HOMES AND SAFE COMMUNITIES SCRUTINY COMMITTEE

 

Minutes of a meeting held on 13th June, 2018.

 

Present:  Councillor Mrs. C.A. Cave (Chairman); Councillor S.J. Griffiths (Vice-Chairman); Councillors Ms. B.E. Brooks, B.T. Gray, Mrs. S.M. Hanks, M.J.G. Morgan, Mrs. M.R. Wilkinson, M.R. Wilson and Ms. M. Wright.

 

Also present:  Councillors Ms. J. Aviet and L.O. Rowlands; and Mrs. G. Doyle, Mr. A. Raybould and Ms. H. Smith (Tenant Working Group Representatives).

 

 

78            ANNOUNCEMENT –

 

The Chairman took the opportunity to inform members of the response received from Citizens Advice regarding the letter sent requesting their input and future involvement on the Committee.  The Chairman advised that Citizens Advice would be taking a seat on the Committee going forward and that Ms. J. Clay would be attending in a non-voting observer capacity.

 

 

79            APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE – 

 

These were received from Councillor Ms. A.M. Collins and Mr. D. Dutch (Tenant Working Group Representative).

 

 

80            MINUTES –

 

RECOMMENDED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 16th May, 2018 be approved as a correct record.

 

 

81            DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST –

 

No declarations were received.

 

 

82            TENANT ENGAGEMENT STRATEGY (REF) –

 

On 9th October, 2017, Cabinet endorsed a draft Tenant Engagement Strategy subject to further consideration by the Homes and Safe Communities Scrutiny Committee as well as a consultation exercise with Council tenants.  The draft Strategy was considered by Committee on 11th October, 2017 and the public consultation exercise closed on 22nd February, 2018, which meant that the further actions had now been completed. 

 

The Committee was therefore provided with the final revised Tenant Engagement Strategy for public housing which was attached at Appendix A to the reference. 

 

The Head of Housing and Building Services advised that progress with implementing the now finalised Strategy would be measured via the completion of individual actions contained within the Operational Delivery Plan as part of the Strategy document and would be reported to Committee to monitor the range of projects and initiatives taking place on a regular basis. 

 

The Committee agreed to increase the monitoring period for the Tenant Engagement Strategy from six months to annually, with the report next being presented to Committee at the end of the current Municipal year, April 2019. 

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the final Tenant Engagement Strategy attached at Appendix A to the report be endorsed.

 

(2)       T H A T the final Tenant Engagement Strategy be referred to the Homes and Safe Communities Scrutiny Committee on an annual basis to monitor the implementation of the agreed actions.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To agree the final Tenant Engagement Strategy document.

 

(2)       To ensure that Committee is made aware of the progress regarding the agreed actions within the Operational Delivery Plan.

 

 

83            YOUTH OFFENDING SERVICE: 9 MONTHS PERFORMANCE REPORT FOR THE PERIOD APRIL 2017 TO DECEMBER 2017 (DSS) –

 

The Youth Offending Service (YOS) Manager presented the report to inform Committee of the performance of the YOS during the period April to December 2017.  The Officer advised that performance reporting by the YOS was always approximately one quarter behind due to the need for the Youth Justice Board (YJB) to validate data before circulation and therefore more current information was not included in this report. 

 

As part of its grant funding terms and conditions, the YOS was required by the YJB to undertake performance reporting in relation to a number of key performance indicators:

 

National (England and Wales) Indicators

  • reduction in first time entrants
  • reduction in re-offending
  • reduction in use of custody.

Devolved Welsh Indicators

  • engagement with education, training and employment
  • access to suitable accommodation
  • access to substance misuse services.

Local Performance Indicators (agreed by the Vale YOS Management Board)

  • re-offending by young people in the Youth Justice System
  • re-offending by young people starting a Diversion Intervention
  • number of victims participating in Direct Restorative Justice (Statutory Orders and Diversion).

Further statistical data on the National, Devolved and Local Performance  Indicators was included within Appendix 1 of the Officer’s report. 

 

The Officer advised that performance data for First Time Entrants to the Youth Justice system (WYJI 1) was for the 12 months from October 2016 - September 2017.  Performance reflected a 24.3% decrease when comparing figures to October 2015 - September 2016.  However it was worth noting that the figures provided by the YJB differed from the Council’s own local Childview performance information.  Police National Computer (PNC) data was used by the YJB to inform this performance measure so the YOS was currently unable to verify the information as it did not have access to PNC data.  The YJB was reporting that 28 children / young people were within the cohort, but the Council’s own internal performance reporting showed 32 young people in its local cohort.  This remained a decrease from the previous year, but at 13.5% rather than the 24.3% using PNC data.

