The Vale of Glamorgan Council

Cabinet Meeting: 14 December, 2015

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

Proposed 'Family Support Plus' Pilot Project

Purpose of the Report

  1. To obtain authority for undertaking, with an existing provider of family support services, a pilot project which will provide additional help to children and young people in need and their families within the Vale of Glamorgan.


  1. That the Council awards a contract for the pilot project for a period of up to six months to the current provider.
  2. That the Council's Contract Procedure Rules be waived to enable the award of the contract without obtaining the minimum number of quotations prescribed to allow the contract detailed in the report to be put in place.

Reasons for the Recommendations

  1. To provide and evaluate a new intensive approach to working with children and families through the provision of direct support in the family home and other relevant settings. The aim of the project is to improve parenting capacity and responsiveness to the needs of the children. The additional service will be particularly targeted at families where the plan is for a looked after child to be returned home or families whose children's names are on the child protection register and who are at risk of becoming looked after.
  2. To comply with the Council's Contract Procedure Rules and Financial Regulations.


  1. The agenda established in Sustainable Social Services and mandated by the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 will have profound implications for the way in which children's social services are delivered. Parts of the Act relating to people, as well as those relating specifically to children, are presenting local authorities with new and different challenges. At a time when demand is increasing and resources reducing, local authorities will need to fundamentally change the way they respond to children on the edge of care and support families to remain together or to be reunited.
  2. The Minister for Health and Social Services has challenged local authorities to help re-balance the current system for children's social services and to focus on maximising the ability of families to go on caring for their own children "doing more to repair families instead of rescuing children and putting them into care".
  3. As part of its Commissioning Strategy for Children and Young People (attached at Appendix I), the Vale of Glamorgan Council has already recognised the need to act to make more effective prevention, early intervention and crisis resolution services available, which support families in difficult times and enable them to stay together wherever it is safe to do so. Set in a context where social work caseloads are increasing and cases are becoming more complex, there is less time available for direct work with families. This has a direct impact on our ability to identify and deliver the right support at the right time.
  4. Being able to respond positively to these challenges as part of the Council's Reshaping Programme is essential if we are to prevent escalation in our numbers of children looked after because of pressures on individual children, families and communities.
  5. The Children and Young People Services Division has reviewed the services and support that currently help us to meet the objective in our Commissioning Strategy to 'keep families together'. The review demonstrated that there are families where returning looked after children home or preventing a child becoming looked after would require more intensive and longer-term input, focused on making positive changes in parenting capacity.
  6. Whilst the service available through the Integrated Family Support Service (IFSS) offers support to families where there is substance misuse, this service has restricted access, is over-subscribed and is not always available when it is needed even where families meet the criteria. With effect from 2015/16, grant funding for this service, which is delivered regionally across Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan, is now within the Revenue Support Grant. This provides an opportunity for the local authority to review how it allocates these resources. The Vale of Glamorgan has maintained a commitment to fund the service in its current form for this financial year whilst it reviews needs and service options. The performance of IFSS and its ability to respond to the needs of families in the Vale of Glamorgan will be taken into account when the evaluation of this pilot provision is considered.

