Agenda Item No 9



The Vale of Glamorgan Council


Scrutiny Committee [Lifelong Learning]: 23 May 2013


Report of the Chief Learning and Skills Officer


School and Community Based Counselling Service for Young People


Purpose of the Report

1.             To advise Members of the current position and progress in relation to the development of the local school based counselling service in the Vale of Glamorgan.


1.             Members note the report and the excellent progress to date.

2.             That the Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) continues to monitor progress in the development of the service.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.             To ensure Members are kept informed of the counselling service and the positive impact on young people since its inception.  

2.             To consider the progress that has been achieved.


2.             A key recommendation following the Clywch report in 2004 which was issued by the then Children's Commissioner Peter Clark was the establishment of a counselling service for young people.

3.             The benefits to young people of such a service are well documented and following consultation Welsh Assembly Government launched its National Strategy for School-Based Counselling Service for Wales in April 2008. 

4.             In 2008 the Vale of Glamorgan was successful in accessing funding for its proposed model to deliver a counselling service. Following confirmation of the grant a full tendering exercise was undertaken, and Barnardos Cymru Ltd were selected as the preferred service deliverer.

5.             The initial funding for the service allocated in 2008/09 was £42k, and this has risen to £192k in 2012/13. The increase each year was to enable the service to grow slowly and ensure all secondary and special schools received a service.

6.             Welsh Government guidance ensures that all 8 mainstream secondary schools currently receive a service of either 1 or 2 days per week. Additional days are allocated for special schools, out of school provision and some primary provision.  The service also covers pupil referral units, those receiving home tuition non-attenders and those accessing or entitled to educational support

7.             In 2012 the Welsh Government Education Minister confirmed that funding would be devolved within the Revenue Support Grant from April 2013. The devolved funds remain comparable to the grant, although the remit has been expanded to include provision for young people up to 19 years old.    

8.             In March 2013 the School Standards and Organisational (Wales) Act set in place a legal requirement for all local authorities to secure 'reasonable provision' for an 'independent counselling service' in respect of health, emotional and social needs.

9.             A multi-agency Management Board oversees development of the service in the Vale of Glamorgan, including officers from the Learning and Skills Directorate, headteachers and officers from the Public Health Team.

10.        An open procurement process has recently been undertaken for the delivery of a School and Community Based Counselling Service in line with the School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013 and with the Council's Standing Orders. Action for Children have been identified as the preferred provider of the service.   Arrangements for a smooth transfer have been put in place.

Relevant Issues and Options

11.        Robust monitoring and evaluation systems remain in place to comply with Welsh Government requirements, and a Management Board continue to oversee the service. The service continues to report to Welsh Government as required and be part of any Estyn inspection that takes place of the local authority or individual schools.  Feedback from school staff and pupils has been very positive.

12.        Between April 2012 to March 2013, 384 young people undertook an episode of counselling. This equated to 1,921 individual sessions, with females accounting for over 60% of those accessing the service. More young people appear to access the service as they get older, with a peak in year 10.  Approximately 40% of young people self-refer to the service through various mechanisms including electronically.    

13.        Of those seen by a counsellor only 10 young people reported being a 'Looked After Child' (LAC), this is below the national average. This has been discussed by the Management Board and raised with the appropriate staff working directly with LAC, but numbers remain low. 88 young people identified themselves as having a special educational need or a disability, which equates to approximately 29% of service users, most of whom are within mainstream education.

14.         The main issues for referral (presenting issues) are often highlighted as family, stress, anger and bullying issues. Predominant issues highlighted during counselling include family, pupil self-worth and anger. 

15.        YP Core is used as a tool to assess psychological wellbeing, outcome data continues to show significant positive progress for the young people undertaking counselling (Appendix 1).  The YP Core tool shows a consistent 9 to 10 point reduction in pre and post counselling intervention.

16.        A small number of child protection issues are being identified through individual counselling sessions and positive links have been developed with the Intake and Assessment team within Social Services. Although numbers are low this fully supports the need for an independent counselling service. The numbers being referred to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) also remain low, but informal feedback from CAMHS suggests that the number of referrals to CAMHS are reducing and those young people being referred are considered far more appropriate referrals.   

17.         A full service review (Appendix 2) has been under taken annually by Barnardos, the number of responses continues to increase although numbers remain low in some areas i.e. parent questionnaires.

18.        Through the young people's Post Counselling Questionnaire (PCE) feedback is positive

·         100% of pupils agreed that the referral process worked well. 

·         100% of pupils stated they felt comfortable with the counsellor and would use the service again.

·         80% of pupils stated that using the service had helped improve relationships with friends and family.

·         70% had noted an improvement in their own behaviour and concentration as well as being more able to cope with things at school.

·         Of the 40% of pupils who highlighted that their attendance was an issue prior to counselling all suggested that counselling had made it easier to attend school.

·         Areas highlighted for improvement included the length of waiting lists and the counselling room was not always adequate. These are areas that are being explored with schools and the service provider.  

19.        Welsh Government feedback on the Vale of Glamorgan's progress is very good. A review by the Welsh Government used a number of indicators to evaluate the cost and quality of the service during the spring term of 2011 such as a 'value for money exercise', equating numbers of young people attending sessions to cost of delivery. The service in the Vale performed well on all of these indicators.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

20.        Welsh Government has allocated funding, which is part of the Revenue Support Grant. The Learning and Skills Department has utilised this funding to procure a service from May 2013 for £185,000 per year for 3 years (until May 2016).

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

21.        The Community Based Counselling Service contributes to the Sustainable Development principle of ensuring a Strong, Healthy and Just Society.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

22.        Under the School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013 Local Authorities are required to secure reasonable provision for counselling services for:

·         Registered pupils at secondary schools maintained by the Authority and other schools in the area;

·         Other young people aged 11 to 19 who belong to the Local Authority's area;

·         Registered pupils undertaking their final academic year of primary education at schools maintained by the Authority and other schools in its area; and

·         Such other persons receiving primary education as the Welsh Minister may specify in Regulations.

23.        A Local Authority must secure that an independent counselling service is provided on the site of each school maintained by the Authority that provides secondary education.

24.        The inspectorate has powers relating to section 51 of the Children Act 2004, namely in co-operating to improve the wellbeing of children and to the preparation and publishing of a plan setting out the Local Authority's strategy for discharging their functions relating to children and relevant young people. 

Crime and Disorder Implications

25.        In delivering an effective Counselling service vulnerable young people are listened to, supported and helped to deal within their own issues, thereby reducing the risk of negative and anti social behaviour and reducing the risk of entering into criminal activity now and in the future.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

26.        Welsh Government guidance (School Based Counselling Services Wales - a National Strategy issued April 2008) on the development of a universal counselling service will ensure all young people aged 11-19 have equal access to the service regardless of perceived need.

Corporate/Service Objectives

27.        There is a commitment in the Children and Young People's section of the Corporate Plan, under Safeguarding Vulnerable Children and Young People: "To increase access to counselling and advocacy services for children and young people, in particular with other agencies and on a regional basis where this is possible. (2013/14)".

Policy Framework and Budget

28.        This is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

29.        Not applicable

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

30.        Lifelong Learning

Background Papers


Contact Officer

Mark Davies, Children and Young People's Partnership Manager

Officers Consulted

Huw Isaac, Head of Performance and Development

David Davies, Head of Pupil Support Service/Principle Educational Psychologist

Carolyn Michael, Senior Group Accountant

Responsible Officer:

Jennifer Hill, Chief Learning and Skills Officer