 

Reduction in re-offending (WYJI 2) continued to be a key priority for the YOS.  The information presented in Appendix 1, produced by the YJB, showed an increase in the binary rate (number of young people reoffending) from 12 reoffenders from a cohort of 19; to 11 reoffenders from a cohort of 15 when comparing January - March 2015 against January - March 2016.  The frequency rate (the number of re-offences committed by young people who re-offend) of re-offending for the same period demonstrated an increase from 3.75 to 4.36.  These figures related to the average number of re-offences committed by the number of children / young people who re-offended within the tracking period i.e. 11 young people re-offending committing 48 re-offences 48/11 = 4.36.

 

The Officer added that it was important to note that the YJB performance data was always approximately 18 months behind.  The Ministry of Justice had changed the methodology for measuring reoffending and there had been a move to a three month cohort rather than a 12 month cohort.  The cohort would still be tracked over 12 months however, changing from annual cohorts to quarterly cohorts resulted in a greater proportion of prolific offenders and hence higher reoffending rates, although both measures showed similar trends over time at a national level.

 

With regards to the local performance information based on a cohort for the period 1st January 2017 – 31st March 2017, in relation to re-offending, showed that both the number of young people offending and the number of re-offences had reduced; 6 of the 21 young people tracked had re-offended within nine months committing a total of 29 offences.  This equated to a re-offending percentage of 28.5%.

 

Appendix 1 to the report also contained additional information to provide an insight into the complex needs of young people within the Youth Justice System and the range of interventions provided by the YOS and its partners to try and address the underlying causes of offending.

 

The Officer was pleased to report that the YOS continued to have a low custodial rate (WYJI 3) during the first nine months from April to December 2017. Three custodial disposals were imposed due to the seriousness of the offence and the offence was treated as joint enterprise, so all young people received a custodial sentence.  When comparing custodial disposals for 2016 the YOS had one disposal compared to three in 2015/16.  This demonstrated that custody was used as a last resort and remains low within the Vale of Glamorgan.

 

In respect of engagement in education, training and employment, (WYJI 4) this indicator had changed and now reflected the number of hours of education a young person had been offered, alongside the number of hours the young person attended the provision.  The information enabled stakeholders to identify if performance was being affected by a lack of suitable provision or if there were attendance issues which needed to be addressed.

 

Data provided by the YJB indicated that during the year to date, young people of statutory school age were offered an average of 10 hours at the start of their intervention, 10 hours at review stage and ended on an average of 11.7 hours.  The average hours attended by young people was less at 8.3 hours at the start and 10 at the end.  The Officer acknowledged that both the hours offered and attended were below the recommended 25 hours and concerns had been raised that there had been no increase in the average number of hours for school age children since 2014/15.

 

Young people above statutory school age were also offered and attended less than the recommended 16 hours provision, with the average hours being attended at the start 10, at review 10.9 and 12.8 at the end. 

 

Further analysis by the YOS indicated that the number of children was low, some of these children had re-offended and were therefore included within the cohort more than once as subject to different interventions, whilst others had multiple complex issues and had exhausted a number of educational placements.

 

Regarding access to suitable accommodation (WYJI 5), the Officer advised that performance continued to be positive.  During the nine month period, 16 young people had a closed community based penalty; all were in suitable accommodation at the start and end of their interventions.  Two young people ended a custodial sentence.  One young person was reported as being in suitable accommodation at the start (50%), however at release and end points both young people were in suitable accommodation (100%).

 

Performance in respect of access to appropriate support for substance misuse difficulties (WYJI 6) demonstrated the majority of young people referred continued to engage in assessment and treatment even if outside of the performance timeframes.

 

Over the year to date, 15 young people were identified as requiring a substance misuse assessment, with 13 young people being referred.  Of these 13 young people, 9 received an assessment within five days from referral (69%).  12 young people were assessed as requiring a service with 11 of these receiving this within 10 days from assessment (92%).  Delays experienced in young people accessing assessment within five workings day were a result of waiting times for Tier 3 services.  The Officer also wished to highlight that delays could be experienced in getting the Young Persons to attend their first appointment but the level of engagement improved following the first appointment.

 

With regards to Access to mental health services, (WYJI 7) the YOS Manager reminded committee that improvement in this area was a key strategic aim of the Welsh Government / YJB Children and Young People First Strategy.  The measure identified if young people were appropriately screened within 28 working days of referral date and where appropriate, received a mental health assessment within 28 working days of screening.  All young people identified as requiring an assessment and treatment received these within the recommended timescales.

