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Agenda Item No. 10

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health): 15th July 2013

 

Report of the Director of Social Services

 

Vale of Glamorgan Council Fostering Service

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To provide Scrutiny Committee with an overview of the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) Annual Inspection 2012/13 and the Review of Quality of Care Report for 2012/13.

2.             To update Scrutiny Committee on the implementation of the Foster Carer Recruitment Strategy 2013-14.

Recommendations

That Scrutiny Committee:

 

1.             Notes the positive findings of the CSSIW Annual Inspection; 

2.             Notes the content of the Quality of Care report and;

3.             Supports implementation of the Foster Carer Recruitment Strategy.

Reason for the Recommendations

1,2 & 3.To assure Scrutiny Committee that the Council's statutory functions in relation to providing a Regulated Fostering Service are fully met in accordance with legislation and guidance and to provide an update on progress with implementing the Foster Carer Recruitment Strategy.

Background

3.             Under the provisions of the Care Standards Act 2000 and associated Regulations, the Care and Social Services Inspectorate for Wales (CSSIW) undertakes an annual inspection of Local Authorities which provide a Fostering Service.  The inspection for the Vale of Glamorgan took place during February and March and the inspection report is attached at Appendix 1.

4.             Under Regulation 42, there is a requirement to complete an annual Review of the Quality of Care provided by the Fostering Service.  The Review report follows a format prescribed by CSSIW.  The report for 2012/13 is attached at Appendix 2.

5.             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).  A Foster Carer Recruitment Strategy was endorsed by this Scrutiny Committee in March 2013.  In addition, the Corporate Project Fund is being used on an invest to save basis to provide the additional capacity required by the Fostering Service to increase recruitment activity and to assess and approve more foster carers.

Relevant Issues and Options

CSSIW Annual Inspection of the Fostering Service

6.             At the time of the Inspection in March 2013, the Fostering Service was supporting 52 mainstream and 24 relative foster carers living in Wales and 2 relative foster carers living outside Wales. 

7.             At the same time, 184 children and young people were Looked After by the Council.  

8.             The Inspectors concluded that the Fostering Service:

·               is effectively managed;

·               is child centred;

·               has good systems for consultation;

·               provides good support and guidance to foster carers; and

·               has good systems to inform placement making and matching.

9.             A number of improvements made since the 2012 Inspection are also validated.  These include: better communication between Children’s Services Teams; improved staff motivation, management practice and systems (for placement making and matching and for monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of the service).

10.        The inspectors identify only one area for improvement, which is to further develop systems to understand the degree to which placements meet the needs of children in accordance with their care plans and foster placement agreements.  It is proposed that this will be addressed by using the statutory Looked After Children review process to improve outcome-focused care planning and to support Independent Reviewing Officers in challengjng appropriately the content of care plans.

Review of the Quality of Care 2012/13 (Regulation 42)

11.        During 2012/13, we have made considerable progress in our foster carer recruitment processes.  New systems for managing and responding to initial enquiries have been implemented; this includes using our experienced foster carers to undertake some initial visits, usually within 7-10 days of the initial enquiry. 

12.        The number of 'choosing to foster' training courses has been doubled and the Fostering Service collaborates with other local authorities to improve access to available training, ensuring that prospective applicants can do so within six weeks.  We expect assessments to be completed within four months and the Fostering Services makes use of independent assessors when team capacity is exceeded. 

13.        In response to a low conversion rate of initial enquiries into approved foster carers in previous years, the Fostering Service has created a monitoring system that tracks  prospective applicants' journey through the recruitment process: initial enquiry – initial visit – training – application & checks – assessment – panel date – approval. This will enable us to analyse the length of time the process is taking, points at which 'drop out' occurs and any emergent themes or patterns.

14.        During 2012/13, there has been a 16% decline in the number of enquires made to the Fostering Service compared to the previous year.  The new Recruitment Strategy is being implemented and this year will see an increase in marketing and recruitment activity in an attempt to address the decline and increase the number of initial enquiries to the service.

15.        Despite receiving fewer applications to foster during 2012/13, the Fostering Service has made significant improvements in assessment and approval activity this year.  Consequently, the overall number of new carers approved this year more than doubled, from 7 in 2011/12 to 15 for 2012/13.  Within this overall figure, the number of mainstream carers approved has seen an even greater increase, from 2 to 8.  

16.        In respect of mainstream (i.e. non-kinship) foster carers, during 2011/12 the Fostering Service approved 2 foster carers from 68 enquiries which equates to a conversion rate of 3%.  This year, the approval of 8 mainstream foster carers from 57 enquiries, demonstrates an increase in conversion rate to 14%, which is in line with the national average.

