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Agenda Item No 6

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

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

 

Report of the Director of Social Services

 

The Council's In-house Fostering Service

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To provide Scrutiny Committee with an overview of the Council's in-house Fostering Service and an opportunity to consider the final draft of the Fostering Service Recruitment Strategy for 2013/14.

Recommendation

That Scrutiny Committee:

 

1.             Notes the contents of the report and endorses the Fostering Service Recruitment Strategy.

Reason for the Recommendation

1.             To ensure that Scrutiny Committee can exercise effective oversight of the Council's statutory functions in relation to providing a Fostering Service and that effective plans are in place to increase the number of foster carers assessed and approved by the Vale of Glamorgan Council in order to meet the demand for placements.

Background

2.             Where children and young people are unable to live within their own families, the Vale of Glamorgan Council aims to provide high quality alternative family placements which will promote the child's well being and development, primarily by means of approved in-house foster carers.

3.             The Vale of Glamorgan Fostering Service is provided by the Placements and Permanency Team based in Haydock House, Barry.  It is responsible for recruiting, assessing, preparing, training and supporting mainstream and relative (or "kinship") foster carers in the Vale.  Mainstream foster carers are those who provide placements for any child subject to their age approval criteria whereas relative foster carers have been approved specifically for a named child or children.

4.             After a period of interim arrangements, the team now benefits from having a permanent Team Manager, who has been in post since June 2012.  Previously a member of the team, she understands the local context and she is committed to driving forward improvements across the service area.

5.             Providing the service is a regulated activity under the Fostering service (Wales) Regulations 2003 and it is subject to annual inspection by the Care and social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW).  The inspection this year took place at the end of February.  The Fostering Service was required to submit a Self Assessment report and this is attached for information at Appendix 1.  The final Inspection Report should be received within six weeks and it will be placed before this Committee.

6.             Under Regulation 42, there is a requirement to complete an annual Review of the Quality of Care provided by the Fostering Service.  The report for 2011/12 is attached for information at Appendix 2.

7.             In addition, the Children and Young People Services Commissioning Strategy 2013 - 18 identifies the need to increase the cohort of in-house foster carers who are able to provide a range of placements (including emergency, respite, sibling groups and parent and child).  In response, a Recruitment Strategy has been developed for the Fostering Service and this is attached at Appendix 3.

Relevant Issues and Options

CSSIW Pre-Inspection Self Assessment 2012/13

8.             In preparation for the CSSIW Annual Inspection, a Self Assessment document has to be submitted and it is used to inform the scope of inspections.  The Self Assessment provides comprehensive details.  It shows that significant work has been undertaken within the Fostering Service to review and revise policies and procedures including the Statement of Purpose, the Foster Carer Handbook and the Children's Guide.

9.             The staff team are skilled and experienced.  Every foster carer has an allocated social worker and receives a minimum of monthly supervision.  In addition, the team provide year round out-of-hours support to carers.

10.        An active Foster Carer Forum meets monthly and senior managers attend.  The Cabinet Member for Children's Services attended the February Forum.  The team facilitates periodic social events including a summer scheme for carers' children and children in placement and a Christmas party.  As a result the links between carers, the team and senior managers have been strengthened.

11.        The Service faces particular challenges in dealing with the financial impact of implementing the National Minimum Allowance rates introduced by the Welsh Government and the extending entitlement policy which allows young people to remain in foster care beyond 18 years of age.

12.        The team are committed to improving the quality of care provided for Looked After Children.  They fully understand the need to recruit more foster carers, to reduce reliance on independent fostering agencies and to help carers in providing good quality care for children and young people (including a growing number whose behaviour can be challenging).

Review of the Quality of Care 2011/12

13.        The Review of the Quality of Care report attached at Appendix 2 follows a format prescribed by CSSIW.  Although it relates to 2011/12, it is a useful means of providing Members with an overview of qualitative and quantitative performance information in the following key areas:

·         numbers of foster carers and range of placements available

·         the recruitment, assessment, approval and review of foster carers

·         Fostering Panel activity

·         training and support of carers and staff

·         complaints and allegations

14.        As at 31.03.12, the Vale of Glamorgan had 82 approved foster carers.  These 51 mainstream carers and 31 relative foster carers provided placements for 124 children and young people.

15.        The percentage of completed annual reviews of foster carers rose from 52% in 2010/11 to 80% for 2011/12 and it has continued to rise to 90% in the current financial year.  This is a significant improvement.

16.        The number of carers assessed and approved fell from 18 in 2010/11 to 8 in 2011/12.  Currently, there are 10 applicants awaiting approval this year and the draft Recruitment Strategy identifies actions to be taken to continue to attract and approve foster carers in the Vale.