 

In conclusion, the Officer addressed the local measure of Victim Participation.  The YOS had a duty to comply with the Victim's Code of Practice and to promote community confidence in the Criminal Justice System.  In order to demonstrate the work undertaken by the YOS in relation to restorative justice, a local performance measure was introduced based on the former YJB measure (no longer in use), i.e. engaging 28% of victims in direct restorative practices.  The Vale of Glamorgan YOS operated a restorative ethos and actively promoted restorative practices, therefore, performance for the nine months to date, demonstrated the YOS was meeting or exceeding this target for the first six months but saw a decline in Quarter 3 due to staff absences.

 

On the final point of the Officer’s presentation, a Member asked for the reason regarding the staff absences and a deadline for when any necessary posts were likely to be filled.  The YOS Manager advised that the staff absence was due to long term sickness and the recruitment process to fill the relevant post had already begun. 

 

A Member referred to page 18 of Appendix 1 and, in particular, to the average hours of education ‘attended’ by Young Persons of statutory school age for the Vale of Glamorgan at 8.3 hours.  The Member shared his great concern regarding this figure, especially in comparison to the figures for the South Wales area and Wales as a whole and requested that greater detail be provided on the obstacles resulting in this figure, especially as the total number of young persons was very small and that there was education provision widely available. 

 

In addition to the Member’s point, a Member also wished to acknowledge the obvious advances that had been made with regards to young offenders and that the information provided demonstrated that the offences were being committed by a certain cohort of re-offenders albeit in small numbers.  It would therefore be advantageous to see information regarding the type of offences and the age of the perpetrators to establish if there were any particular patterns that could help inform the Council on how to minimise the offences occurring in the first instance. 

 

The YOS Manager advised that the young persons contributing to the figure often had very complex emotional and/or educational needs and therefore despite being offered and attending the education provision, they may struggle to engage and remain using the provision.  It was a significant challenge for all officers involved in offering this service and was also difficult to find the right type of provision that the young person was able to cope and engage with.  The provision offered was co-ordinated by the Learning & Skills Directorate, rather than the YOS, and any young person under the age of 16 was meant to be provided with 25 provision hours.  Where young people had been excluded from a mainstream school environment they would be offered a place in the Pupil Referral Unit and/or access alternative provision; this may not however be for a full 25 hours.

 

With regards to information breaking down the type of offence and the age of the young person, the Officer advised that due to the small numbers of individuals concerned, a further breakdown of information may unknowingly break confidentiality which would be of major concern for both the Council and Young Persons concerned.

 

The Head of Housing and Building Services added that the challenge the Council faced being able to offer adequate and appropriate provision that was tailored to the individual was a Council wide issue.  It was very difficult to keep young persons with difficult behaviour in the school environment and would be a matter further scrutinised and within the remit of the Learning and Culture Scrutiny Committee.

 

A Tenant Working Group Representative asked for further information on how young persons were referred to the YOS.  The Officer advised that young persons could be referred to the service as a preventative measure with the young person’s consent and that of the young person’s parents.  Young persons were also referred via the South Wales Police in relation to Out of Court Disposals and / or could be made subject to a Court Order. 

 

With regards to the local measure of victim participation, a Member asked how young persons were monitored following a sentence provided which would be of particular comfort to any elderly victims.  The YOS Manager advised that a Court Order issued by the courts would specify the length of time that the YOS would continue to work with the young persons. 

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the nine months performance data for the period April 2017 to December 2017 be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T future Youth Offending Service Annual Reports and Appendices be amended to include benchmark data for the nine performance indicators against neighbouring Local Authorities.

 

(3)       T H A T future Youth Offending Service Annual Reports and Appendices include further detail on the types of provision offered to young persons of statutory school age and non-statutory school age in relation to the figure for the average number of hours ‘attended’ at start, review and end.

 

Reason for recommendations

 

(1-3)    To ensure that Elected Members are able to exercise effective oversight of the Youth Offending Service performance against designated indicators (UK, devolved and local).

 

 

84            TIMEBANKING PROJECT – SIX MONTHLY MONITORING REPORT (DEH) –

 

The Senior Neighbourhood Manager (Community Investment and Services to Older People) introduced the Community Investment and Involvement Officer leading the Vale Timebanking Project.  The Community Investment and Involvement Officer provided a PowerPoint presentation in partnership with the Senior Neighbourhood Manager’s report to update the Committee on progress in implementing the Timebanking Project after its initial six months.

 

The Timebanking Project was approved by Cabinet on 23rd October, 2017 and was an innovative approach to increase volunteering amongst Council tenants.  Previous research had highlighted the significant benefits that could be derived from volunteering, including increasing confidence, self-esteem and the improved skills of participants.  Whilst at a community level, active citizenship had been shown to also promote better community spirit and successful and resilient communities.  Typically, Council tenants across the country were under represented amongst volunteers and the Timebanking initiative was a way in which this could be addressed by incentivising tenants to give up their time to take part in a variety of projects.

