Agenda Item No 7



The Vale of Glamorgan Council


Scrutiny Committee [Lifelong Learning]:  20 July 2015


Report of the Director of Learning and Skills


School and Community Based Counselling Service for Young People


Purpose of the Report

1.         To advise Members of the current position and progress in relation to the development of the local school based counselling service in the Vale of Glamorgan.


1.         That Members note the report and the progress to date.

2.         That the Scrutiny Committee (Lifelong Learning) continues to monitor progress in the development of the service.

Reasons for the Recommendations

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

2.         To consider the progress that has been achieved.


2.         A key recommendation following the Clywch report in 2004 which was issued by the then Children's Commissioner Peter Clark was the establishment of a counselling service for young people.

3.         The benefits to young people of such a service are well documented and following consultation Welsh Assembly Government launched its National Strategy for School-Based Counselling Service for Wales in April 2008. 

4.         In 2008 the Vale of Glamorgan was successful in accessing funding for its proposed model to deliver a counselling service and Barnardos Cymru Ltd were selected as the preferred service deliverer.

5.         The initial funding for the service allocated in 2008/09 was £42K, and this rose to £192K in 2012/13. The increase each year was to enable the service to grow slowly and ensure all secondary and special schools received a service.  From April 2013 funding was provided through the revenue support grant and the remit was expanded to include provision for young people up to 19 years old.

6.         Welsh Government guidance advises that all secondary school pupils should receive access to a confidential counselling service.  All 8 mainstream Vale secondary schools receive either 1 or 2 days per week. Additional days are allocated for special schools, out of school provision and some primary provision.  The service also covers pupil referral units, those receiving home tuition non-attenders and those accessing or entitled to educational support.

7.         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.

8.         A multi-agency Management Board oversees development of the service in the Vale of Glamorgan, including officers from the Learning and Skills directorate, head teachers and officers from the Public Health Team.

9.         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 were appointed as the provider from June 2013 for a 3 year period.   

Relevant Issues and Options

10.      Robust monitoring and evaluation systems are in place to comply with Welsh Government requirements, and the Management Board continues to oversee the service. The service continues to report to Welsh Government as required and is part of any Estyn inspection that takes place of the local authority or individual schools.  Feedback is collected from school staff and pupils.

11.      Between April 2014 to March 2015, 382 young people undertook an episode of counselling, 13 of these were Primary school pupils and 25 were part of the community counselling and included those referred by post education providers or the Out of School Team. This equated to 2,760 individual sessions, with females accounting for approximately 60% of those accessing the service. Traditionally young people access the service as they get older, this year the peak was in year 9. Approximately 55% of young people self-refer to the service through various mechanisms including electronically, this shows significant growth on previous years and suggests the continuation of the normalisation of the service within schools.    

12.      Of those seen by a counsellor, 7 young people reported being a 'Looked After Child' (LAC), this is below the national average. This has been discussed by the Management Board and raised with the appropriate staff working directly with LAC, but numbers remain low. 96 young people identified themselves as having a special educational need or a disability, which equates to approximately 25% of service users, most of whom are within mainstream education.

13.      The main issues for referral (presenting issues) are family, anger and stress issues. Predominant issues highlighted during counselling include family, Stress, pupil self -worth and anger.  Self-harm has increased rising within both presenting and predominant issues this year. This information has been highlighted to those schools showing significant increases and shared with the Educational Psychology (EP) team. This has led to the EP team devising action plans with three schools to implement early intervention strategies. 

14.      YP Core is used as a tool to assess psychological wellbeing.  Outcome data continues to show significant positive progress for the young people undertaking counselling.  The YP Core tool shows a consistent 5 to 6 point reduction in pre and post counselling intervention on a scale of 0 (Healthy) to 40 (Severe). The Annual report demonstrates areas covered within the YP Core scale. The reduction in outcome scores pre and post counselling from previous years and is partially down to counsellors working with the young people to complete the outcome tool (previously this was self-scored) and it is felt that by having a better understanding of the questions, young people are scoring themselves more appropriately.

15.      A small number of child protection issues have been identified through individual counselling sessions and positive links have been developed with the Intake and Family Support Team within Social Services. The numbers being referred to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) also remain low, but informal feedback from CAMHS suggests that those referrals to CAMHS are considered more appropriate referrals. At a National level thresholds for accessing CAMHS services appear to be rising. Currently the number of young people accessing both CAHMS services and counselling is not formally collected (being considered locally), but informal feedback suggest there are a significant number, these young people who are arriving with higher needs and therefore remaining in counselling longer.      

16.      The annual report (attached as Appendix A) refers to a service review that has been undertaken by Action for Children.

17.      Feedback from young people using the Post Counselling Questionnaire (PCE) is positive.  From 137 returned questionnaires 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.
  • 74% 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.

