Agenda Item No

The Vale of Glamorgan Council


Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health): 18th June, 2012


Report of the Director of Social Services


Self-Assessment and Improvement


Purpose of the Report

1.             To outline a new framework for understanding and promoting organisational effectiveness with the Social Services Directorate.


It is recommended that Scrutiny Committee:


1.             Notes the new framework and its use on a pilot basis during 2012-2013.

Reason for the Recommendation

1.             To ensure that Scrutiny Committee is aware of the new framework, to help provide the Social Services Directorate with coherent direction and to improve performance.


2.             In the period 2008 to 2010, the Welsh Government put in place a new approach to performance improvement in social care and to whole authority social services inspection and review.  Key elements of accountability for performance management were transferred from the national centre back to Council members and relevant officers. 

3.             Local authorities have made good use of the new opportunities.  For example, they have developed a comprehensive framework to underpin production of the annual report which Directors of Social Services must publish, describing the effectiveness of social care services in their authority and plans for improvement.  Notwithstanding this progress, there remains a clear risk that the process could be reversed, especially given some recent policy changes which emphasise the need for greater centralisation and control.  It is important, therefore, that local government continues to demonstrate a real commitment to developing an effective and coherent framework for social services when dealing with issues of performance evaluation, benchmarking against best practice and generating positive change in performance standards. 

4.             Reports from CSSIW and other external evaluators confirm that the Vale of Glamorgan is well regarded in this respect.  We make very good use of performance management systems, including the Director’s Annual Report, the annual performance review by the Social Services Inspectorate, individual inspections and review, performance indicators, the Ffynnon system and the annual complaints report.  There are also a number of staff accountability systems and these operate to a high standard - supervision, performance development reviews, appraisals, capability procedures, disciplinary procedures and oversight by professional bodies such as the Care Council.  Corporate and political oversight is acknowledged as being a considerable asset.

5.             We need to continue building on these strong foundations.  Therefore, officers have been working to define the key factors that characterise an effective Social Services Directorate and to place these within a framework that will secure ongoing improvement.  This work is intended to complement other initiatives, such as production of the three-year Change Plan.  There will be a range of specific benefits. 

  • It will help structure some of the self-assessment exercises that underpin the Council's performance improvement framework, including the statutory requirement for the Director to produce an annual report.  
  • Additionally, important stakeholders such as members of Scrutiny Committees will have available explicit and clear statements about what they should expect from the Directorate and how they should evaluate current performance. 
  • Staff will benefit from a coherent set of ideas about what matters most and where change efforts should be focused. 

Relevant Issues and Options

6.             This is not an area where a clear consensus exists.  Evaluating comparative effectiveness and deciding what factors are most important in making the difference are not easy tasks.  One complicating feature is the fact that Social Services have an exceptionally broad remit: supporting people through periods of difficulty and vulnerability; protecting children and adults from abuse or neglect; promoting social inclusion and independence; and acting within local government as champion for those who are most vulnerable and at risk.  Additionally, staff work within a complex legislative and multi-agency environment where social policy requirements are often ambiguous, contested or contradictory.

7.             However, even if definitive answers are not available, there is some helpful evidence. For example, in 'Reviewing Social Services in Wales 1998-2008 - Learning from the Journey', CSSIW and the Wales Audit Office analysed what had been learned about organisational effectiveness from the joint review programmes.  Additionally, to assist CSSIW in their annual performance evaluation of council social services functions, a taxonomy of 'performance descriptors' has been developed.

8.             Managers in the Social Services Directorate have used the material on hand to produce a self-assessment document, set out in Appendix 1, and the star performance chart, set out in Appendix 2.

9.             It is intended that these documents will be used in a number of ways.

  • To provide a clear direction for staff.
  • To assist in production of the Director's Annual Report, service plans and team business plans.
  • To help staff when they are engaged in decision-making within the Directorate.
  • To inform the Council's systems for performance management.
  • To be a part of the induction pack for new staff.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

10.        The Social Services Directorate will ensure that this work is undertaken within available resources.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

11.        There are no legal implications arising directly from this report.

Crime and Disorder Implications

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

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

13.        There are no equal opportunities implications arising out of this report.

Corporate/Service Objectives

14.        Key objectives of the Council addressed by this report are:

  • to make the Vale a safe and healthy place in which individuals, children and families can live their lives to the full; and
  • to manage the Council's workforce, money and assets efficiently and effectively in order to maximise its ability to achieve its service aims.

Policy Framework

15.        This report is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

16.        There are no consultation issues as a direct result of this report.

Background Papers

June 2009 Statutory Guidance on the role and accountabilities of the Director of Social Services, issued under section 7 of the Local Authority Social Services Act 1970.

Contact Officer

Philip Evans, Director of Social Services

Officers Consulted

Corporate Management Team

Responsible Officer

Philip Evans, Director of Social Services