|Date: Thursday 24th November 2016 Time: 10.00 a.m. Place: Executive Room, Civic Centre, Ebbw Vale|
|Present||And||Report to||Report of|
|COUNCILLOR N. DANIELS (CHAIR)|
Mrs. Alyson Hoskins was welcomed to her first meeting of the Scrutiny Committee in her new role as Temporary Head of Adult Services.
Apologies for absence were received from:-
Councillors D. Bevan, Mrs. A. Lewis, Mrs. D. Rowberry
Councillor G. Bartlett - Executive Member for Social Services
Ms. Susanne Griffiths, Director of Operations, National Adoption Service
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST AND DISPENSATIONS
ACTION SHEET - 28TH JULY 2016
Action Sheet (54K/bytes)
A Member referred to on-going work at the Flying Start building in Sirhowy, Tredegar and expressed his concern that the surrounding area had been left in a poor state of repair. He concluded by enquiring whether artificial turf which would not incur any on-going maintenance costs could be provided within this area for children to play.
The Head of Children's Services noted the comments made and undertook to liaise with the relevant officer.
Member Briefing - Looked After Children Legal Framework
It was noted that the above-named Member Briefing had taken place on 20th October, 2016.
RESOLVED, subject to the foregoing, that the Action Sheet be noted.
NATIONAL ADOPTION SERVICE 2ND ANNUAL REPORT
The Service Manager - South East Wales Adoption Service spoke in detail to the report and highlighted points contained therein. The Service Manager explained that the purpose of the report was to present the second year of progress from March 2015 to April 2016 of the National Adoption Service.
The report had been prepared in line with the statutory regulations as set out in The Local Authority Adoption Service (Wales) Regulations 2007 and the Adoption and Children Act 2002 (Joint Adoption Arrangements) (Wales) Directions 2015.
The National Adoption Service had been launched in November 2014 and the service brought together local, regional and national organisations and activities.
Members were advised that the regional service did not work in isolation and the business plan reflected priorities that had been set at a national level.
Six priorities for service delivery during 2015/16 had been set, namely:-
Priority 1 - Recruit More Adopters for Sibling Groups and Older Children
This priority specifically related to the recruitment of additional adopters to place children with complex and additional needs. It was noted that all adoption agencies were struggling to identify prospective adopters to adopt children with these particular requirements.
320 adopters had been approved on a national basis during 2015/16. 51 adopters had been approved by the South East Wales region during this period.
It was noted that there had been a large number of adopters approved during the quarter 3 period and SEWAS was undertaking a substantial amount of work to improve the length of time of the approval process to ensure that this number of adopters could be replicated throughout each quarter of the year.
Apart from quarter 2 SEWAS had not achieved the target of 8 months to progress adopters from initial enquiry to agency decision to approve. Following a review of current processes and pathways for prospective adopters a targeted recruitment strategy was now being implemented which would ensure that the adopters currently being assessed were able to meet the needs and offer placement choice to those children currently waiting.
Concurrence Planning - in reply to a question raised, Members were advised that children were not introduced to an adoptive parent until a legal order had been granted. It was noted that there was a desire to move to a model of concurrence planning whereby a strategy was placed with parents and prospective adopters - however, there was a considerable amount of work to be undertaken to reach this stage. It was noted that in terms of potential delays, the court could influence the length of time taken and in addition, if the birth parents decided to contest the plan this could add further to potential delays within the adoption process.
Out of County Placements - The Service Manager advised that as a regional service prospective adopters were recruited from the five authority areas i.e. Blaenau Gwent, Torfaen, Newport, Monmouthshire and Caerphilly. Therefore, if children were placed with adopters from within any of these regions it would not be classed as an 'out of county' placement.
In addition, an all Wales Adoption Register operated for those children who were unable to be placed within SEWAS own collaborative arrangements. However, there was a cost attributed to the authority for placing children 'out of county'.
This priority related to an improvement in performance for adoption i.e. the National Adoption Service aimed to reduce the time between the child going into care and being placed for adoption.
It was noted that despite the South East Region not meeting the target of 13 months (395 days) from a child becoming looked after to the date of being placed with adoptive parents there had been a marked improvement throughout the year, i.e. a reduction in the number of days from 627 to 477.
Priority 3 - Better Adoption Support
The National Adoption Service wanted to ensure all children with the plan for adoption were assessed for adoption support. There was a considerable amount of work to be undertaken in order to make improvements and strategies had been developed to assist with the national agenda.
