Agenda Item No. 7
The Vale of Glamorgan Council
Scrutiny Committee (Social Care and Health): 13th July, 2015
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 2014/15 with regard to placement provision for Looked After Children (LAC) and the priority actions for 2015/16.
1. That Scrutiny Committee:
· Notes the contents of the report.
· Receives regular updates through existing reporting arrangements, including the monthly budget programme report and six monthly reports on the Children and Young People Services Commissioning Strategy and the Foster Carer Recruitment Strategy.
· Receives a further annual placement review report in July 2016.
· That the report is referred to the Lifelong Learning Scrutiny Committee for information.
Reason for the Recommendations
1. To provide Members with an opportunity to exercise oversight of this key statutory function.
2. Resource management in children's social care is inherently problematic. This is particularly the case in the area of children's placements. Local authorities face considerable challenges in managing their overall looked after populations, finding appropriate placements, meeting children's support and ensuring the most effective use of placement resources. The number of children with complex needs is increasing and meeting these needs within appropriate placements places pressure on budgets. This cohort of children relates both to those with challenging and complex behaviour and to those with disabilities. Some individual placements are very expensive. The costs of placements for children with complex needs can exceed £200k a year.
3. In Children and Young People Services, the major issue is the continuing pressure on placements for looked after children. This is the Division's most volatile budget and the one most dependent upon levels of service demand which are not within the Council's direct control. Each year, Cabinet endorsed the Social Services Budget Programme as the means whereby the Directorate will deliver services within the resources available and meet savings targets. One of the key savings projects being managed as part of the current Budget Programme relates to residential placements for looked after children, with a target of £150k in cashable savings each year between 2014/15 and 2016/17. This Scrutiny Committee receives monthly progress updates on the way in which the programme has been implemented.
4. 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 Children and Young People Services Commissioning Strategy 2013 to 2018 outlines how the Council will meet a number of key objectives, two of which relate directly to looked after children. These are:
· To provide and commission a flexible and affordable mix of high quality placements that meet the diverse range of children’s needs.
· To give children clearly planned journeys through care which remain focused on achieving care plans, prevent drift, enable them to be reunited with family and friends where possible, have stable placements and exit the care system positively.
Relevant Issues and Options
5. 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 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.
6. 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 the commissioning strategy, as demonstrated by the regular monitoring reports. 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)
7. The Social Services Directorate is committed to achieving a balanced budget. The savings expectations associated with reducing spend on children's placements require £150k in cashable savings each year between 2014/15 and 2016/17. During 2014/15, the budget for looked after children placed in Independent Fostering Agencies was overspent by £153,000 and the secure/remand budget was overspent by £55,000. Due to underspend in other areas this meant an overall overspend of £20,000 which was absorbed within the Children and Young People Services area. This is a significant improvement compared to the previous year's position where the joint residential budget was overspent by £389,000 and the remand budget overspent by £107,000.
Sustainability and Climate Change Implications
8. Effectively managing our overall Looked After Children population is essential in ensuring best use of resources across public services.
Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)
9. There are no legal implications as a direct consequence of this report.
Crime and Disorder Implications
10. 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)
11. Equalities issues have been taken into consideration when producing the Budget Programme, the Children and Young People Services Commissioning Strategy and the Directorate Service Plan.
12. Effective monitoring assists in the provision of accurate and timely information to Members and officers and, in particular, allows services to better manage their resources.
Policy Framework and Budget
13. The report is in accordance with the Policy Framework and Budget.
Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)
14. This report does not require Ward Member consultation.
Relevant Scrutiny Committee
15. Social Care and Health
Rachel Evans, Head of Children and Young People Services
Carolyn Michael, Operational Manager Accountancy
Phil Evans, Director of Social Services