Relevant Issues and Options

  1. The Council currently commissions parenting support and supervised contact from the children's charity, Action for Children. These family support and intervention services are based in accommodation rented by Action for Children in Barry. Where necessary, other community venues are hired for families living in the wider Council area.
  2. In the last financial year, £210,500 was spent on this contract. On average, 30 families per quarter received parenting support for a 12 week period. The service is monitored on a regular basis by the Contracting and Finance Team, and by the Operational Managers in Children and Young People Services (with input from the Team Managers of the children's social work service). Quarterly meetings are held with local and regional managers from Action for Children. At these meetings, we examine income and expenditure against the allocated budget, share information on referral and activity levels, and carry out a qualitative analysis of the outcomes achieved by families.
  3. There are approximately 80 children whose names are on the child protection register at any one time. One in four of them are in families who may benefit from this type of intensive, direct support. There are a further 26 children whose cases are currently in care proceedings under the Public Law Outline or whose plan is for rehabilitation home to parents from placements such as foster care, kinship care or residential care. These families need intensive support to prepare for the return of their children care and ongoing services thereafter.
  4. It is proposed that the service will be commissioned from Action for Children. The project would comprise a level 3 support worker on a half-time basis, three level 2 support workers and managerial input from the local service manager for family intervention services in Action for Children. The current contract monitoring arrangements will be extended to include the new service as a discrete project, with arrangements in place for sharing the range of financial, quantitative and qualitative information that meets the monitoring requirement of the Council.
  5. Action for Children (formerly known as National Children's Homes or NCH) has extensive experience of providing direct support to children and families. It is an established and trusted provider within the Vale of Glamorgan, having operated services here for many years. They also provide support to children with disabilities and their families through the respite provision available at Ty Robin Goch. As a partner organisation, they have worked flexibly and responsively with us to meet the priority needs of children and their families for support. Where necessary, this has involved achieving budget savings without loss of capacity or quality.
  6. It is felt to be appropriate that Action for Children provides the Family Support Plus project for a period of six months. This would allow sufficient time for the new service to be set up and for some initial evaluation of effectiveness (in terms of delivery, impact and outcomes for families and operation within the assigned budget). All Action for Children services take part in ongoing evaluation, including the views of the children and their families/carers who have used them. The project would be subject also to the Council's contract monitoring process.
  7. It is anticipated that the new service can be operational from 1st January, 2016. Action for Children staff work under flexible hours contracts and some existing staff members already working within the current services (who are DBS checked and trained in models of parenting support) have requested additional hours.
  8. At the end of the pilot period, a full tender process would be undertaken for any future service provision in this area, if that is the Council's preferred option.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

  1. Costs for the pilot service will be funded from the Children and Young People Services budget. Based on existing rates of pay for support workers plus managerial and organisational support costs in Action for Children, it is anticipated that the pilot project will cost £74,964.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

  1. There are no sustainability or climate change implications.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

  1. The contract will be in a standard form as drafted by Legal Services and the Contracting and Finance Team. The Council's Contract Procedure Rules need to be waived to enable the contract to be awarded.

Crime and Disorder Implications

  1. There are no crime and disorder implications for this pilot project.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

  1. The pilot project will deliver services in a manner that will:
  • Enable children to remain with or return to their family of origin where it is safe to do so, being part of their extended family, and community and raised in a culture and environment that is familiar to them and fosters their sense of identity and belonging;
  • Be inclusive and accessible to children with additional needs, and parents with additional needs such as learning or physical disabilities, sensory disabilities, mental or physical ill health, dependence on substances etc;
  • Ensure children and families are assessed as individuals, with their unique strengths recognised, and in partnership with them identify those areas where they need help and support, and have a service tailored to meet their assessed needs.
  1. It is a requirement of the terms and conditions of contract that the successful provider is committed to developing service users' choice in the use of the Welsh Language, as appropriate, in compliance with the Vale of Glamorgan Council's Welsh Language Scheme.

Corporate/Service Objectives

  1. This report is consistent with the following Corporate and Service Objectives of the Council:
  • To ensure that people have access to comprehensive information about Social Services and other forms of help and support, and are appropriately signposted to help and supported by proportionate assessments, care and support plans, and services which meet their individual assessed needs.
  • To have in place clear planning and programme management processes, which are identified in commissioning strategies and annual commissioning plans, and help to ensure an appropriate range of services that deliver equity of access, joined up services and best value from a variety of providers with defined, proportionate budgets directed to meeting service priorities.

Policy Framework and Budget

  1. This service is in line with the requirements of the Council's Commissioning Strategy for Looked After Children.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

  1. Children and families living throughout the Vale of Glamorgan will be able to use this service and so no individual ward member consultation has been undertaken.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

  1. Social Care and Health

Background Papers


Contact Officer

Rachel Evans, Head of Children and Young People Services

Officers Consulted

Children and Young People Services Divisional Management Team

Gaynor Jones, Team Manager, Contracting & Finance

Carolyn Michael, Operational Manager, Accountancy

Responsible Officer

Philip Evans, Director of Social Services