would be necessary for baseline figures to be compiled.
-    Now that the Council was achieving an acceptable delivery time, it may be appropriate to consider the efficiency of the relevant staff.
It was appreciated that the Council was efficient when measuring the component parts of the DFG process.
-    The Chairman drew Committee’s attention to the final bullet point of Paragraph 11 of the report “service re-engineering – final stage process review undertaken January to March 2015”.  The Managing Director confirmed that the process had been undertaken.  
-    Committee was advised that other Councils reported performance figures regarding DFGs by exception.  It was suggested that this may be appropriate for the Vale.
-    A Member enquired as to what the Council attributed its improved performance to and was informed that it had not been as a result of increasing the budget – this had decreased over the years although the budget for actual DFGs had increased lately.  

Reasons for the improved performance had included:

 

-    The means test was now carried out earlier in the process.
-    Some of the assessments took place simultaneously.
-    There had been a move away from sending Building Works to tender to the use of a schedule of rates.
-    The increased level of scrutiny.
-    A Member enquired as to why DFG performance was reported to so many of the Council’s Committees, and was advised that this was considered appropriate in previous years as there had been a focus on securing improvements.

Following discussions, it was

RESOLVED – T H A T the contents of the report and comments of the Audit Committee be referred to the Scrutiny Committee (Housing and Public Protection) and Cabinet for their consideration.

Reason for decision

To keep the Audit Committee informed and to ensure Members are fully aware of the findings and conclusions of the review.




 

Attached as Appendix – Report to Audit Committee: 21st September 2015

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