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Agenda Item No. 4

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health): 5th January, 2015

 

Report of the Director of Social Services

 

Report on the National Inspection of Safeguarding and Care Planning Arrangements for Looked After Children and Care Leavers Who Exhibit Vulnerable and Risky Behaviours, Undertaken by the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW)

Purpose of the Report

1.         To update Scrutiny Committee on the CSSIW National Inspection of Safeguarding and Care Planning of Looked After Children and care leavers who exhibit vulnerable and risky behaviours and the findings for the Vale of Glamorgan.

Recommendation

That Scrutiny Committee notes the key messages to emerge from the inspection, including areas of progress and areas for improvement, and the action plan produced in response to the recommendations.

Reason for the Recommendation

To ensure that Members are kept informed about outcomes from independent inspection of social services' performance in the Vale of Glamorgan.

 

Background

2.         The inspection was carried out as part of the CSSIW national thematic inspection programme. The methodology included fieldwork in each local authority across Wales, between January and May 2014.  In the Vale of Glamorgan, the inspection took place in May 2014.

3.         The aim of the national inspection was to assess the quality of care planning across Wales and whether it effectively:

·         supports and protects Looked After Children and care leavers;

·         identifies and manages the vulnerabilities and risky behaviour of Looked After Children and care leavers;

·         promotes rights-based practice and the voice of the child;

·         promotes improved outcomes for Looked After Children and care leavers; and

·         promotes compliance with policy and guidance.

4.         The inspection focused on the work undertaken with Looked After Children over eleven years of age and care leavers who were identified (against defined criteria) as being vulnerable and / or involved in risky behaviours.

5.         Given this focus, it is inevitable that, the case sample for the inspection encompassed some of our most challenging and complex case management issues and represented only a small cohort of the Local Authority’s wider Looked After Children and care leaving population.

6.         As well as inspecting cases in respect of the assessment, care planning and review systems, the inspection also considered:

·         the extent to which the corporate parenting, management and partnership arrangements acted to promote improved outcomes for Looked After Children and care leavers; and

·         how organisational structures including, workforce, resources, advocacy and quality assurance mechanisms impacted on the quality of care planning.

7.         The individual local authority reports have been published by CSSIW on its website and inspectors will be attending Scrutiny Committee to present their findings.  The report for the Vale of Glamorgan is attached at Appendix 1.  Findings from the individual local authority inspections will inform a CSSIW national overview report which is to be published in January 2015.  The outcomes of the Vale of Glamorgan inspection have been considered by Children and Young People Services and an action plan prepared, attached at Appendix 2

Relevant Issues and Options

8.         The inspection considered the areas for scrutiny against the following five questions, identifying positives and areas for improvement in relation to each question:

·         Did the authority effectively discharge its corporate parenting roles and responsibilities promoting the stability, welfare and safety of Looked After Children and care leavers?

·         Were care and pathway plans informed by relevant assessments, including explicit risk assessments, which supported a comprehensive response to the needs and experiences of children and young people?

·         Were operational systems and procedures in place that ensured responsive co-ordinated action was taken to mitigate risk and achieve safe continuity of care?

·         Did Independent Reviews and quality assurance arrangements promote safe care and best outcomes for young people?

·           Did care and pathway planning effectively capture and promote the rights and voice of the child?

9.         In their findings for the Vale of Glamorgan, inspectors noted that Elected Members and senior officers were well informed and evidenced strong commitment to support Looked After Children and young people.  They also noted that there was clear leadership and a positive culture within the management team and commended the stability and commitment of the workforce.  The inspectors recommended strengthening these arrangements though the development of a corporate parenting strategy.  The report noted the challenges associated with providing effective services to young people with emotional and mental health issues.  This is a common challenge across all local authorities in Wales and it is anticipated the national report will make some overarching recommendations in this regard.

10.      The inspection reported positively regarding information sharing and practitioner experience in the management of risk.  Compliance with safeguarding processes was evident and prioritised.  There were some recommendations made in respect of formalising inter-agency relationships to enhance the strong operational interaction taking place.

11.      Inspectors noted that reviews were timely and care plans updated but that plans need to become more outcome-focused.  There was recognition of the efforts to commission a range of accommodation options and a commitment to education for Looked After Children.

12.      The Local Authority's independent reviewing arrangements were compliant with guidance and the inspectors reported positively with regard to timely convening of reviews and good quality assurance arrangements.  It was recommended that the challenge element of the work undertaken appropriately by Independent Reviewing Officers could be strengthened through inclusion on the child's record.

13.      The inspectors noted a number of examples where care and pathway planning effectively captured and promoted the rights and voice of the child.  They felt the Authority could strengthen these arrangements further by giving consideration to whether there could be a more consistent approach to support looked after young people to be engaged in participation and the development and improvement of service delivery.  Again, this could be incorporated in work to put in place a formal corporate parenting strategy and reinforce the work of the Corporate Parenting Panel, perhaps through inclusion of representatives from other agencies such as the NHS.

14.      The report gives proper credit to the stability and commitment of staff within social services.  Members of Scrutiny Committee can be reassured by this positive endorsement from the Inspectorate as we face up to the immense challenges that lie ahead for social services and for the Council.  The findings show that we are building on solid foundations and that we have clear plans for further innovation, especially through mechanisms to increase the range of accommodation options available locally, to maximise our ability to support looked after children within the Vale of Glamorgan.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

15.      There are no resource implications as a direct consequence of this report.  However, implementing Section 6 of the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Act 2014 (including Section 6 which deals with duties towards Looked After and Accommodated Children) in accordance with new regulations, guidance and codes sets a whole range of new challenges.  These will have to be met at a time of severe financial restraints for local government and social services.  It will be difficult to maintain service levels and quality in this context so that we continue to meet the needs of looked after children.  However, the annual evaluation process (also undertaken by CSSIW) has consistently described the Council as having a good track record for managing its resources well.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications

16.      There are no legal implications as a direct result of this report.

Crime and Disorder Implications

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

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

18.      Social care service planning and delivery must take into account "Sustainable Social Services for Wales – A Framework for Action", which is the Welsh Government's ten-year strategy and the 'More Than Just Words' framework, designed to promote a culture and workforce where language choice is offered actively as part of the process of understanding individuals and their needs.  The South East Wales Improvement Collaborative (SEWIC) has agreed to monitor progress made by its constituent local authorities in delivering the strategy.

Corporate/Service Objectives

19.      Social services meets the following corporate objectives:

·         'To make the Vale a safe, healthy and enjoyable 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 it service aims'.

Policy Framework and Budget

20.      These are matters for Executive decision by Cabinet.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

21.      There are no matters in this report which relate to an individual ward.

Background Papers

22.      None.

Contact Officer

Philip Evans, Director of Social Services

Officers Consulted

Corporate Management Team

Responsible Officer

Philip Evans, Director of Social Services