Minutes of a meeting held on 20th June, 2016.


Present: Councillor N.P. Hodges (Chairman); Councillor R.A. Penrose (Vice-Chairman); Councillors Mrs. C.L. Curtis, T.H. Jarvie and Mrs. A.J. Preston.


Co-opted Members: Dr. C. Brown (Parent Governor – Secondary Sector) and P. Burke (Roman Catholic Church).


Non-Voting Observers:  D. Treharne (Welsh Medium Education) and Ms. T. Young (Secondary Sector). 


Also present: Councillor L. Burnett.



107            ANNOUNCEMENT –


The Committee stood in silence in respect of the late Jo Cox MP.



108            APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE –  


These were received from Councillors Ms. R. Birch, Ms. K.E. Edmunds, C.P. Franks, F.T. Johnson and  A. Parker (Vale of Glamorgan Council);  Mr. L. Kellaway (Parent Governor – Primary Sector) and Mr. N. Want (Vale Youth Forum).



109            MINUTES – 


RECOMMENDED – T H A T the minutes of the meeting held on 23rd May, 2016 be approved as a correct record.





No declarations were received.





The Principal Accountant, in presenting the report advised that although it was relatively early in the year the service area was projecting a balanced budget but that there were on going pressures.


The Schools Budget was expected to balance as any underspend would be carried forward by schools but as for School Improvement and Inclusion there continued to be significant pressure on the Inclusion Budget with regard to Inter Authority Recoupment income.  There had been an increased demand for Vale pupils requiring placements in Ysgol Y Deri, resulting in fewer placements being available for other authorities to purchase.  The budget, being volatile, would be monitored and reviewed by the Directorate as part of a longer term Reshaping Services agenda.  The Library Service was projected to outturn at budget however, there was some pressure due to a recent application for judicial review.  Any costs relating to the implementation of the review would be funded from the Libraries Reserve. 


For Adult Community Learning it was anticipated that it would outturn at budget after a £37,000 transfer from the ACL Reserves.  This had been required to assist with the new Welsh for Adults contract and the previous year’s funding reduction in Schedule 2/Cardiff and Vale College Franchise.  Attached at Appendix 2 was a list of savings to be achieved in the coming year, it being noted that services were working towards fully achieving their savings targets with updates to be provided to Members during the course of the year. 


Appendix 3 to the report detailed the financial progress and the Capital Programme as at 30th April, 2016 with specific reference being made to projects as below:


In referring to St Andrews Major Church In Wales Primary Fencing  it was noted that an Estyn report had raised safeguarding issues at the school and thus to rectify the issue new fencing was required.  It had therefore been requested to increase the 2016/17 capital programme by £66,000 to be funded from the Schools Rationalisation reserve.  For Gwenfo Primary emergency powers had been used to increase the scheme by £70,000, to be funded from the School Investment Strategy reserve. The extra budget was required as a result of the tenders received being over budget.


Recognising that the information presented in the report was early days for the budget it was subsequently


RECOMMENDED – T H A T the position with regard to the 2016/17 Revenue and Capital Monitoring be noted.


Reason for recommendation


In order that Members are apprised of the current position relevant to the Scrutiny Committee.





The Director of Learning and Skills commenced by advising that the report had been prepared in three sections, the first section related to the Directorate’s end of year performance 2015-16 with an overall performance snapshot.  The second section being the development of new performance reporting arrangements and the third section related to target setting for 2016-17. 


At paragraph 10 Members were advised that the end of year performance reports were cumulative and comprised performance information covering the period 1st April, 2015 to 31st March, 2016.  The performance report attached at Appendix 1 was structured as follows:


  • An overview provided a snapshot of the progress made by the Directorate towards achieving the objectives which contributed towards its service outcomes. The overview highlighted progress made towards the delivery of key actions in the Corporate Plan 2013-17, the Outcome Agreement 2013-16 and the Improvement Plan Part 1 2014-15 for which the Directorate had lead responsibility. Examples of exceptional performance during the quarter were highlighted as are any key areas of slippage and the planned remedial action.
  • A brief evaluation was provided of each service outcome which outlined the overall progress (including actions and performance measures) made towards achieving these outcomes.
  • Detailed progress was reported for each service objective considering all actions and was categorised as being completed, on track, slipped and not due.  All performance indicators were allocated a performance status (J related to performance that had met or exceeded target, K related to performance within 10% of target and L related to performance that had missed target by more than 10%).
  • A direction of travel arrow was also provided against each measure indicating whether current performance had improved, stayed static or declined on the previous year’s performance. An upward arrow indicated that performance had improved from the previous year's performance, a static arrow indicated performance had remained the same and a downward arrow showed performance had declined compared to the previous year.


