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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health): 11th February, 2013

 

Report of the Director of Social Services

 

Children and Young People Services - Commissioning Strategy and Action Plan 2013-2018

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To provide elected Members with the opportunity to consider the final draft of the Children and Young People Services Commissioning Strategy and Action Plan 2013-18, attached at Appendix 1.

Recommendations

That Scrutiny Committee:

 

1.             Notes the content of the Children and Young People Services Commissioning Strategy and Action Plan.

2.             Notes the impact that successful delivery of the strategy is intended to have on improving services within the context of achieving agreed savings targets.

3.             Refer this report to Cabinet with a recommendation that it endorses the objectives and principles contained within the document and the action plan.

4.             Refer this report to Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee for information.

5.             Receives regular progress updates on delivery of the action plan.

Reason for the Recommendations

1-5   To provide Elected Members with the opportunity to consider the Commissioning Strategy, to influence the priority areas for future development and to exercise appropriate oversight of this key function for the Council.

 

Background

2.             We know that children and young people looked after by the Local Authority rather than their parents or within their families are among the most vulnerable groups in society.  As their Corporate Parents, it is our responsibility to keep them safe, make sure their experiences in care are positive and improve their life chances.

3.             This Council strives to provide good services to the children in its care and it performs well against the key performance indicators.  However, we remain ambitious to achieve continuous improvement.  Additionally, increasing demand for children and young people to become looked after and for appropriate placements to be found for them has resulted in significant pressures on the budget for Children and Young People Services.  In conjunction with the Social Services Budget Programme, implementing the proposed strategy will help officers to manage appropriately these demands and the associated resource pressures while also delivering service improvements.

4.             Given the need to meet statutory responsibilities and to deal with the significant financial pressures faced by the Council, we need to focus on:

  • preventing children and young people becoming looked after where this is not necessary to safeguard their welfare;
  • enabling those that do come into care to be rehabilitated back to their family network where it is safe to do so; and
  • providing the best possible outcomes for those who remain accommodated.

The Strategy focuses on these three key stages in the "care journey".

Relevant Issues and Options

5.             The Strategy contains four key objectives:

  • To support families to stay together and reduce the need for children to be looked after by ensuring a focus on early intervention and preventative action across all service provision for children, including statutory and independent providers. 
  • To manage risk confidently and provide support at the ‘edge of care’ by making sure that need and risk are accurately assessed and receive the proper response, so that the right children are accommodated at the right time.  This includes supporting families by making private arrangements within their wider family networks.
  • To provide and commission a flexible and affordable mix of high quality placements that meet the diverse range of children’s needs.
  • To give children clearly planned journeys through care which remain focused on achieving care plans; prevent drift; enable them to be reunited with family and friends where possible; provide them with stable placements and opportunities to exit the care system positively.

6.             These objectives are underpinned by the following key principles.

  • The responsibility for meeting the needs of children and young people looked after or at risk of becoming looked after rests across all services for children, including statutory and independent providers
  • The majority of children are most likely to thrive and to achieve good outcomes if they are cared for within their own families.
  • Preventative services and early intervention to support children in need and their families should be provided to give them every chance to stay together.
  • Where children cannot be supported within their immediate family, families will be supported to make private arrangements within their wider family and friendship networks and, where necessary, to make these arrangements permanent through the use of Residence Orders and Special Guardianship Orders.
  • Formal kinship fostering arrangements will be explored as the preferred alternative arrangement where it is necessary for the local authority to share parental responsibility or to intervene in managing risk and protecting children.
  • Where a child’s needs cannot be adequately met through the arrangements described in the principles above, the majority will have their needs best met in a substitute family - preferably with in-house foster carers and, if not, with Independent Fostering Agency carers (wherever possible, living in the Vale of Glamorgan).
  • Residential care placements will be made only where the complexity and challenge of meeting a child or young person’s needs mean they are unable to live within a family setting or where a young person is subject to a Secure Remand.
  • Placements should be local, to enable children and young people to remain in their communities, maintain their networks and minimise disruption in their lives.
  • Placement requests should be defined in terms of the child/young person’s needs. It is the role of the Placement Panel to agree that a child should become looked after and to consider the most appropriate type of placement to meet their needs, with due consideration given to the available resources.
  • All Looked After Children of statutory school age should receive appropriate education provision regardless of their placement and ability to access mainstream schooling.  Providing appropriate support to enable engagement in education is just as important as finding suitable care placements for Looked After Children.
  • Placements should support a positive transition to independence, adulthood, education, employment, training and, where applicable, resettlement back into the community from custodial settings (i.e. enabling young people to succeed in achieving their aspirations).

7.             Developing the Strategy marks the start; it is delivery of the objectives included in it and the actions that will make the difference.  A number of the key actions contained within the Strategy have already been put in place and these are beginning to show positive outcomes. However, successful implementation of the Strategy will require a continuing and coordinated effort that is Council- wide and includes other Divisions and service providers.

8.             The Children and Young People Services Divisional Management Team (DMT) will be responsible for overseeing delivery of the Strategy and the action plan, monitoring the impact on children and their families and driving forward the focus on reducing admissions to care and increasing reunification to family and friends as a key priority for the Directorate.  Scrutiny Committee will receive six-monthly progress updates.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

9.             As stated earlier, the Commissioning Strategy focuses on:

  • preventing the need for statutory interventions and provision of care and accommodation;
  • managing the increasing expectations and demand for help and support;
  • managing the ongoing reductions in budgets and the need to prioritise service delivery to those most in need.

10.        Increased demand for children and young people to be looked after and for appropriate placements to be found can resulted in significant overspends in the budget for Children and Young People Services.  Development of this Strategy has been aligned with the Social Services Budget Programme.

11.        The Strategy has been set within the challenging context of savings which need to be achieved. These savings will require that we focus resources on the delivery of core services, i.e. Child Protection and Looked After Children.  Savings currently under consideration include reductions in staffing levels and preventative family support services. 

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

12.        There are no sustainability and climate change implications as a result of this report.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

13.        Safeguarding vulnerable children and young people including Children in Need, Child Protection and Looked After Children are the statutory responsibility of the Council as set out in the Children Act 1989 and other related legislation and guidance.

Crime and Disorder Implications

14.        There are no crime and disorder implications as a direct result of this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

15.        There are no equal opportunities implications as a direct result of this report.

Corporate/Service Objectives

16.        To support children and young people to enjoy a healthy life free from abuse, victimisation and exploitation.

17.        To ensure that all children and young people have a safe home and community which supports their physical and emotional wellbeing.

Policy Framework and Budget

18.        Endorsing the Commissioning Strategy is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

19.        The provision of appropriate support to safeguard and promote the wellbeing of children and young people is a Vale wide responsibility.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

20.        Social Care and Health

Background Papers

None

 

Contact Officer

Gareth Jenkins, Head of Children and Young People Services

 

Officers Consulted

Corporate Management Team

 

Responsible Officer:

Philip Evans, Director of Social Services

 

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