Agenda Item No 7

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

Healthy Living and Social Care Scrutiny Committee: 11th September, 2018

Report of the Director of Social Services

Children and Young People Services - Annual Placement Review

Purpose of the Report

  1. To outline the actions taken within Children and Young People Services during 2017/18 with regard to placement provision for Children Looked After (CLA) and the priority actions for 2018/19. 

Recommendations

  1. That Scrutiny Committee notes the contents of the report.
  2. That Scrutiny Committee receives regular updates through existing reporting arrangements, including the monthly budget programme report and reports on the Corporate Strategy for Children in Need of Care and Support and the Foster Carer Recruitment Strategy.
  3. That Scrutiny Committee receives further annual placement review reports
  4. That the report is referred to the Learning and Culture Scrutiny Committee. 

Reason for the Recommendations

1,2,3&4          To provide Members with an opportunity to exercise oversight of this key statutory function.

Background

  1. Resource management in children's social care is inherently challenging.  This is particularly the case in the area of children's placements.  Local Authorities face considerable difficulties in managing fluctuating numbers of children looked after populations, finding appropriate placements for them, ensuring children's support needs are met while using placement resources effectively.  The number of children with complex needs is increasing.  Meeting needs in appropriate placements places pressure on budgets.  This cohort of children includes those with challenging and complex behaviour and those who are disabled.  Some individual placements are also expensive.  The costs of placements for children with complex needs can exceed £250k a year.
  2. The continuing pressure on placements for children looked after presents a significant challenge.  This is the Children and Young People Division's most volatile budget and the one most dependent upon levels of service demand which are not within the Council's direct control.  Cabinet has endorsed the Social Services Budget Programme as the means whereby the Directorate will deliver services within the resources available and meet savings targets.  Previously one of the key savings projects being managed as part of the Budget Programme related to residential placements for children looked after, with a target of £150k in cashable savings each year between 2014/15 and 2016/17.  There has been no savings requirement attached to this budget for the last two years, although as is detailed later in the report, significant pressures exist. 
  3. Given this context, it is essential that the Council has in place a coherent strategy for meeting the needs of children within allocated resources.  Approved by Cabinet, the Corporate Strategy for Children in Need of Care and Support 2016 to 2019 outlines how the Council will meet a number of key objectives, two of which relate directly to children looked after.  These are:
  • To provide and commission a flexible and affordable mix of high quality placements that meets the diverse range of children's needs.
  • To give children clearly planned journeys through care which remain focused on achieving care plans, preventing drift, enabling them to be reunited with family and friends where possible, having stable placements and to exit the care system positively.

Relevant Issues and Options

  1. Officers have analysed the financial position, the demand for placements and spending patterns and their report is attached at Appendix 1.  It demonstrates the volatility of the placement budget and the significant impact individual cases can have on overall expenditure.  Key influences include: the increasing complexity of children's needs; the Welsh Government's 'When I am Ready' policy which extends the time children can remain in foster placements beyond the age of 18; and the use of remand placements where Local Authorities have become responsible for the costs of looking after children who are not allowed to live at home while they are the subject of criminal proceedings.
  2. With the exception of the increase in placement commitments, the Children and Young People Services Division has made good progress in delivering the actions agreed in the budget programme and in the Corporate Strategy.  Appendix 1 highlights the considerable activity undertaken to date in response to the challenges associated with children's placements and the work streams for the year ahead.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

  1. The Social Services Directorate is committed to achieving a balanced budget.  The savings expectations associated with reducing spend on children's placements required £150k in savings each year between 2014/15 and 2016/17 and this was achieved.  For 2017/18, the overall external placement budget for children looked after was overspent by £560k. This is a significant difference from previous years where in 2015/16 the budget was underspent by £183k and in 2016/17 underspent by £309k. This reflects the increasing costs of residential placements and the complexity of young people placed in residential placements, rather than an increase in the number of young people place in residential placements.

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

  1. Effectively managing our overall Children Looked After population is essential in ensuring best use of resources across public services.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

  1. There are no legal implications as a direct consequence of this report.

Crime and Disorder Implications

  1. Following the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012, Local Authorities became responsible for the costs of accommodating young people under the age of 18 who are remanded.  It is difficult for us to predict how many young people may be remanded into custody or for how long they will be remanded.  This area remains high risk. 

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

  1. Equalities issues have been taken into consideration when producing the Budget Programme, the Corporate Strategy for Children in Need of Care and Support and the Directorate's Service Plan.

Corporate/Service Objectives

  1. This report is consistent with the Corporate Plan 2016-2020:  Well-being Outcome 4: An Active and Healthy Vale - Objective 8: Safeguarding those who are vulnerable and promoting independent living.

Policy Framework and Budget

  1. The report is in accordance with the Policy Framework and Budget.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

  1. This report relates to the whole of the Vale of Glamorgan and so does not require Ward Member consultation.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

  1. Healthy Living and Social Care

Background Papers

None

Contact Officer

Rachel Evans, Head of Children and Young People Services

Officers Consulted

Carolyn Michael, Operational Manager Accountancy

Karen Conway, Operational Manager, Children and Young People Services

Responsible Officer

Lance Carver, Director of Social Services