Agenda Item No. 4
The Vale of Glamorgan Council
Healthy Living and Social Care Scrutiny Committee: 22nd November, 2016
Report of the Director of Social Services
Children's Commissioner for Wales - Introduction
Purpose of the Report
- To help Scrutiny Committee prepare for attendance by the Children's Commissioner for Wales.
- That Scrutiny Committee notes the role of the Commissioner and her work programme.
- That the report is referred to Cabinet, the Learning and Culture Scrutiny Committee and the Corporate Parenting Panel for their consideration.
Reasons for the Recommendations
- To ensure that Members continue to have a good understanding of the context within which the Council delivers its statutory responsibilities to children and families.
- To ensure collective oversight of this shared corporate responsibility.
- The post of Children's Commissioner for Wales was established under the Care Standards Act 2000 and the remit for the post was extended by the Children's Commissioner for Wales Act (2001). Wales was the first country in the UK to have an independent Children's Commissioner - a lead followed by the other nations.
- The Children's Commissioner for Wales, Sally Holland, is an independent voice and champion for children across Wales. The Commissioner has legal powers to review the adequacy and effectiveness of law, policy and strategy affecting the interests of children in Wales.
- The Children's Commissioner must ensure that she:
- safeguards and promotes the rights and welfare of all children and young people up to the age of 18 (and in some cases to 25) in Wales. This is the principle aim of the Commissioner as set out in legislation.
- inspires people to achieve better outcomes for all children and young people in Wales under all areas of policy, legislation, decision-making and practice that affect their lives.
- stimulates national discussion and debate about achieving a society that respects children and young people and places a real value on offering them the opportunities they need to fulfil their individual potential.
- provides national leadership and will make a difference to children and young people's lives by establishing strong partnerships and powerful relationships with people and organisations.
- leads on the scrutiny of Government and other organisations to deliver responsive services shaped by the thinking and opinions of children and young people.
- fulfils the role of Corporation Sole and Accounting Officer for the organisation, ensuring that transparent financial accounting monitoring and review mechanisms are implemented.
- leads a strong, confident, inspiring and resilient all-Wales organisation that works effectively as a team to ensure that children and young people are a national priority.
Relevant Issues and Options
- The current commissioner, Sally Holland, came into post in April 2015. Her Annual Report, http://www.childcomwales.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Print-version-1.pdf outlines the her work and that of her team during 2015/16. The achievements outlined in that report are as follows:
- engaged with over 7000 children and young people.
- published 'A Plan for all Children and Young People: 2016-2019'.
- published 'The Right Care' in June 2016, a report on residential care settings for children, which is described later.
- Hosted a visit by a rapporteur from the UN who saw, first-hand, the issues facing children and young people in Wales.
- Gave evidence alongside the other three UK Commissioners to the UN Committee, which subsequently issued concluding observations and recommendations to the UK Government and its devolved administrations.
- Hosted two workshops with groups of LGBT young people to create a guide that was published in January 2015.
- In February 2016, the Commissioner set out her strategic goals for the next three years:
To achieve positive outcomes in the lives of children and young people in Wales and their ability to access their rights.
To keep children's rights at the centre of how we work and to work with all public services in Wales to achieve the same goal.
To assist children and young people to access their rights.
To include children and young people's expertise in informing and directing our work and to work with all public services in Wales to achieve the same goal.
To ensure that children and young people know that they have an independent champion called the Children's Commissioner for Wales and that they have rights under the UNCRC.
- Overall, the Children's Commissioner has a vision for a Wales where all children and young people have an equal chance to be the best that they can be.
By 2019 the Commissioner hopes that Welsh Government and public services will have made significant progress towards delivering the following improvements for children:
- Children and young people will have access to the mental health services they need in a timely manner. There will be stronger programmes for promoting emotional health and wellbeing in place in our health and social services, schools and youth services.
- Children's contemporary experiences of bullying will be better understood and more schools will prevent and tackle bullying effectively.
- There will be better access to play, culture and leisure activities by children who are most likely to miss out on these, particularly those living in poverty and disabled children.
- Care leavers will have better access to safe and secure housing options and an active offer of a job, education or training place.
- All young people requiring continuing health and social support will have improved transitions to adult services.
- Children will have the same legal protection as adults from physical assault.
- Children and young people will be better involved in public services, including the Commissioner's own office.
- We anticipate that Committee members will be keen to find out more about particular aspects of the Commissioner's agenda, including: broader issues about upholding children's rights in public services; transitions to adulthood for care leavers; measures of well-being and the quality of the care experience for children who are looked after; the impact of frequent changes of social workers; and the conclusions from 'The Right Care' report.
- Over the years, children's homes have suffered from a perception of being a 'last resort' for young people in care, potentially dangerous and extremely expensive. More recently, it has become known that some young people living in children's homes are targeted by abusers, furthering the perception of homes as risky environments. The report presents a wide variety of experiences, including those of young people living in children's homes in Wales. This includes those who regard their children's home as the place they want to be, looked after by people who care for them well. Many will be leading successful lives in their local communities and succeeding educationally. Others have more mixed experiences, face many challenges in their everyday lives and wish that they were living elsewhere. The Commissioner seeks to show to show that children's homes have an important place in providing the right care for small numbers of young people in Wales. She wishes also to highlight some real challenges that must be tackled. The report makes a small number of recommendations for the Welsh Government and those who commission, inspect and regulate children's homes in Wales. These focus on involving children and young people in decisions about the care and support they receive; pre-planning and notifications of placements; avoiding unnecessary criminalisation; and support for care leavers. The First Minister and the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW) have responded positively to the report.
Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)
- There are no direct resource implications as a consequence of this report.
Sustainability and Climate Change Implications
- Effective delivery of our statutory responsibilities helps to ensure that the Council's assets are managed efficiently and effectively. It also helps to ensure that best use is made of the resources available for social care services, establishing sustainable models of support as well as contributing to the most appropriate ways of meeting the needs of children and young people.
- There are no climate change implications as a direct result of this report.
Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)
- The Children's Commissioner for Wales Act (2001) outlines the role and remit of the Commissioner.
Crime and Disorder Implications
- There are no direct crime and disorder consequences arising directly from this report.
Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)
- Provision of services to children should ensure that they are accessible to all those eligible to receive them and this will require Equalities Impact Assessments to be carried out, where appropriate.
- Under Section 7 of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014, persons exercising functions under the Act must have due regard to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
- The work outlined in this report addresses the following corporate objectives outlined in the Corporate Plan 2016-2020:
- Wellbeing Outcome 3: An Aspirational and Culturally Vibrant Vale, working together to ensure that all Vale citizens have opportunities to reach their full potential.
- Wellbeing Outcome 4: An Active and Healthy Vale, safeguarding those who are vulnerable and promoting independence (objective 8).
Policy Framework and Budget
- This is a matter for Executive decision.
Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)
- The issues raised by this report relate to all areas supported by the Vale of Glamorgan Council and so there has been no individual ward consultation.
Relevant Scrutiny Committee
- Healthy Living and Social Care.
Rachel Evans, Head of Children and Young People Services
Corporate Management Team
Philip Evans, Director of Social Services