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Agenda Item No

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health): 8th September, 2015

 

Report of the Director of Social Services

 

Update on How the Council is Managing Increased Demand for Family Support Services

 

Purpose of the Report

  1. To update Scrutiny Committee on how the Council is meeting the challenges of increased demand for family support services.

Recommendation

That Scrutiny Committee:

  1. Notes the approach taken to provide appropriate levels of family support services and to manage growing demand, especially within the service provided by the Families Achieving Change Together (FACT) team.

Reason for the Recommendation

  1. To ensure that Members are kept informed about service developments.

Background

  1. The Commissioning Strategy for Children and Young People Services 2013-2018 set out how the Council and its key partners intends to meet the well-being and social care needs of children, young people and their families within the resources available. It describes the tiered model of services that is in place to guide the way in which resources are allocated and to help with decision-making in individual cases. This model is outlined in Appendix 1.
  2. Work to implement the model within Children and Young People Services and in partnership with other directorates across the Council, the NHS, the third sector and the independent sector has produced significant results. By ensuring a focus on early intervention and preventative action across all service provision for children, we have been able to support families to stay together and to reduce the need for children to be looked after. This has helped us to manage demand for care and support at lower levels of intensity/intrusiveness.
  3. We recognise that some of the difficulties which children and young people experience are a consequence of factors affecting other members of the family. On the basis of evidence from programmes such as Flying Start, a consensus has emerged that the best way to support families (particularly those in poverty) is through whole-family services which are provided in an integrated way by a range of agencies and professional disciplines and which are tailored to the needs of individual families.
  4. Most family support services are provided through the use of fixed-term grants from Welsh Government which require robust arrangements for partnership working between agencies.

i).      The Families First grant is provided to local authorities to improve outcomes for children, young people and families. Each local authority has to develop a Families First Action Plan which sets out how they will implement the programme locally and contribute towards nationally set outcomes. The Vale of Glamorgan programme currently provides funding for the following projects:

  • FACT team;
  • Raising awareness of welfare rights;
  • Family support programme;
  • Disability focus;
  • Partnership for young parents (expanded to cover all of the Vale);
  • Putting families first;
  • Young people support programme;
  • Young carers;
  • C-Card scheme;

Critical to the success of the Families First programme is the 'Team around the Family' approach, which has been used extensively across the UK. There is good evidence for positive outcomes.

 

ii)         Delivered in disadvantaged areas of Wales, Flying Start is a targeted Early Years programme for families with children under four years of age. The programme is universally available to all eligible children and their families in the areas where it operates. The core elements of the programme are drawn from a range of options that have been shown to influence positive outcomes for children and their families.

 

These include:

  • free quality, part-time childcare for two-three year olds;
  • an enhanced health visiting service;
  • access to parenting programmes; and
  • early language development.

iii)        The Integrated Family Support Service (IFSS) helps families to stay together by encouraging them to take positive steps to improve their lives. Referrals are made to the service when there are concerns about the welfare of children, such as:

  • substance misuse;
  • domestic violence or abuse;
  • history of violent or abusive behaviour;
  • mental health issues.

Families who experience such difficulties might be at risk of having their children placed into care or having their names placed on the Child Protection Register. IFSS works with families to help them to make positive changes so that any concerns are reduced and children can stay safely at home. It provides targeted support and helps connect children and adult services, focusing on the family as a unit.

 

iv)        The Communities First Programme provides funding to narrow the economic, education/skills and health gaps between the most deprived and more affluent areas.

 

The three strategic objectives helping to achieve these outcomes:

  • prosperous communities;
  • learning communities;
  • healthier communities.

v)         The Youth Engagement and Progression Framework aims to reduce the number of young people at risk and not in education, employment or training (NEET). The framework is based around six component elements that aim to:

  • identify young people most at risk of disengagement;
  • provide better brokerage and co-ordination of support;
  • provide stronger tracking and transition of young people through the system;
  • ensure provision meets the needs of young people;
  • strengthen employability skills and opportunities for employment;
  • provide greater accountability for better outcomes for young people.
  1. A multi-agency Management Board oversees Flying Start and Families First. Membership comprises representatives of the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board (UHB), the Vale Centre for Voluntary Services (VCVS), Learning & Skills (which also leads on the 14-19 initiative) and Children and Young People Services (which also leads on the IFSS).
  2. A 'Poverty Alignment Group' looks at common features, joint working and closer alignment of project delivery and project outcomes, in line with Welsh Government's suggested direction of travel. This has already led to the development of a Parenting Learning Set, which seeks to ensure that a consistent level of training and support is made available to professionals and that provision is properly responsive to the needs of parents.

