Meeting documents

Audit Committee
Tuesday, 11th September, 2018 9.30 am

Date: Tuesday 11th September 2018 Time: 9.30 a.m. Place: Council Chamber, Civic Centre, Ebbw Vale

Please note: all Minutes are subject to approval at the next Meeting

PresentAndWithReport toReport of
Mr. Peter Williams (Chair)
Item/Resolution Status Action
Tudalen Glawr Agenda Gymraeg/Welsh Agenda Coversheet (171K/bytes)

It was noted that no requests had been received for the simultaneous translation service.


An apology for absence was received from Councillor G. Paulsen.


No declarations of interest or dispensations were reported.

Minutes (285K/bytes)
Cofnodion (130K/bytes)

The minutes of the Audit Committee held on 24th July, 2018 were submitted for accuracy points.

Councillor Moore reported that her attendance had been omitted from the minutes.

RESOLVED, subject to the foregoing, that the minutes be accepted as a true record of proceedings


There were no actions arising from the meeting of the Audit Committee held on 24th July, 2018.


It was agreed that Item No. 9 would be considered next on the agenda.

The Chair took the opportunity to congratulate Rhian Hayden on her recent appointment as Chief Officer Resources.

Report (137K/bytes)
Appex 1 (196K/bytes)

Consideration was given to report of the Head of Children's Services.

The Children's Manager presented the report which provided an overview of the Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW) inspection of fostering services in Blaenau Gwent. The inspection took place during February 2018 and focused on three quality areas i.e. Wellbeing, Care and Support, and Leadership and Management. The full assessment was attached at Appendix 1.

The overall assessment found that:-

'Children in stable placements are cared for by foster carers who provide children with a good level of support from their supervising social workers. We found a very positive and enthusiastic culture within the fostering service; this included the foster carers, staff within the fostering team, manager and senior managers. We received very positive comments from children about their carers'.

The Officer said the assessment also acknowledged that:

'The implementation of the revised Public Law Outline had placed an expectation upon the Local Authority to conclude care applications within the 26 week timescale, and there had also been an increase in the number of looked after children and an increasing demand for placements. Consequently the fostering service had been placed under pressure, with a greater focus on connected persons assessments. This had impacted on recruitment activity and on the arrangements for ongoing support provided to foster carers. However, the service was taking action to address these issues, with regional initiatives underway and additional resources for foster care recruitment.'

The Officer said whilst the assessment was positive the CIW made 4 recommendations for improvement as follows:-

- Quality assurance arrangements - the establishment and maintenance of a system to monitor and improve the quality of the service (Regulation 42(1)) and consultation with the full range of stakeholders and resulting analysis and full analysis and action in relation to placements ending (Regulation 42(2)).
- Training for foster carers (Regulation 17(1))
- The fostering panel must consider and take into account all of the information passed to it to ensure that children are safeguarded (Regulation 21(1A)(a))
- The fostering service should establish a procedure for monitoring the school attendance, progress and educational attainment of children placed with foster carers (Regulation 16(2)(a))

A further 11 recommendations were made and these were included within the Appendix.

The Officer concluded that Children's Services welcomed the report and the recommendations made, and confirmed that an action plan would be formulated which would be incorporated into the Children's Services business plan to improve service delivery and outcomes for children.

In response to a question raised by a Member regarding training, the Children's Manager explained that safeguarding training was mandatory up to tier 3. Thereafter foster carers were encouraged to undertake refresher courses, and the Officer was confident that was taking place. However, the Officer highlighted that mandatory training did not cover ongoing issues, themes and trends such as child sexual exploitation, missing person's protocol and female genital mutilation, but it was vital that our foster carers are fully informed of national issues and those affecting us regionally. She said drugs were prolific in our area and training would make our foster carers more aware of the signs to look for.

A Member referred to the last paragraph on page 89 of the CIW report where it stated that a child was seen to have had three foster placements within the first six weeks of becoming looked after, and asked the Officer whether this was an exception.

The Children's Manager said this was unfortunate but there would always be circumstances where it would be necessary for a child to be moved within a short period of time. However, there was a very robust matching panel in place which had proven to be effective, but unfortunately this was the situation for some children placed on an emergency basis, but she assured that any move was undertaken in the best interests for the child.

In response to a question raised by a member regarding elected home tuition, the Officer said there was no home tuition policy within Children's Services. She said it was a parental right to make that decision, however, the fostering service would be very cautious for a foster carer to make that decision independently.

A Member referred to the number of children in placement when the inspection was undertaken asked regarding the current figure.

The Children's Manager said she did not have the exact figure but the number of looked after children continued to increase. Improvements were being made in relation to long term planning for children placed with family members to prevent those children becoming looked after by the Local Authority, and the Reduction in Looked After Children Strategy was in place to ensure we work in a more preventative and effective way to reduce those numbers.

In response to concerns raised regarding the low number of questionnaires returned the Officer said this was usual not just for the fostering service. However, she assured that foster carers knew to contact their link workers if they needed to discuss any issues.

A discussion ensued when a Member said it was good that Members realised and accepted the difficulty in this area as it had been the largest cost pressure for the Authority for the last 3 years. He said the report had been considered by the Scrutiny Committee and they supported Option 1 as detailed in the report.

In response to a question raised the Officer confirmed that there were procedures in place to support foster carers who may be struggling to cope, but there were occasions where the 28 day notice had not been met resulting in emergency placements for some children, with as little disruption to school attendance as possible. However, in most cases with the proper support for those foster carers they change their mind and continue to foster.

A further discussion ensued when the Officer confirmed that the action plan was reviewed on a regular basis and progress was well within target. Substantial progress had been made in relation to training, and the Officer confirmed that good use was being made of the wealth of experience of social care staff in-house to deliver some elements of training.

RESOLVED that the report be accepted and the Audit Committee endorse the CIW report and recommendations made, and support the recommendation that an action plan be developed and taken forward.

Report (89K/bytes)
Appex 1 (261K/bytes)

Consideration was given to report of the Chief Officer Resources.

The Head of Internal Audit presented the final Annual Governance Statement for 2017/18 which had been amended to reflect minor changes that had occurred between March and September 2018.

RESOLVED that the report be accepted and the final Annual Governance Statement be approved and adopted.

Report (91K/bytes)
Appendix A (107K/bytes)

Consideration was given to report of the Chief Officer Resources.

The Head of Internal Audit presented the revised Internal Audit Charter for 2018/19 which sets out the role and responsibility of the Internal Audit Service within the Authority. The Authority was required to have a Charter in place as part of the Public Sector Internal Audit Standards and this was reviewed on an annual basis. The Officer confirmed that there were no specific amendments to the Charter this year, other than amendments to reflect changes to the Management Structure.

A brief discussion ensued regarding 'sign-off' of the 2016/17 Statement of Accounts and the Chair confirmed that a Special meeting of the Audit Committee would be held on the 25th September, 2018 to discuss this matter.

RESOLVED that the report be accepted and the Audit Committee approve the Internal Audit Charter in line with good practice and the requirements of the Public Sector Internal Audit Standards (PSIAS).

Report (104K/bytes)
Appendix A (120K/bytes)

Consideration was given to report of the Interim Chief Officer Resources.

The Technical Auditor presented the Quality Assurance Improvement Programme for the Internal Audit Service. He explained that during the external assessment of the service undertaken during 2016/17 it was acknowledged that whilst the working practices of the Section were compliant, these were required to be brought into a formal document. One of the recommendations contained within the external assessment was that a formal QAIP be established to include both internal and external assessments.

RESOLVED that the report be accepted and the Quality Assurance Improvement Programme be acknowledged.