Agenda Item No.

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

Healthy Living and Social Care Scrutiny Committee: 6th November 2018

Report of the Director of Social Services

Annual Report of the Vale, Valleys and Cardiff Regional Adoption Collaborative, 1st April 2017 to 31st March 2018

Purpose of the Report

  1. To provide Scrutiny Committee with the Annual Report of the Regional Adoption Collaborative (RAC).

Recommendations

  1. That Committee reviews the report and the work undertaken to date.
  2. That Committee continues to receive annual reports in line with the requirements of the Partnership Agreement which underpins the RAC.

Reason for the Recommendations

1& 2 To enable Committee to exercise scrutiny of this key statutory function.

Background

  1. On 28th November 2014, Cabinet approved the business case, service delivery model and implementation plan for creating the Vale, Valleys and Cardiff Regional Adoption Collaborative.  The recommendations in the report were resolved also by the Cabinets in Cardiff, Rhondda Cynon Taff and Merthyr Tydfil during December 2014.  The Vale of Glamorgan Council acts as host authority for the RAC, which became fully operational on 1st June 2015.
  2. On 2nd November 2015, Scrutiny Committee considered a report outlining the progress made following implementation and agreed to receive a further report in line with the requirements of the Partnership Agreement for the RAC.  This was considered on 22nd November 2016, with agreement that reports would continue to be received on an annual basis, the last of which was considered on 6th November 2017.

Relevant Issues and Options

  1. The governance structure of the RAC involves a Joint Committee and a regional Management Board.  The Joint Committee involves the lead Cabinet Member from each of the four Local Authorities and Heads of Service; it meets twice a year.  The Management Board meets bi-monthly.  It comprises the Heads of Service from the four Local Authorities which make up the RAC and representatives from Health, Education and the Voluntary Sector.  The Management Board is currently chaired by the Director of Social Services for Rhondda Cynon Taff.  In line with the Partnership Agreement, this position will rotate on a yearly basis between the Directors of the four Local Authorities.  The Regional Adoption Manager reports to the Management Board and Joint Committee.
  2. The requirement to review the work of the RAC and provide an Annual Report to Scrutiny Committee is set out in the Partnership Agreement.  In addition, Regulation 22 of the Local Authority Adoption Service (Wales) Regulations 2007 and Section 15 2 (c) of the Adoption and Children Act 2002 (Joint Adoption Arrangements) (Wales) Directions 2015 require the RAC to review the quality of its service and to provide an annual report to the Director of Operations of the National Adoption Service.  It is envisaged that the Annual Report attached at Appendix 1 (and its appendix A) will meet all these requirements.  The performance of the Collaborative has been routinely reviewed by the Management Board and the Joint Committee.
  3. The report outlines the performance and work of the service for the period 1st April 2017 to 31st March 2018.  It summarises the progress, achievements and areas for development against the regional plan put in place to deliver the service and the priorities set by the National Adoption Service.
  4. The report includes information on :
  • staffing and service development;
  • Adoption Panel functioning and membership;
  • advertising and marketing;
  • performance in relation to children referred and placed for adoption;
  • placement disruption;
  • adopter enquiries and approvals;
  • adoption support, service user engagement and consultation;
  • external monitoring and governance;
  • complaints and compliments.
  1. During the period for this report, a Best Value Review was undertaken, commissioned by the Directors of the four Local Authorities.  This provided a real opportunity to look at the strengths and weaknesses of the service and to look at potential remedies to address some of the presenting difficulties.  The findings of the Review validated the earlier work undertaken by the RAC detailing capacity and resourcing issues and options to address the shortfalls in the service.
  2. In respect of regional performance, the increased number of children being placed for adoption during the period, the number being adopted and the reduced time taken to place a child for adoption from Placement Order are positive improvements.  Some improvement has also been noted in the provision of Life Journey materials for children placed and in respect of the take up of birth parent counselling.  These improvements must however be considered against the increase in the number of children waiting for placements and the number waiting over six months to be placed. This set against the decrease in approvals of adopters and delays in timely recruitment of adopters makes recruitment an ongoing and clear priority for the service.
  3. The service has also been proactive in developing new initiatives during the year to more effectively support adopters and prepare them for placement.  There is evidence that the increased permanent resource in adoption support is having a positive effect in improving performance and reducing pressures on the service.  The priorities set for the 2017-18 have been met in part but some are ongoing due to the need to continue to concentrate on core business.
  4. The priorities we have set for 2018-19 focus upon completing the actions arising from the Best Value Review which have been endorsed by the Management Board. Particular emphasis for the remainder of the year will be upon driving up the conversion rate of adopter enquiry to application with the intention of increasing the rate of adopter approvals.  Some systems have already been put in place to improve our initial response following the recent appointment of the Marketing and Recruitment Co-ordinator and so it is hoped that these can be developed further once the additional resources in Recruitment and Assessment are also in place.
  5. The other priority for the RAC during this current year has been managing the recent relocation of the service to Barry.  In order to achieve as smooth a transition as possible and to minimise service disruption, this has required careful planning and preparation by the RAC staff and the development of some new systems of working to meet the needs of the whole region.  The permanent location will have benefits longer term but the service is still in a settling in period so it is important that our priorities remain delivering our core business and service improvements.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