Relevant Issues and Options

  1. It is critical to the success of the Council's strategy that the overall range of services commissioned or delivered by the Council is responsive and flexible enough to meet varying levels of need and demand. This means avoiding long waiting lists or insufficient throughput within services. However, it is nearly always the case that demand for family support exceeds supply; this is becoming even more apparent with growing levels of family poverty and breakdown. There have been particular difficulties in managing demand for the FACT team.
  2. To some extent, this is a consequence of the team's success in providing very good quality family support services. It has generated a significant rise in the number of direct referrals. This issue has been noted by Welsh Government in respect of other services based upon Team around the Family approaches, although they have yet to release guidance or act to address these concerns. It is possible too that reductions in other services and resources means less preventative work is being done with families and hence more referrals are being made to FACT.
  3. This rising referral rate in respect of FACT is demonstrated in the table below:

2013/14

Number of referrals

Qtr1

80

Qtr2

53

Qtr3

71

Qtr4

85

Full year total

289

   

2014/15

Number of referrals

Qtr1

82

Qtr2

82

Qtr3

71

Qtr4

79

Full year total

314

   

2015/16

 

Qtr1

82

   
  1. In response to the high level of referrals, the team have been undertaking visits to all referring partners (including schools and head teachers meetings) to raise awareness of what constitutes an appropriate referral. Alongside changes to the referral form in September 2014, these meetings are helping to improve the standard of referrals and enable more appropriate allocation of FACT resources.
  2. There is a very real issue also regarding the increasing complexity of referrals, requiring the FACT team to work at a higher threshold than Welsh Government guidance had originally intended. Again this is a national experience across Wales and not particular to the Vale. A national report is scheduled for September, 2015.
  3. The success of FACT is judged by the distance measured tools used by the team (JAFF scores and Outcome Star) which demonstrate whether the service improves the key issues identified at initial assessment, Because the families referred demonstrate increasingly complex issues, members of FACT are working with them longer. There is an inherent challenge for the team in deciding whether to close cases more quickly and not achieve the positive changes or continue the work until the outcomes are achieved. In summary, where statutory services tend to focus on working with families to reduce risk, FACT are working on lowering risk as well as improving outcomes and emotional wellbeing for the whole family.
  4. To ensure that referrers themselves do not stop working with families the FACT team no longer holds a waiting list. Recognising that there has been a move away from the Tier 2 referrals where FACT should be focusing, the Families First Management Board allocated resources to pilot a new Resource Panel, which started in November 2014. Where families referred to FACT were assessed as being below the team's current threshold they would be referred to the Resource Panel. This operated until March 2015 as a trial to:
  • identify which partners could/should provide alternative support;
  • challenge partners to ensure that they are supporting children and families in line with their statutory duties;
  • help inform planners where there are genuine gaps in provision for further consideration by the Families First Management Board.
  1. The resource panel met on several occasions. The intention was to target a small number of families, looking at what family support was required following an assessment by the designated worker and what could be offered to support the family. The process proved cumbersome and unproductive as it became obvious referrers felt this was just another route to FACT, even though it was chaired by an independent officer and it was made very clear at all points that the referring agency should maintain oversight of the family.
  2. After three formal meetings it became clear that, as a model, this was unproductive. Referring agencies stopped referring once they realised this would not lead to another organisation intervening and taking responsibility for supporting the family.
  3. During the pilot of the Resource Panel, alternative models of delivery were explored and contributed to the final Resource Panel Evaluation. This looked at both local and national models of handling high demand for services, especially family support. The report was presented to the Families First/Flying Start Management board in March 2015. It decided to end the Resource Panel pilot and to pilot instead a signposting service aimed at Tier 2 demand. This phone line service will seek to take initial requests for referral to FACT and offer information, support and advice prior to signposting professionals and families to available services or confirming the need for an assessment. This should reduce the need to refer to FACT. The 'Families First Advice Line' is under development and it should be live from August 2015 until March 2016. An evaluation of the service and its impact on FACT referrals will be ongoing during this pilot period.
  4. The Families First Plan is delivering 11 effective projects. Since 2012/13, there has been an increase of 63% in the number of families benefiting from Families First services and an increase of 80% in the number of children and young people.
  5. Families First has worked closely with Communities First and Flying Start to ensure families receive seamless and holistic services, not restricted by age and geography. Across these partnerships some of the projects funded through Families First have been expanded through the secondment of Communities First staff helping to deliver the same family support models (Transitions and Putting Families First). Another Families First project, the Family Support Programme, is managed by Flying Start; this project provides a Flying Start model of delivery to an area that is not yet eligible for Flying Start funding. As a consequence, the Vale has been able to expand successful projects and increase the numbers of children, young people and families receiving a service. This model of working, pioneered in the Vale and joining up the three main poverty-related grant programmes, is now being promoted at a national level.
  6. By targeting the projects it funds in order to help children and young people most at risk, Families First makes a significant contribution to the developing Youth Engagement and Progression Framework (YEPF). Much of this work is delivered in conjunction with the Youth Service. The YEPF is auditing current provision and implementing mechanisms for early identification of those most at risk. Once identified, a key worker will be assigned and referral to support systems made, again seeking to reduce the need for more intensive forms of provision.
  7. From April 2014 to March 2015, a total of 737 young people categorised as NEET were positively engaged through Communities First, G2E, the Young Parents Partnership, Llamau, Glamorgan Volunteer Services, ACT and the People Business Wales.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