 

To take the initiative forward, a partnership was formed with a local social enterprise called Spice.  Spice specialised in Timebanking and had a proven track record of working with Local Authorities, housing associations and public sector organisations across the United Kingdom.  This enabled the Council to adopt a well-developed system which included an established currency of time credits, a network of outlets where time credits could be redeemed and a means of tracking and monitoring the use of time credits.

 

The Officer advised that the first three months of the project involved staff raising awareness of Timebanking by speaking to a wide range of community groups, partners and tenants.  The steering group, established to oversee the delivery of the project, oversaw the development of the internal processes, key priorities and suggested innovative projects which would appeal to tenants who would not have previously taken part in volunteering.

 

The second three months focused on signing up volunteers and starting to develop volunteering projects.  Since then, steady progress had been made and several key outcomes were on target to be achieved.  However, there were a number of other areas not yet due for completion or which were falling slightly behind.  The Progress report was provided at Appendix 1 to the Officer’s report.  The standard red, amber green classification had been used to highlight the progress made against each action. Green represented all actions which were complete or on target, amber for actions that were at risk of the target being missed and red was for actions that had already missed or were very likely to miss the target.

 

The project had sought to target the tenants who would derive the greatest benefit from volunteering.  These included individuals who were vulnerable, isolated or lacked confidence.  This approach required fairly intensive work to engage and encourage tenants to join in.  However, in the next six months volunteering would be made available to the more active Council tenants so it was hoped that a greater number would be signed up using the same resources used previously.

 

The agreed cost of the project was £14,918.00 per year which was met from the existing budget allocated from the Housing Revenue Account.  The value of the Timebanking credits issued was also capped to ensure no additional costs were incurred.

 

A Member congratulated the Officers on the progress made to date and shared that she was pleased to see that the project was gathering speed.  The Member asked if there was a limit to the number of volunteers that could be enrolled and how the local businesses, categorised as “Champions”, were able to balance their books if accepting time credits as currency.  Finally, whether there were any private companies enrolled as “Champions” for the project.  In response, the Community Investment and Involvement Officer advised that the Council had a target of 450 Council tenant volunteers but there was a limit of 500 individuals per year due to the funding available.  This equated to five time credits per volunteer per week.  With regards to the Vale Timebanking Champions, these businesses were classed as “loss leaders” whereby the companies were not making a direct profit by accepting time credits but they were benefiting in terms of promotion and other limited services available once the individuals were using their services.  Some businesses would set time limits on when the time credits could be used to avoid their peak income periods. 

 

A Member stated that the project was an excellent idea and also an excellent way to engage individuals who were interested in volunteering but were not aware of incentives available.  With there being several wasteland sites within the Vale of Glamorgan area; the project would be an excellent stepping stone in partnership with the Parks and Education Departments to improve the quality of the wasteland sites.  The Member asked whether any existing voluntary groups were already involved or could be involved in the future.  The Officer advised that there were not currently any established voluntary groups involved with the project due to limited staff resources, however the project was still in its early stages and the future aim would be to engage other voluntary groups as the scheme developed. Provisional discussions had already taken place with Glamorgan Voluntary Services. 

 

A Member congratulated the Community Investment and Involvement Officer for his honest and down to earth presentation on the project.  It was important to acknowledge the advantages of such positivity and the Member advised he would like to sit down with Officers to hear more about the project in order to help promote the project.

 

A Member asked if there were any plans for Town and Community Councils to get more directly involved with the project as this would help the Council to engage the project in more rural areas of the Vale of Glamorgan.  It was suggested that a referral be made to the Community Liaison Committee to promote the scheme and initiate collaborative discussions with the Town and Community Council Clerks. 

 

The Head of Housing and Building Services added that the value the Council received for the £15,000 investment was obvious and a secure investment.  Officers would be looking to evaluate the successes of the project after its initial twelve months which would afford Heads of Service to build a business case going forward.  At the moment, the project was aimed at Council tenants but the hope was that the project could be expanded Council wide providing sufficient funding and other resources could be found.

 

RECOMMENDED –

 

(1)       T H A T the six monthly monitoring report in relation to the Vale Timebanking Project be noted.

 

(2)       T H A T the six monthly monitoring report and partner PowerPoint presentation be referred to the Community Liaison Committee.

 

Reasons for recommendations

 

(1)       To ensure the Timebanking Project is implemented effectively and the key outcomes are achieved.

 

(2)       To ensure that Town and Community Councils are aware of the project to afford the opportunity to promote and engage with the project.