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Agenda Item No

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health): 5th November, 2012

 

Report of the Director of Social Services

 

Proposed merger of the Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs)

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To seek agreement in principle to the proposed merger of the Vale of Glamorgan LSCB and Cardiff LSCB.

Recommendations

1.             That Scrutiny Committee endorses in principle a merger of the two Boards.

2.             That Scrutiny Committee refers the report to Cabinet, recommending executive endorsement in principle for the merger.

3.             That Scrutiny Committee receives a further report when detailed proposals about arrangements for running a merged LSCB have been developed.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1. & 2.To achieve agreement in principle across the two Local Authority areas so that

           work can be undertaken to produce detailed proposals regarding arrangements

           for running a merged LSCB.

3.         To ensure that elected Members continue to exercise effective oversight of this

           important change in arrangements for safeguarding children.

Background

2.             As required by the Children Act 2004, the Vale of Glamorgan LSCB and the Cardiff LSCB were established in October 2006, replacing the Area Child Protection Committee in each local authority.

3.             The objectives of an LSCB are to:

·         co-ordinate what is done by each person or body represented on the Board for the purposes of safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children in the area of the authority by which it is established; and

·         ensure the effectiveness of what is done by each such person or body for those purposes.

4.             In the Vale of Glamorgan, constituent agencies of the LSCB include:

·         The Vale of Glamorgan Council

·         Cardiff and Vale University Local Health Board

·         Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Local Health Board

·         South Wales Police

·         The Wales Probation Trust

·         Vale of Glamorgan Youth Offending Service

·         National Public Health Service

·         Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) Cymru

·         NSPCC.

5.             Social services will always be pivotal to the effectiveness of the LSCB arrangements but all the constituent agencies recognise that a consistent multi-agency approach is needed to ensure robust safeguarding arrangements.  It is essential that all key safeguarding agencies keep an equal and diligent focus on arrangements to protect children. 

6.             On 18th October 2011, the Deputy Minister for Children and Social Services made a written statement (see Appendix I), announcing that the current configuration of LSCBs on a local authority footprint should move to a regional grouping based upon the Public Service Delivery model.  It was her intention to include this as one of the measures to be taken forward through the Social Services (Wales) Bill.  In advance of the legislation being put in place, the Deputy Minister expressed an expectation that LSCBs will begin planning for the change into the wider collaborative model as soon as possible. 

7.             Exactly one year later, the Deputy Minister made a further written statement (see Appendix II) in reply to consultation responses to the proposed legislation that specifically dealt with the safeguarding aspects.  She agreed to ensure more robust funding arrangements for Boards and to undertake further work to understand the advantages of Boards having independent Chairs so that they can so that they can make more informed choices in this matter (rather than prescribing a uniform approach through legislation). The Deputy Minister continued to urge all LSCBs to make significant progress in achieving a regional model, thereby ensuring that all the risks have been properly assessed and discharged before the legislation requires the change.

Relevant Issues and Options

8.             The separate LSCBs in the Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff have agreed to look at a potential merger, to form a single regional board.

9.             The Rhondda Cynon Taff and Merthyr LSCBs have already merged to form the Cwm Taff LSCB and that the LSCBs in Neath Port Talbot, Bridgend and Swansea are planning to merge in April 2013.

10.        It is anticipated that considerable benefits could be achieved by merging the LSCBs.  It would help to ensure consistent alignment of policy, process and practice across all the organisations at a regional level, assisting professionals to work together more effectively in safeguarding children.  There would be opportunities to avoid duplication and to share resources.  For example, a merger would enable the LSCBs to make better use of the staff who help to manage the work of the boards and to secure more consistent levels of support from constituent agencies (by way of contributions to the budget and providing facilities as payment in kind).  This would need to take account of the comparative sizes of the two local authority areas.  In reducing commitments to meetings and task groups, there are clear benefits for the Cardiff & Vale University Health Board, Probation, the NSPCC, Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS) Cymru, etc.  This is less apparent in the case of the local authorities and the police divisions, although agreements between them about shared representation would have merit.

11.        Locally, the Vale of Glamorgan and the Cardiff LSCBs have some of their constituent agencies in common and a number of agencies are represented by the same person on both boards.  Current arrangements are closely aligned.  For example, the boards have a similar structure which includes standing Sub-Groups and Task and Finish Groups.  The Training Sub Group has been a merged operation for some time and this joint work has been very successful.  More recently, the Vale Policy and Procedure Sub Group has included some representation from Cardiff.  A number of operational policies have been developed jointly.

12.        However, there are major challenges too.  Detailed agreement would be needed in areas such as:

·         membership;

·         governance and accountability;

·         structures;

·         staffing;

·         funding;

·         integrated work plans;

·         links to other partnership structures in each local authority area;

·         links to any strategic group operating to a South Wales Police boundary;

·         performance management, audit and quality assurance;

·         citizen engagement – children, young people and others; and

·         political oversight and scrutiny.

13.        Both LSCBs have agreed to consider the possibility of appointing an Independent Chair to chair the LSCB, as is current practice in England.  Currently, the Director of Social Services chairs the Vale LSCB and the Executive Director (Nursing) from the Cardiff and Vale UHB is the Vice Chair.  The perceived benefits of an Independent Chair are that (s)he would:

·         be independent of statutory services so the board can exercise its local challenge function more effectively;

·         provide a consistent approach and allocate time to commit to their role without other conflicting demands;

·         strengthen the governance and accountability arrangements of the board;

·         ensure the board operates effectively and exercises its functions as set out in the Children Act and statutory guidance;

·         quality assure safeguarding processes;

·         provide direction on issues arising from serious case reviews; and

·         ensure key national, regional and local issues are bought to the attention of the LSCB.

14.        Both boards are confident that the work to resolve outstanding issues can be achieved in time for a merger by April 2013, if this is approved.  The next step is for each constituent agency to agree a merger in principle so that a detailed work programme can be produced. The Chairs of both LSCBs have written to agency representatives asking for this commitment.  In due course, a more detailed proposal will be produced as the basis for a final decision.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

15.        Merging the LSCBs provides opportunities to avoid duplication and to share resources.  It is not anticipated the Vale of Glamorgan's resource commitment to a merged board would increase.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

16.        There are no sustainability and climate change implications arising directly from this report.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

17.        The Children Act 2004 requires the local authority to have a LSCB.  Duties of the local authority to ensure that children are properly safeguarded and protected from harm are set out in legislation.  Section 28 of the Children Act 2004 imposes a duty on local authorities to make arrangements for ensuring that their functions are discharged having regard to the need to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.

18.        There are important governance issues to be considered as part of merged arrangements.  If a merger is agreed, legal advice will be sought throughout.

Crime and Disorder Implications

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

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

20.        There are no equal opportunity implications as a direct result of this report.

Corporate/Service Objectives

21.        The programme of work set out in this report would assist the Council in meeting the following corporate objectives:

·         "Safeguard the wellbeing of vulnerable children and young people so that they have a healthy life, physically and emotionally, which is free from abuse, victimisation and exploitation and homes which support their physical and emotional wellbeing".

Policy Framework and Budget

22.        This is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

23.        There are no implications for individual Wards as a direct result of this report.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

24.        Social Care and Health

Background Papers

None.

Contact Officer

Philip Evans, Director of Social Services

Officers Consulted

Corporate Management Team

Responsible Officer:

Philip Evans, Director of Social Services

 

 

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