  1. The 2017/18 budget for the Collaborative was approved by the Joint Committee in December 2016.  The Committee also approved a plan to carry forward an underspend into the 2017/18 budget.  These monies were used to support the continuation of a pilot project to enhance adoption support pending the outcome of the Best Value Review of the service.  The annual budget for 2017/18 was £1.3m and the overspend was £8,272 reflecting unexpected accommodation costs.
  2. The budget for the Collaborative is managed by the Vale of Glamorgan and is monitored closely by the Management Board and Joint Committee.  The end of year position reported a slight overspend in the budget for 2017-18 created by some additional and unexpected costs for cleaning services at Ty Pennant which were received at year end.
  3. The Best Value recommendation to review the funding formula has been taken forward by the Finance Technical Group comprised of Finance Officers from the four authorities.  It was agreed that funding arrangements would remain unchanged for 2017-18 but further work would be undertaken in 2018-19 to consider options for future funding of the Collaborative.
  4. The Collaborative receives an annual internal audit undertaken by Bridgend and Vale Audit Shared Service.  The audit undertaken for 2017-18 found 'substantial assurance' in respect of the management of risks within the service. 

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

  1. Regional working has enabled staff to specialise in service areas.  However, the functional service delivery model that was introduced (with work allocated to specialist teams) has been partially implemented because of the need to flex the deployment of staff to meet service demand.  With agreement from the regional management team, staff are able to undertake some flexible working from home to reduce travelling time across the region and improve service efficiency.  This remains an important part of service delivery given the size of the regional footprint. 
  2. The recommendation of the Best Value Review to invest additional resources in recruitment and adoption support is intended to support the sustainability of the service in the context of increased demand.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

  1. The Partnership Agreement underpinning the operation of the RAC sets out the functions delegated to it on behalf of the partner authorities.  The RAC has complied with the Agreement and has continued to deliver the delegated functions.
  2. The Adoption and Children Act 2002 (Joint Adoption Arrangements) (Wales) Directions 2015 prescribe the governance and reporting requirements of regional collaboratives.  The composition of the Management Board fully complies with these requirements and the regional service has complied with all reporting requirements to the National Adoption Service.
  3. As agreed, the Partnership Agreement has been subject to review during this financial year with relevant changes being consulted upon across the region.  A report will be presented to Cabinet in the four Local Authorities to agree these changes.

Crime and Disorder Implications

  1. There are no specific crime and disorder implications associated with this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

  1. In considering this matter, decision-makers must have regard to the Council's duties under the Equality Act 2010.  Pursuant to these legal duties, Councils must, in making decisions, have due regard to the need to eliminate unlawful discrimination, advance equality of opportunity and foster good relations on the basis of protected characteristics.
  2. The equalities implications were set out in the Equality Impact Assessment appended to the Cabinet report approved on 28th November, 2014.  The RAC promotes equality of opportunity at the point of adopter enquiry.  The single point of contact for those requiring support services has made responses more consistent.  The RAC has also complied with the requirements of the Welsh Language Standards. 

Corporate/Service Objectives

  1. The work of the RAC supports Well-being Outcome 4 of the Corporate Plan and specifically Objective 8, Safeguarding those who are vulnerable and promoting independent living.
  2. The RAC responds to the priorities set out by the National Adoption Service.
  3. The provision of a quality Adoption Service meets the outcomes expressed in the Social Services Directorate Service Plan 2015/19.
  4. To provide children and young people with a clearly planned journey through care and to achieve permanence wherever appropriate to do so is a key principle underpinning the Council's Corporate Strategy for Children who Need Care and Support 2016-19.

Policy Framework and Budget

  1. This is a matter for Executive decision.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

  1. The need to consult and obtain feedback from service users has been identified as a key priority for the Collaborative.

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

  1. Healthy Living and Social Care

Background Papers

Annual Report 2017-18, attached at Appendix 1

Report to Scrutiny Committee -16th November 2017 - Minute No. 438

Report to Scrutiny Committee - 22nd November 2016 - Minute No. 550

Contact Officer

Rachel Evans, Head of Children and Young People Services

Officers Consulted

Vale, Valleys and Cardiff Regional Adoption Collaborative Management Board and Joint Committee.

Responsible Officer

Lance Carver, Director of Social Services

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