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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health): 16th January 2012

 

Report of the Director of Social Services

 

Protection of Vulnerable Adults: Six-Monthly Update

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To advise Scrutiny Committee regarding:

  • progress in implementing the All-Wales Procedures for the Protection of Vulnerable Adults;
  • the Vale of Glamorgan Area Adult Protection Committee (AAPC) Annual Report 2010 - 2011;
  • the approach being adopted by the Welsh Government in considering changes to the partnership arrangements for safeguarding and protecting people at risk.

Recommendations

1.             Members note this report.

2.             Information concerning the work undertaken under the Protection of Vulnerable Adults (POVA) arrangements continues to be reported to the Scrutiny Committee on a six-monthly basis.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.             To increase awareness of the priorities, challenges and risks involved in this crucial area of work.

2.             To ensure effective scrutiny of a key function undertaken by Social Services on behalf of the Council.

Background

2.             Cabinet approved the All-Wales Procedures for the Protection of Vulnerable Adults on behalf of the Vale of Glamorgan Council on 21st February 2011.  The procedures were put into effect on 1st April 2011 and progress with implementation is set out later in this report.

3.             Each year the Vale of Glamorgan AAPC produces an Annual Report bringing together contributions from member agencies, summarising the activity undertaken during the year and the challenges going forward.  The AAPC published the Annual Report 2010-2011 in September and a copy of the report is attached at Appendix 1.

4.             On 18th October, the Deputy Minister for Children and Social Services issued a written statement updating Members of the Welsh Assembly on progress in developing a new approach to safeguarding and protecting people in Wales, especially in respect of collaboration and multi-agency working.  A copy of the statement is attached at Appendix 2.

5.             The Deputy Minister confirmed that the administration intends to bring forward a Social Services (Wales) Bill in 2012, to deliver a coherent Welsh legal framework for social services.  The Bill will provide a delivery mechanism for implementing key aspects of the Welsh Government's agenda for safeguarding and protection. Formal consultation on the safeguarding and protecting people aspects of the Bill will start in early 2012.

6.             Key aspects of the proposed changes include:

  • establishing on a statutory footing an independently chaired National Safeguarding Board, initially in shadow form;
  • replacing the current Local Safeguarding Children Boards and non- statutory adult protection committees, based on local authority boundaries, with Safeguarding & Protection Boards that match the proposed Public Service Delivery footprint of six regions;
  • changing the law about contributions from partners to the resources and capacity needed to run the new regional Boards;
  • leaving the Boards with discretion about appointing an independent chair;
  • reducing complexity by simplifying the current law in core areas such as assessment and care planning, reducing the burdens for frontline practitioners and freeing them up to use their professional judgement;
  • when the legal requirements are in place, reviewing the current statutory guidance – In Safe Hands and Working Together – with the aim of reducing current levels of prescription and guidance.

Relevant Issues and Options

7.             Very good progress has been made in implementing the All-Wales Procedures for the Protection of Vulnerable Adults.  The Designated Lead Managers (DLMs) in the Vale of Glamorgan Vale meet regularly to review the position.  The South Wales Safeguarding Adults Strategic Management Board has also amended some of the key paperwork to ensure it provides a robust method of recording decision-making and outcomes.  This has resulted in agreement of standards for recording across South Wales, with individual local authorities taking on responsibility for achieving these standards. 

8.             Social Services in the Vale of Glamorgan have pioneered work to introduce single agency and multi-agency audits to check compliance with the procedures.  Recent audits undertaken by Social Services alone and by Social Services in collaboration with Health and the Police have confirmed a good overall level of compliance and provided clear evidence of agencies working together to identify and reduce risk.  The audits have also identified where practice needs to improve and enabled agencies to respond swiftly in making the changes required.  Examples in Social Services include improvements to the referral and mapping form and the development of a checklist for DLMs, both scheduled for implementation in January 2012.

9.             Following a review in December 2010 of the document that sets out how Protection of Vulnerable Adults referrals are managed across the Directorate, Social Services also monitor the allocation of referrals.  All referrals are received and logged by the Central Designated Lead Manager (DLM) before being routed to the appropriate team.  Where referrals relate to residential homes, colleges and nursing homes, the Central DLM retains responsibility.  Where referrals relate to abuse in other settings (whether by a neighbour, family member, friend or professional), responsibility is passed to the DLM within the appropriate Adult Services team.  Changing these arrangements has been successful in addressing workload issues in respect of the Central DLM and reintroduced opportunities for the post holder to mentor and support other staff.

10.        Monitoring of referral trends has also identified the highest number of referrals allocated to the Adult Services teams relate not as predicted to learning disabilities and mental health but to older people.  This has created additional pressures within these teams, particularly at a time when DLM capacity has been reduced because of vacancies. Central DLM resources have been redirected to provide interim support while recruitment takes place.  Referral trends, together with the allocation framework, will be considered as part of ongoing reviews of the system for allocation.

11.        The AAPC has continued to work collaboratively in taking forward the mult-agency and multi-disciplinary agenda needed to protect vulnerable adults. Its Annual Report for 2010-2011 includes commitment statements and summary reports from each member agency, an overview of local, regional and national developments and the referral data for 2010-2011.  This data was reported to Scrutiny Committee in June 2011 as part of the previous six-monthly update report. 