Committee was reminded that all measures would be reviewed annually to ensure that they reflected changes in national policy and remained responsive to local priorities, thus allowing residents, Elected Members and senior officers the ability to scrutinise key areas of Council performance throughout the year.  Members were also reminded that due to the changes to the Scrutiny Committee’s remit from 1st May, 2016 the end of year report for 2015/16 contained some performance information relating to activity that was previously scrutinised by the old Committees during 2015/16.


The Director was pleased to report that overall the Learning and Skills Directorate had achieved the majority of its priorities for 2015/16 as outlined in its Service Plan with 75% (30) of the Service Plan actions having been completed at the end of year.  Of the 40 actions contained in the Service Plan slippage was reported against 5 and action against all slipped actions was being progressed and these would be carried forward into the Directorate’s respective Service Plans for 2016/17. 


Of the 89 performance indicators reported at end of year, 40 (45%) had met or exceeded target, 22 (25%) were within 10% of target, and 4 (4%) missed the target by more than 10%. For 23 measures a performance status was not applicable.


There were currently 39 performance indicators relating to the Improvement Objectives of which 7 had met / exceeded target, 9 were within 10% of target and 1 had missed target by more than 10%.  There were also 12 Outcome Agreement measures for this Directorate, 8 had met / exceeded target, 1 was within 10% of target, 2 had missed target by more than 10% and for 1 measure a performance status was not applicable.


In relation to the development of new performance reporting arrangements a Member Working Group had been established in December, 2015 where the titles and remits of the Council’s Scrutiny Committees had been agreed and subsequently approved by Full Council on 27th April, 2016.  Service Plans had been reported to Scrutiny Committees and the Cabinet during April and May 2016 which had been developed at Head of Service level and focused on the contribution made to the Council’s Wellbeing Objectives and Outcomes and in a way in which the Service had managed its resources to do so. 


The four Quarterly Well-being Outcome and Objectives Reports would demonstrate progress against each of the individual Well-being Outcomes and associated objectives. Informed by performance data collected from the 2016-17 Service Plans, these reports would demonstrate the cross-cutting nature of the Well-being Outcomes and draw together evidence from the range of the Council's service areas responsible for delivering the actions associated with the outcome.  A brief position statement from the sponsoring Director would be provided for the quarter and a brief summary of achievements by objective would be provided and areas of underperformance / key challenges highlighted, including a description of any remedial actions required to address them


In the coming months, the Scrutiny Committee Chairman, as a member of the Working Group (comprising Scrutiny Committee Chairs, Group Leaders and senior Council officers), would be involved in developing the format of the quarterly performance reports including the basket of key measures that will be used to demonstrate the progress being made towards achieving the Council's Well-being Outcomes and Objectives.


Work had already commenced in reviewing the Council's existing performance indicator dataset with workshops held for all four Well-being Outcome areas chaired by the respective Sponsoring Director and Lead Officer / Heads of Service. These workshops had discussed and outlined a proposed basket of measures for consideration by the Working Group for each Well-being Outcome.  These measures would be presented to the Working Group in July as the basis for discussion and comprise some existing and some new measures.  This would inform the quarter 1 reports that would be presented to Scrutiny Committees in September 2016.


The Performance Team was also considering best practice examples of performance reports from other Local Authorities and this would form the basis for creating a draft Quarterly Well-being Outcome and Objectives report to be discussed with the Member Working Group during July.


The annual target setting process for 2016-17 had been aligned with the new Corporate Plan Well-being Outcomes.  Appendix 2 to the report outlined the proposed targets for the Learning and Culture Committee and includes all relevant performance indicators that fit within the remit of the newly formed Committee.  Targets have been set for those performance indicators that were continuing into 2016-17. 