17.        There has been a decrease in the number of de-registrations and resignations in 2012/13 (18) compared to 2011/12 (26).  There were 11 de-registrations of kinship carers, 7of which were a result of the carers obtaining a Special Guardianship Order for the young people placed.  This reduced the number of looked after children last year by 12.  The other 4 kinship deregistrations occurred because the placement was no longer required.  There were 7 de-registrations/resignations of mainstream foster carers during 2012/13: 3 were due to the retirement of the foster carers; 3 resigned following an investigation of a complaint or allegation; and 1 because their circumstances had changed and they no longer wanted to foster.  The number of de-registrations varies little from the 6 that took place in 2011/12.  The reasons for de-registrations remain similar from year to year and the data shows a very high level of stability and retention in respect of mainstream (non-kinship) carers. 

18.        The population of looked after children has decreased from 219 (as at 30.03.12) to 184 (as at 29.3.13).  During 2011-12, there were 124 children placed with mainstream and kinship foster carers and currently there are 102. 

19.        Although there has been a very small overall increase in the number of mainstream foster carers this year, the overall number of placements we are able to offer has decreased from 138 places in 2011/12 to 114 places in 2012/13, a loss of 24 places. This is due in part to the fact that newly approved foster carers are initially only approved for one placement until they gain experience while those carers who have resigned were able to offer up to three placements.  In addition, the approval status of some foster carers has decreased following their annual review.  However, there has been a reduction in the number of vacant placements, which have reduced from 26 to 12, demonstrating more efficient use of our resources.  Of the 12 vacancies, 7 are due to the need for specific matching considerations because of another child already in the placement.

20.        There has also been a significant reduction in the number of children placed with Independent Fostering Agencies (IFA) from 41 during 2011/2012 to 30 during 2012/13.  In part, this reduction is accounted for by young people who have moved move to specialist residential care.  Importantly, we have not seen a rise in the use of IFA placements, despite the reduction in the number of in-house placements available. 

21.        To ensure we are meeting need and maximising our capacity,  5 extensions and exemptions were agreed during 2012/13.  Exemptions are used mainly for teenagers, where there is still considerable pressure on placement availability.

22.        The Fostering Service has delivered a 10% increase in the number of foster carer reviews conducted.  At 31/03/13, 94% of foster carers had up to date Annual Reviews/approvals, compared to 84% in 2011-12 and 52% in 2010-11.  Completion of Annual Reviews within timescales remains a priority for the team.

Foster Carer Recruitment Strategy 2013/14

23.        The Foster Carer Recruitment Strategy was reported to this Scrutiny Committee in March 2013.  It established that a key priority for the Division is to recruit additional in-house carers in order to reduce reliance on those procured through Independent Fostering Agencies and to reduce the costs associated with providing services to Looked After Children.  The significant additional cost incurred by placing children and young people with Independent Fostering Agencies (IFA) when demand for placements exceeds that available within the Council service was also noted. 

24.        The Fostering Service is now implementing the Recruitment Strategy and a Recruitment Officer has been appointed through secondment of an experienced social worker from within the Placements and Permanency Team. 

25.        Beginning with Foster Carer Fortnight in May 2013, increased advertising activity has been launched including radio interviews, newspaper features and distribution of new leaflets and posters.  Unfortunately, this has not produced as yet the anticipated increase in expressions of interest in fostering.  Analysis of activity and impact will inform how the Fostering Service and Corporate Communications should implement the future rolling programme of campaign activity.

26.        The Recruitment Strategy is critical to increasing the numbers of foster carers in the Vale of Glamorgan but the Council is also fully engaged in the regional work being undertaken by the South East Wales Improvement Collaborative (SEWIC).  This will focus specifically on wider-scale advertising, recruitment and assessment opportunities.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

27.        Scrutiny Committee will be aware that an 'invest to save' business case was presented with the Recruitment Strategy in March and subsequently received corporate approval.

28.        In total, the 'invest-to-save' business case required £87,000 for 2013/14.  Through the reduction in use of IFA placements, savings are anticipated and the net figure required is £41k.  Direct savings for the Council will accrue from any additional IFA placements which cease or are avoided thereafter.. 

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

29.        There are no sustainability or climate change implications as a result of this report.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

30.        The provision of a quality Fostering Service is mandated by legislation, regulation and guidance.

Crime and Disorder Implications

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

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

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

Corporate/Service Objectives

·               Children and young people are engaged and supported to take full advantage of life opportunities in their community and beyond - Corporate Plan Outcome 2013-17.

·               The Vale of Glamorgan achieves good outcomes for service users and carers through its arrangements to protect vulnerable people and success in promoting independence and social inclusion - Social Services Directorate Service Plan 2013-17.

·               To provide and commission a flexible and affordable range of high quality placements - Children and Young People Services Commissioning Strategy 2013-18.

Policy Framework and Budget

33.        This is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

34.        The provision of a quality Fostering Service is a Council wide responsibility and there are no matters in this report relating specifically to any individual Ward.  The Cabinet Member for Children's Services is routinely updated on service developments.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

35.        Social Care and Health

Background Paper

Social Care and Health Scrutiny Committee : 11.03.13 - The Council's In-House Fostering Service

Contact Officer

Colette Limbrick, Operational Manager, Children and Young People Services

Officers Consulted

Placements and Permanency Team

Head of Children and Young People Services

Responsible Officer

Philip Evans, Director of Social Services

 

 

 

 

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