12.        The referral data for 2010-2011 highlighted that the number of Protection of Vulnerable Adults (POVA) referrals received by the Vale of Glamorgan increased from 282 in 2009-2010 to 288 in 2010-2011.  Organisations that provide care to service users made the most referrals. The highest numbers of referrals concerned allegations of neglect.  Of the 288 referrals received during the year, the outcomes were as follows:

  • 129 or 45% were closed;
  • 34 or 12% were inappropriate for the Protection of Vulnerable Adults process and were signposted elsewhere,
  • 51 or 18% were proved, admitted or likely on balance to have occurred;
  • 41 or 14% were considered to be unlikely or on balance, disproved, or the investigation was inconclusive;
  • 1% of all allegations were withdrawn.

13.        Current referral data for 2011-2012 is suggesting a reduction in the number of referrals, although this would be best considered over a full year.  The relevant figures for 2011-2012 will be reported to Scrutiny Committee in the next six-monthly update in June/July 2012.

14.        The Deputy Minister has reported that the detail of her proposals for safeguarding and protection has been informed by evidence from a wide variety of sources, including the Independent Commission on Social Services, the Welsh Safeguarding Children Forum and the Adult Protection Group, and the Health, Wellbeing and Local Government Committee. The Welsh Safeguarding Children Forum reported in August and she has now made the report available; a copy is attached at Appendix 3

15.        In setting an overall direction for change, many of the proposals have considerable merits and there is a clear need for reform.  However, more detail is required.  Additionally, it remains to be seen whether the new arrangements for engaging with local government (through the Partnership Forum for Social Services and the Leadership Group) in taking forward the overall agenda for change set out in the Welsh Government’s ten-year strategy Sustainable Social Services: A Framework for Action will be effective mechanisms for ensuring genuine collaboration. 

16.        It is evident already that there is no consensus as yet about the proposals for regional Safeguarding & Protection Boards.  WLGA and ADSS Cymru have worked together to produce a joint local government response to ‘Sustainable Social Services: A Framework for Action’.  It stresses that:

  • both organisations remain unconvinced about the likely benefits of a regional layer alongside national and local arrangements in achieving better safeguarding outcomes;
  • the final report of the Welsh Safeguarding Children Forum does not acknowledge adequately the lack of consensus around the shape of any regional structure or reflect the weak evidence base for the proposed model; 
  • boards for adults and children should remain separate, reflecting the very different legal and policy framework attached to the protection of children and vulnerable adults; and
  • the Welsh Government should explore how far some of the recommendations in the Munro Report into Child Protection arrangements in England may help to achieve the improvements needed.

17.        The Deputy Minister expects that, in advance of the legislation, Local Safeguarding Children Boards will begin planning for the change and move on to a collaborative model as soon as possible. The functions of LSCBs as prescribed in regulation will remain unchanged in the interim. The consultation period around the Bill will enable discussion and planning with stakeholders the changes to current adult protection arrangements.  

18.        Anticipating the debate about regional partnership arrangements for safeguarding and protecting people at risk, the Vale of Glamorgan LSCB and the Area Adult Protection Committee have taken a 'twin track' approach.  There has been dialogue with the equivalent bodies in Cardiff about options for closer working together, including exploration of the benefits and risks associated with a full merger.  Simultaneously, they have sought to strengthen ties with the regional bodies for safeguarding children and adults that operate to South Wales Police boundaries.  Both the LSCB and the AAPC will need to decide whether this is an appropriate strategy in the light of changing circumstances, including the Deputy Minister's expectation about moving on to a collaborative model in advance of legislation.  The Council's representatives on these bodies will be engaged in the ongoing debate and Scrutiny Committee will be provided with updated information in advance of any changes in approach, to ensure that there is a clear mandate for any proposed changes.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment and Climate Change if appropriate)

19.        There are no direct financial implications arising from this report.  Social services have absorbed the increased workload brought about by rising numbers of adult protection referrals and the more rigorous requirements introduced by the All Wales Procedures.

20.        Both the LSCB and the AAPC in the Vale of Glamorgan depend heavily on the Council, especially the Social Services Directorate, for the resources and capacity required to operate effectively.  The proposed legislation is intended to clarify how other partners are expected to contribute to the resources needed to run the proposed new regional Boards.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

21.        This report demonstrates that the statutory responsibilities of the Social Services Directorate on behalf of the Council are being fulfilled.

Crime and Disorder Implications

22.        The Protection of Vulnerable Adults arrangements include a responsibility for safeguarding people from abusive acts, which may require investigation as criminal offences.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

23.        All people in the Vale of Glamorgan have the right to live their lives free from violence and abuse.  This right is underpinned by the duty on public agencies under the Human Rights Acts (1988) to intervene proportionately to protect the rights of citizens.  Any adult at risk of abuse or neglect should be able to access public organisations for appropriate interventions which enable them to live a life free from violence and abuse.

Corporate/Service Objectives

24.        In fulfilling responsibilities for safeguarding vulnerable adults, Social Services help to meet the following corporate objective:  “To make the Vale a safe, healthy and enjoyable place in which individuals, children and families can live their lives to the full.”

Policy Framework and Budget

25.        The report is in accordance with the Council’s policy framework and budget.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

26.        There are no matters in this report which relate to an individual Ward.

Background Papers

All-Wales Procedures for the Protection of Vulnerable Adults

Contact Officer

Carys Lord, Head of Business Management and Innovation

 

Officers Consulted

 

None

Responsible Officer:

Philip J. Evans,

Director of Social Services.

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