  1. Most family support services are provided through use of fixed-term Welsh Government grants. An indicative Families First grant of £1,534,990 has been awarded to the Vale for each year covering the period up to 31st March 2017.
  2. A Flying Start grant of £2,608,000 has been awarded for 2015/16.
  3. A Communities First grant of £581,000 has been awarded for 2015/16.
  4. To date, regional IFSS funding has been provided as a grant directly to Cardiff Council and it is currently £565,000. From April 2015, the grant transferred into the Revenue Support Grant; £280,000 has been allocated to both the Vale of Glamorgan Council and Cardiff Council. The Vale of Glamorgan will be invoiced based on spend.
  5. In the longer-term, it is intended that the grants will achieve cost savings for statutory agencies through reducing demand for higher tier and more specialist services.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

  1. All funded projects are rigorously monitored and evaluated so that opportunities to build upon and sustain the initiatives can be identified.
  2. Grant funded services are dependent upon the continuation of Welsh Government funding. Externally contracted projects are required to have their own exit strategies, involving reduction in scale or the cessation of individual project/s should funding diminish or end. In the longer term, it is envisaged by Welsh Government that consideration will be given to mainstreaming successful elements

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

  1. The development of grant funded services across the Vale to provide inclusive preventative and early intervention support to children, young people and families meets the legislative requirements, including statutes and guidance, across the agencies and is supported through the Welsh Government's Children and Families (Wales) Measure.
  2. Contracts/service level agreements are in place with providers delivering family services which set out clear roles, responsibilities and targets for the delivery of activities.

Crime and Disorder Implications

  1. There are no direct crime and disorder implications as the result of developing these services, although their preventative nature is likely to have a positive impact on children, young people and families.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

  1. There are no equality issues as a result of the development of this service. Referrals are accepted for all children, young people and families as deemed appropriate by the Welsh Government Guidance on delivering the provision. Use of the funding differentiates between various service user groups on the basis of need, including carers and disabled children.

Corporate/Service Objectives

  1. The funding address the following corporate objectives: 'to ensure children and young people are not disadvantaged by poverty' and to 'coordinate, preventative and early intervention services for families in the greatest need including Flying Start, Families First and Intensive Family Support Services'.

Policy Framework and Budget

  1. Families First, Flying Start, Communities First and the Intensive Family Support Service are Welsh Government funded initiatives supported through the Children and Families (Wales) Measure.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

  1. The Children and Young People Partnership Board agreed allocation of the available Families First grant in line with the priorities of the Vale of Glamorgan's Community Strategy and Welsh Government grant criteria. The Board comprises officers and representatives from a range of public bodies and the voluntary sector.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

  1. Social Care and Health

Background Papers

Report to the Social Care and Health Scrutiny Committee 16th June 2014: Update on the development of Families First Services

Contact Officer

Rachel Evans, Head of Children and Young People Services

Officers Consulted

Children and Young People Partnership Manager

FACT Manager

Operational Manager, Finance

Responsible Officer

Philip Evans, Director of Social Services

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