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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health): 12th December 2011

 

Report of the Director of Social Services

 

Inspections of the Fostering Service and the Adoption (Permanence) Service by the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW)

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To inform Scrutiny Committee about the key findings of these CSSIW inspections and to provide an update on how the Council is responding to the actions required.

Recommendations

1.             That Scrutiny Committee notes the content of this report.

2.             That Scrutiny Committee endorses the action plans attached at Appendices A and B.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.         To ensure that the Scrutiny Committee is able to exercise effective oversight of this key area of activity.

2.         To ensure that the Council's statutory functions in relation to Fostering and Adoption Services are fully met, in accordance with Welsh Government guidance and regulation.

Background

2.             During March 2011, CSSIW undertook a review of the Council's arrangements for permanency planning for children under the provisions of the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003, and the Adoption and Children Act 2002 and associated regulations.  The review included the regulatory inspection of the Adoption Service as required under the Care Standards Act 2000 and it was linked to the inspection of the Fostering Service which took place shortly afterwards, undertaken under the same provisions.  Both inspection reports can be seen on the CSSIW's website via the following link:  http://www.cssiw.wales.gov.uk/ and by choosing the 'Publications' tab followed by the 'Find a report…' option in the drop down menu.

3.             At the time of these evaluative exercises, 203 children and young people were being looked after by the Council.  In providing for their welfare, staff in Social Services are required to focus on making plans and securing appropriate placements for them that will deliver "permanence".  This need for permanence can be met by a number of different routes including a return to their family, adoption, Residence Order or Special Guardianship Order. In December 2010, the Fostering Service was supporting 92 mainstream and relative foster carers living in Wales and 6 relative foster carers living outside Wales. 

Relevant Issues and Options

4.             The following is a summary of the key findings from the two reviews.

Review of the Vale of Glamorgan Adoption Service

5.             Those children and young people requiring permanency are a priority for the authority and systems and practice in the authority are focused on permanency planning, which is critical for the achievement of good outcomes for these children and young people.

6.             There is regular monitoring by senior officers in social services, within corporate management arrangements and by council members of the key indicators of the service provided to these children.  Arrangements for assessment and care management of services to children and young people requiring permanency continue to improve both in terms of performance against key indicators and the quality of practice. 

7.             Actions designed to develop and improve services for these children are included in the authority’s strategic and business plans.  The lead member is particularly active in supporting this area of service and has devoted time and energy to developing the Corporate Parenting Panel and taking other opportunities to engage other members in supporting and developing arrangements for these children and young people.

8.             There was less clarity at the time of the review about how the development actions in the wider strategic partnership plans in the authority e.g. the Children’s Plan produced by the Children and Young Persons Partnership were linking to the services provided by and plans for children and young people’s social services.  The authority needs to ensure that significant matters and developments that rely on the co-operation of statutory partners are firmly located within such broader strategic plans and owned by strategic partners.

9.             Whilst there are some improvements to be made, the authority has a reasonable range of good quality public information, policies and procedures to underpin this work.

10.        Inspectors observed that the authority’s looked after children population may be rising with a small overall increase in 2009/10 and at the time of the reviews a further increase.  The need to ensure the authority closely monitors the size and profile of its looked after population and ensures that fostering recruitment and commissioning strategies are flexible enough over time to respond to changing demand, is identified.  The need for the authority to extend the service available to persons willing to care for children under other arrangements such as Special Guardianship or Residency is also identified.

11.        Evidence from the review indicates that overall the authority’s adoption service provides a good service to children, prospective and approved adopters and to people seeking or receiving adoption support or intermediary services.  However, the review identified that the authority needs to become clearer about what adoption support and intermediary services it is required by legislation to provide and those that it has some discretion over and ensure that resources are deployed accordingly. 

12.        There was evidence of good systems and practice in relation to the assessment and ongoing support of children who were being considered for adoption, prospective and approved adopters, birth parents and people receiving adoption support and intermediary services. 

13.        Whilst nearly all carers surveyed were positive about their contact with and the support from the adoption team, the review highlighted that prospective carers wait too long before their assessment begins due to insufficient availability of pre-approval training. 

14.        The review noted a concern about significant staff changes and the effect of this on morale in the adoption team although in other parts of the service staff morale appeared good.  Staff reported that there was effective leadership, clarity of direction and expectation from senior and first line mangers who are both approachable and accessible.

15.        The recommendations in the report and the action plan setting out the Council's response are attached at Appendix 1.

Review of the Vale of Glamorgan Fostering Service

16.        It was evident to inspectors that staff within the team were experienced and committed to their roles. Although anxious about the proposed move to Haydock House, staff understood the reasons for the move and were positive about the opportunities to improve the partnership working and communication with the fieldwork teams.

17.        The fostering service had recruited a range of foster carers who they assessed as being capable of providing appropriate placements for the children placed with them.  Information received from carers confirmed that they were aware of relevant policies and procedures and appropriate information was provided in the foster carer's handbook.

18.        However, whilst it was apparent to inspectors that social workers had a clear understanding of their responsibilities under the legislative framework, the need to update the statement of purpose, the children's guide and the foster carer's handbook was identified.  

19.        The difficulties experienced in recruiting to vacant managerial posts were recognised but the review identified the need to make an appointment as soon as possible. 

20.        A number of actions in relation to the provision of services to foster carers were identified including completion of outstanding annual reviews, re-evaluation of processes for reviewing Criminal Record Bureau (CRB) checks and ensuring that foster carers are encouraged and enabled to attend training required for their continued registration with the service.

21.        It was noted during the review that a small number of children outside of the approved age range had been placed with one carer.  The review identified the need to ensure that any placements with foster carers that are outside their conditions of approval are recorded on file and referred to panel for consideration and action.

22.        The increase in demand for kinship and extended family placements is identified as continuing to have an impact on the team's ability to adequately assess applicants within the prescribed six-week timescale. 

23.        The recommendations in the report and the action plan setting out the Council's response are attached at Appendix 2.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

24.        All the identified actions will be achieved within existing resources.  However, completing kinship assessments within prescribed timescales will continue to prove very challenging within current resource levels. 

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

25.        There are no legal implications arising from this report.

Crime and Disorder Implications

26.        There are no crime and disorder implications arising from this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

27.        There are no equal opportunities implications arising from this report.

Corporate/Service Objectives

28.        The Vale of Glamorgan's Corporate Plan 2010-14 has the following priority:

29.        "to improve the availability of appropriate accommodation for at-risk groups of young people".

Policy Framework and Budget

30.        There are no specific policy or budgetary issues arising from this report.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

31.        There are no matters in this report relating specifically to any individual Ward.

Background Papers

Appendices:

1.  CSSIW Inspection report of Adoption within the wider framework of planning for permanence

2.  CSSIW Inspection report of the Fostering Service

Contact Officer

Colette Limbrick, Operational Manager, Children and Young People Services

Officers Consulted

None

Responsible Officer:

Gareth Jenkins, Head of Children and Young People Services

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