17.        There were six allegations made against foster carers, all of which were considered under the All Wales Child Protection Procedures.  The outcomes are detailed at page 8 in the Appendix.

18.        Regulation 42 also requires unauthorised absences of Looked After Children in foster care to be recorded on the child's file and on a central data base.  In 2011/12 there were 9 reported unauthorised absences relating to 6 young people.

19.        In addition, formal consultation is undertaken with foster carers and Looked After Children.  Responses for 2012 were positive with foster carers feeling supported and valued by the Council. Young people were particularly positive about feeling prepared for their foster placement, being supported in placement and being involved in their care planning.

20.        It is anticipated that the Quality of Care Report for 2012/13 will be available for presentation to Scrutiny Committee by June 2013.

Foster Carer Recruitment Strategy 2013/14

21.        The Children and Young People Services Commissioning Strategy 2013 -18 identifies that where children and young people cannot be supported to remain with their birth families, they will be placed with foster carers within the Vale of Glamorgan.  Where demand for placements exceeds that available within the Council service, placements are procured from the Independent Fostering Agencies (IFAs) at significant additional cost and sometimes at some distance from the area.  As a result, a key priority for the Division is to recruit additional in-house carers in order to reduce reliance on IFA placements and to reduce the costs associated with providing services to Looked After Children.

22.        A draft Fostering Service Recruitment Strategy has been developed and this is attached at Appendix 3.  The Strategy identifies four key recruitment priorities for the coming year:

·         Placements for young people aged 11-16 years who present challenging and often aggressive behaviour, who may be non-school attendees and who may have difficulties with alcohol and substance misuse.

·         Foster carers able to provide placements for sibling groups of two or more children.

·         Respite/short breaks placements to support children to remain living at home.

·         Foster carers who are willing to make a commitment to provide accommodation for young people for as long as they may require it.

23.        To achieve these priorities we aim to:

·         increase enquiry rates to the service to 100 per year, using local and regional advertising campaigns;

·         increase the conversion rate of enquiries to assessments by 15-20%;

·         increase the number of carers offering placements for sibling groups by a minimum of two per year;

·         increase the number of carers offering teenage placements by a minimum of two per year;

·         increase the number of carers offering respite/short breaks placements by a minimum of two per year; and

·         reduce the demand for IFA placements by 25%.

24.        The Strategy outlines the planned recruitment campaign.  It includes the use of publicity, the media, advertising, presence at community events and ensuring timely and consistent responses to all enquirers.

25.        Publicity and advertising is the critical first step in the process of recruiting more foster carers.  However, it is just one step and needs to be followed by robust and timely initial screening assessments, access to appropriate training for prospective carers, progression through to full assessment and presentation to Fostering Panel for approval.

26.        In order to achieve the approval of a minimum of six additional foster carers per annum, dedicated capacity for recruitment, training and assessment needs to be built into the Service.  At a time of significant resource pressures, this capacity cannot be found within existing staffing complement.  Through the Social Services Budget Programme, an invest-to-save business case is being developed to request funding from the Corporate Project Fund to provide the additional capacity required.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

27.        The Recruitment Strategy identifies the need to employ an additional Qualified Social Worker on a fixed term contract to act as a Recruitment Officer.  There is provision built in for marketing costs and the funding of assessments by independent social workers.  In total the 'invest-to-save' business case requires £87,000 for 2013/14.  However, through the reduction in use of IFA placements, savings are anticipated and the net figure required is £41k.  Any additional IFA placements which cease or are avoided thereafter will be savings for the Council. 

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

28.        There are no sustainability or climate change implications arising from this report.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

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

Crime and Disorder Implications

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

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

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

Corporate/Service Objectives

32.        The provision of high quality fostering placements clearly links to the Corporate Plan priority for children and young people:

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

·               To ensure that all children and young people have a safe home and community which supports their physical and emotional well being.

Policy Framework and Budget

33.        Endorsing the Fostering Service Recruitment Strategy is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

34.        Fostering is a Council wide priority.  This report has been considered by the Cabinet Member for Children's Services.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

35.        Social Care and Health.

Background Papers

Appendix 1    CSSIW Pre-Inspection Self Assessment

Appendix 2    Review of the Quality of Care report 2011/12

Appendix 3    Fostering Service Recruitment Strategy 2013/14

Contact Officer

Colette Limbrick, Operational Manager, Children and Young People Services.

Officers Consulted

Business Process Re-engineering Team - Resource Management

Placements and Permanency Team Manager

Legal Services

Finance

Responsible Officer:

Phil Evans, Director of Social Services

 

 

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