18.      Informal and formal reports from individual professionals and teachers highlight the benefits and satisfaction of counselling for young people. Feedback indicates high levels of satisfaction within schools of the counsellors' practice, professionalism and attitude to young people. Action for Children Counselling project lead offers meet with schools on a termly basis to discuss emerging issues.

19.      During 2014-15 one counsellor and the lead counsellor were suspended following a safeguarding concern, which has now been resolved and both members of staff have returned to work. This has impacted on the ability of the service to again realise projected benefits with a loss of 86 counselling days.

20.      Frustration has also been noted amongst schools and young people about waiting list times (53 waiting in November, 83 in January, 109 in April), reflecting continued changes in staffing, recruitment delays, suspension of staff member, the impact of guidance in 2013 broadening access to the service (year 6 and up to 19 years of age) and the popularity and normalisation of the service: young people wish to seek help and teachers are willing to refer to the service, seeing the advantages to the young person's wellbeing. However unrealised projected increases in the number of days within the new contract should have helped counteract many of these issues.

21.      It is difficult to accurately compare historic numbers accessing the service and total number of interviews conducted with current data, due to changes in funding periods (Academic to financial years) developmental funding increases and previous delivery model. However figures from the Autumn term 2011 and Spring term 2012 would be closest in terms of funding and model delivery and therefore most comparable with the last 2 years delivery.

Number of young people accessing counselling


Autumn Term

Spring Term











Number of interviews conducted


Autumn Term

Spring Term











22.      This demonstrates that young people accessing counselling is still below expectations and those accessing are remaining within counselling for longer periods of time. 

23.      Close working and robust monitoring between Action for Children and the contract manager ensures that all noted issues are regularly reviewed.  The frequency of monitoring meetings have increased, this is followed by a note highlighting areas of concern.  A further meeting has taken place with the Action for Children's Area Manager and Operational Director to discuss shortfall in days and the actions that Action for Children will take to address this issue.  The contract Manager has recommended that the Action for Children revisit its structure and working arrangements to improve current project outcomes.

24.      Importantly the quality of counselling remains high, although the current provider has been informed that the Vale will not seek to extend the current contract for a further 2 years and will be redrafting the procurement document adding potential penalties and/or liquated damages for failure by any future provider to meet contracted outcomes.  

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment)

25.      Welsh Government has allocated funding, which is part of the Revenue Support Grant. The Learning and Skills Department has utilised this funding to procure a service from June 2013 for £185,000 per year for 3 years (until May 2016).

Sustainability and Climate Change Implications

26.      The Community Based Counselling Service contributes to the Sustainable Development principle of ensuring a Strong, Healthy and Just Society.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

27.      Under the School Standards and Organisation (Wales) Act 2013 local authorities are required to make reasonable provision for counselling services for registered pupils receiving secondary education at maintained schools in their area and to those receiving secondary education at other schools in their area.  Welsh Ministers may by regulations require provision for independent counselling in primary schools and/or at other locations.

28.      Inspections of local authorities are carried out under Section 38 of the Education Act 1997 which provides that Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Education and Training Wales (HMCI) 'may, and, if requested to do so by the Secretary of State, shall, arrange for any local authority to be inspected'. Estyn’s Common Inspection Framework includes learner well being as a reporting feature.

29.      The inspectorate has powers relating to section 51 of the Children Act 2004, namely in co-operating to improve the wellbeing of children. 

30.      Welsh Government has issued Statutory Guidance in relation to the detail for delivering school-based counselling services.  The guidance issued in June 2013 (106/2013) under Section 92 of the School Standards & Organisation is statutory and Local Authority's must have regard to it.  This means that Local Authority's must take account of the guidance and, if they decide to depart from it, have clear reasons for doing so.

Crime and Disorder Implications

31.      In delivering an effective counselling service vulnerable young people are listened to, supported and helped to deal within their own issues, thereby reducing the risk of negative and anti social behaviour and reducing the risk of entering into criminal activity now and in the future.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

32.      Welsh Government guidance on the development of a universal counselling service ensures all young people aged 11-19 have equal access to the service regardless of perceived need. 

Corporate/Service Objectives

33.      There is a commitment in the Children and Young People's section of the Corporate Plan, under Safeguarding Vulnerable Children and Young People: "To increase access to counselling and advocacy services for children and young people, in particular with other agencies and on a regional basis where this is possible. (2013/14)"

Policy Framework and Budget

34.      This is a matter for executive decision 

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

35.      Not applicable

Relevant Scrutiny Committee

36.      Lifelong Learning

Background Papers



Contact Officer

Mark Davies, Children and Young People's Partnership Manager


Officers Consulted

Mike Glavin, Head of School Improvement and Inclusion

Gill Toon, Principal Educational Psychologist

David Davies, Lead Officer Inclusion

Carolyn Michael, Operational Manager


Responsible Officer:

Jennifer Hill, Director of Learning and Skills