Of 76 indicators aligned to this outcome, 51 were proposed to be collected in 2016-17 and 26 to be deleted.  Of the proposed measures for 2016-17, 44 had set targets to improve on the previous year's performance, 8 had targets that had been set to remain the same when compared with the previous year, and 14 had set targets lower than the previous year's performance.  Of the 51 proposed indicators, 2 were new Learning and Skills measures for which baseline performance will be established during 2016-17.


Members were further advised that consideration of the proposed performance improvement targets was a key feature of the internal challenge process and following review and endorsement by the Committee, these performance targets would be reported to Cabinet in July for approval. 


In recognising that most of the performance actions listed detailed explanations of the progress and the outcomes a Member made reference to the work of the Central South Consortium to develop highly effective regional HR policies.  Although some progress had been made, they considered there was some disappointment in relation to there being a slower rate of change than desired.  The Director advised that there had been considerable progress since March 2016 with a number of HR policies having been developed.  In referring to Governor Support Services the Director further advised, plans were also being put in place to provide more Governor training on a regional basis, with mandatory Clerk and Chairman training being a key component of the regional offer. 


In response to a query regarding the number of visits to libraries and hits on the website, the suggestion was made to split the community and main library performance information, with the Director confirming that the she would be happy to build such indicators into the plans.   


Following a query in relation to the percentage of pupils in attendance in secondary schools, the Director agreed to provide a detailed breakdown of the information following the meeting and forward such information to all Members of the Committee via e-mail. 


In recognising that the approach to target setting was a new challenging approach to ensure that the there was an assessment of how the Council performs, the Chairman welcomed the report advising that the remit of the Scrutiny Committee was to continue to assess performance which could also be evidenced by the work being undertaken by the Performance Panels of the Scrutiny Committee with it subsequently being




(1)       T H A T the Directorate’s performance results and the progress made towards achieving key outcomes as outlined in the Corporate Plan 2013-17, the Outcome Agreement with Welsh Government 2013-16 and the Improvement Plan Part 1 2015/16 be noted.


(2)       T H A T the progress being made on developing the Council’s performance management framework be noted.


(3)       T H A T the proposed targets for 2016/17 aligned to the wellbeing outcome and aspiration of a culturally vibrant Vale be endorsed and Cabinet informed accordingly.


Reasons for recommendations


(1)       To ensure the Council was effectively assessing its performance in line with the requirement to secure continuous improvement outlined in the Local Government Measure (Wales) 2009.


(2)       To ensure Committee was aware of the progress being made on developing the Council's Performance Management Framework.


(3)       To ensure the Council reported a relevant set of performance indicators against which it can demonstrate achievement of its priorities and consistently set challenging yet realistic performance improvement targets for those priorities in line with requirements under the Local Government (Wales) Measure 2009.





In presenting the report, the Children and Young People’s Partnership Manager informed Members that the report covered the fact that young people were accessing the service on a regular basis.  By way of background Members were reminded that a key recommendation from the Clywch report in 2004 issued by the then Children’s Commissioner, was the establishment of a counselling service for young people.  In 2008 the Vale of Glamorgan had been successful in accessing funding for its proposed model to deliver a counselling service and Barnardo’s Cymru Ltd had been selected as the preferred service bidder.


In March 2013 the School Standards and Organisational (Wales) Act set in place a legal requirement for all Local Authorities to secure “reasonable provision” for an “independent counselling service” in respect of health, emotional and social needs.


An open procurement process took place during 2013 for the delivery of a School and Community Based Counselling Service in line with the School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013 and with the Council's Standing Orders. Action for Children was appointed as the provider from June 2013 for a three year period.


In line with the School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013 and with the Council's Standing Orders, an open procurement process was again initiated during 2015/16 for the delivery of a School and Community Based Counselling Service. Refreshed Procurement Documentation (Invitation to Tender) incorporating liquidated damages (seeking to tighten up the contract compliance), led to Action for Children choosing to withdraw from the bidding process.  Barnardo's Cymru were successful and appointed as the new provider to start from June 2016 for a three year period.


