Agenda Item No. 3
The Vale of Glamorgan Council
Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning): 22nd September 2014
Report of the Director of Social Services
Children and Young People Services - Annual Placement Review
Purpose of the Report
1. To outline the actions taken within Children and Young People Services during 2013/14 with regard to placement provision for Looked After Children (LAC) and to outline the actions being undertaken in 2014/15.
1. That Scrutiny Committee:
Notes the contents of the report.
Receives a further annual placement review report in July 2015.
Reasons for the Recommendations
1. To provide Members with an opportunity to exercise oversight of this key statutory function.
2. This report was considered by the Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health) on 14 July 2014 who requested to receive regular updates to the existing reporting arrangements including the monthly budget programme report and six monthly reports on the Children and Young People services commissioning strategy and foster carer recruitment strategy. .
3. Resource management in children's social care is inherently problematic. This is particularly the case in the area of children's placements.
4. Local authorities face considerable challenges in managing their overall looked after populations, in meeting children's needs and in ensuring most effective use of placement resources.
5. The number of children with complex needs is increasing and meeting these needs within appropriate placements places pressure on budgets. This cohort of children relates both to those with challenging and complex behaviour, and to those with disabilities.
6. Some individual placements are very expensive. Placements for children with complex needs can exceed £200k a year.
7. Given this context, it is essential that the Council has in place a coherent strategy for meeting need within the resources available. On 30th July 2012, Cabinet endorsed the Social Services Budget Programme. Since that time, the Social Care and Health Scrutiny Committee has received monthly progress updates on the way in which the programme has been implemented.
8. In Children and Young People Services, the major issue is the continuing pressure on placements for looked after children. This is the Division's most volatile budget and the one most dependent upon levels of service demand which are not within the Council's direct control.
9. One of the key savings projects being managed as part of the Social Services Budget Programme relates to residential placements for looked after children, with a target of £150k in cashable savings each year between 2014/15 and 2016/17.
Relevant Issues and Options
10. Attached at Appendix 1 is a report in which officers have analysed the financial position, the demand for placements and spending patterns. The report demonstrates the volatility of the placement budget and the significant impact individual cases can have on overall expenditure. Key influences include the increasing complexity of children's needs, Welsh Government policy to extend the time children can remain in foster placements beyond the age of 18, and the use of remand placements where local authorities have become responsible for the costs.
11. With the exception of the increase in placement commitments, the Children and Young People Services Division has made good progress in delivering the actions agreed in the budget programme, as demonstrated by the routine monitoring reports. The report in Appendix 1 highlights the considerable activity undertaken to date in response to the challenges associated with children's placements. This programme of work is delivered in the context of Children and Young People Services Commissioning Strategy 2013-18 and focuses on a range of related work steams.
Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)
12. The Social Services Directorate is committed to achieving a balanced budget. The savings expectations associated with reducing spend on children's placements require £150k in cashable savings each year between 2014/15 and 2016/17. During 2013/14, the joint budget with the Learning and Skills Directorate for looked after children placed in residential care was overspent by £429,000 and the secure/remand budget was overspent by £152,000.
Sustainability and Climate Change Implications
13. Effectively managing our overall LAC population is essential in ensuring best use of resources across public services.
Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)
14. There are no legal implications as a direct consequence of this report.
Crime and Disorder Implications
15. Following the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, local authorities became responsible for the costs of young people under the age of 18 who are remanded. It is difficult for us to predict how many young people may be remanded into custody or for how long they will be remanded. This area remains high risk.
Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)
16. Equalities issues have been taken into consideration when producing the Budget Programme, the Children and Young People Services Commissioning Strategy and the Directorate Service Plan.
17. Effective monitoring assists in the provision of accurate and timely information to Members and officers and in particular allows services to better manage their resources.
Policy Framework and Budget
18. The report is in accordance with the Policy Framework and Budget.
Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)
19. This report does not require Ward Member consultation.
Relevant Scrutiny Committee
20. Social Care and Health
Rachel Evans, Head of Children and Young People Services
Carolyn Michael, Operational Manager Accountancy
Phil Evans, Director of Social Services