The report outlined that robust monitoring and evaluation systems were in place to comply with Welsh Government requirements and the service continued to report to Welsh Government as required and was part of any Estyn inspection that took place of the Local Authority or individual schools.  Feedback information was collected from school staff and from pupils. 


Between April 2015 to March 2016, 478 young people undertook an episode of counselling (this was an increase of 96 young people on the previous year)15 of these were primary school pupils and 34 were part of the community counselling and included those referred by post education providers or the Out of School Team.  This equated to 3,049 individual sessions (289 more session than last year), with females accounting for approximately 60% of those accessing the service.  Traditionally young people accessed the service as they get older, this year the peak was in Years 9 and 10.  It was noted that approximately 50% of young people self-refer to the service through various mechanisms including electronically.   This showed a slight reduction on last year, but supported the continuation of the normalisation of the service within schools. 


Of those seen by a counsellor, 19 young people reported being a ”Looked After Child” (LAC), a significant increase on previous years.  Low numbers of LAC had been discussed by the Management Board and raised with the appropriate staff working directly with LAC, so this increase was seen as positive.  104 young people identified themselves as having a special educational need or a disability, which equated to approximately 20% of service users, most of whom were within mainstream education.


The main issues for referral (presenting issues) were family, anger and stress issues.  Predominant issues highlighted during counselling included family, stress, pupil self -worth and anger.  Self-harm and depression were areas that appeared to be increasing within both presenting and predominant issues, with self-harm spiking within the summer term.  This information had previously been highlighted to those schools with significant increases and shared with the Educational Psychology (EP) team. This had led to the EP team devising action plans with three schools to implement early intervention strategies.  Since the implementation of Action Plans a review in November 2015 saw all three targeted schools show reductions.


Feedback from young people using the Post Counselling Questionnaire (PCE) had been positive.  From 277 returned questionnaires (an increase of 102% on last year) young people strongly agreed or agreed that:


  • 97% counselling enabled them to talk about their feelings and thoughts
  • 96% felt comfortable with the counsellor and would use the service again
  • 71% reported improved relationships with their family
  • Of the 45% who reported that attendance at school was problematic prior to counselling, 74% reported that counselling had made it easier to attend.


Members welcomed the positive work and the results presented and improvements being made, although they raised concerns with regard to the waiting lists, particularly during certain times of the year.  They queried what the Council was doing in order to address the situation.  In response, the Children and Young People’s Partnership Manager advised that a number of different interventions are provided, this included filtering the lists through one off session to prioritise need, putting in additional counsellors or volunteer counsellors to directly reduce waiting lists and to ensure significant numbers of young people could access the service.  The establishment of a new emotional wellbeing service being launched in June 2016 through Health should also help impact on waiting lists by providing a range of other support services that would cater for a wide variety of social and emotional needs.


Following a query regarding the minimum age of young people accessing the service, Members were informed that legally the service was targeted at Year 6 pupils to age 19, although there had been a number of occasions when pupils from Years 5 and 4 had been seen, this was based on the pupils being deemed Frazer or Gillick competent and dependant on their personal need.


Informal and formal reports from individual professionals and teachers highlighted the benefits and satisfaction of counselling for young people.  Feedback indicated high levels of satisfaction within schools of the counsellors' practice, professionalism and attitude to young people.  The biggest area for improvement was considered to be additional counselling time.  Action for Children Counselling project lead officers also met with schools on a termly basis to discuss emerging issues.  The annual report and service review also provided statistical information together with an overview of young people’s reviews. 


The Chairman, in acknowledging that the report was comprehensive, queried whether the team had transferred to Barnardo’s Cymru from Action for Children, with the Manager confirming that TUPE arrangements had taken place where appropriate.


Having considered the report it was subsequently




(1)       T H A T the report and the progress to date be welcomed.


(2)       T H A T the Scrutiny Committee continue to monitor progress in the development of the service as part of its work programme.


Reasons for recommendations


(1)       To ensure Members are kept informed of the counselling service and the impact on young people.


(2)       To monitor and consider progress.





The Chairman reminded all present that the next meeting of the Learning and Culture Scrutiny Committee on 18th July would take place at 4.00 p.m. in the Council Chamber.