Regional services had been asked to focus on working with their local authorities to make improvements and these improvements were being made. This year, almost half of the children placed had life journey materials/work which supported their transition and helped them settle within a new family. This was also a lifelong resource to help adopted children and adults make sense of their past.
Priority 4 - Listen to and Work with Children and Adults who use Adoption Services
This priority related to the engagement with services users both children and adults and the use of this information to improve services.
The Service Manager referred to Paragraph 3.4 of the report and outlined the national progress and SEWAS progress made in respect of priority 4. SEWAS was currently undertaking a pilot which involved changing the referral system to allow for different points of access for adoption support services. This review would take into account the national perspective.
Alongside a range of support services currently offered to families, SEWAS was in a unique position to be working jointly with the Child and Adolescent Psychologists services. This was an excellent resource that was available one day per week.
Child and Adolescent Psychologists Services - a Member commended the involvement of the Child and Adolescent Psychologists Services within the adoption process.
In reply to a question, the Head of Children's Services advised that only in a small percentage of cases did the children meet the psychologists. The psychologists tended to work with adopters and social workers to discuss the management of children's behaviours.
Priority 5 - The National Adoption Service was Run Well
It was noted that the National Adoption Service was required under regulation to have a Governance Board and Advisory Group. The Service Manager and Head of Service had been appointed to the Advisory Group and because Blaenau Gwent hosted the regional service, the Executive Member had been appointed to the Governance Board.
The Service Manager explained that SEWAS had experienced a number of challenges which had impacted on the ability to drive forward a number of service developments in a timely manner, for example challenges had been experienced in terms of varying working practices and operational services in amalgamating five authorities but these difficulties were now being overcome.
SEWAS did not work in isolation it had the support of partner agencies including health and education. SEWAS had maintained the requirements to hold management committee meetings in line with regulations. These meetings were held on a quarterly basis and attended by all 5 local authority Heads of Service as well as the regional senior manager links. The meetings were also well attended by partner agency representatives and a representative from the voluntary sector (Barnardo's).
Partnership Working - a Member said that he was pleased that SEWAS was working closely with partner organisations in order to ensure that the best possible outcomes were delivered for the children.
Cultural Diversity - a Member pointed out that there were a number of different cultures within society and enquired how the service dealt with children with different/diverse ethnic backgrounds.
The Service Manager advised that this was the reason why targeted recruitment was undertaken in order to target the needs of children. An understanding of the profile and needs of children was collated at the initial stages in order to ensure that the children were placed with right adopters.
The national register was equally important to ensure that profile information was maintained.
Social Media - in reply to a concern raised regarding the use of social media, the Service Manager advised that SEWAS worked with Adoption U.K. who dealt specifically with education needs of adopted children and this included dealing with types of issues such as social media and bullying.
SEWAS Financial Contributions - a Member enquired whether the funding arrangements for SEWAS was pro-rata for each collaborating authority based on the looked after children population. The Service Manager advised that a partnership agreement had been established which included annual contributions for each local authority. Regular financial updates were provided and these were monitored on a regular basis.
Conclusion - The Service Manager concluded by stating that SEWAS had been in operation for over 18 months and the functional operational areas were continually under review. Whilst there were areas for improvement within the region the officer was confident that there would be an improved performance in the future.
The Chair commended the Service Manager on her excellent report.
RESOLVED to recommend that the report be accepted and the progress of the National Adoption Service and how the South East Region was performing in comparison to other regions in Wales be noted.
ANNUAL REPORT OF THE DIRECTOR OF SOCIAL SERVICES - QUARTERS 1 AND 2 2016/17
Appendix 1 (4M/bytes)
Appendix 2 (153K/bytes)
Members considered the report which was presented to highlight key points from Quarters 1 and 2 of the 2016/17 Annual Report of the Director of Social Services.
At the invitation of the Chair, the Temporary Corporate Director of Social Services advised that the report outlined the performance of the department for Quarters 1 and 2, April to September 2016. It was noted that it was a statutory responsibility of the Director of Social Services to assess the effectiveness of the delivery of Social Services and to produce an Annual Report. This information contributed to the Council's overall reporting framework.
The Temporary Corporate Director of Social Services advised that a copy of the full report was attached at Appendix 1 and the Social Services and Well-Being (Wales) Act 2014 Action Plan as requested at the previous meeting of the Committee was attached at Appendix 2.
As part of the new Act a new Performance Framework had been developed nationally. A working group had been established to share and develop a common understanding of the national performance indicators and the new data requirements so that the Council had a consistent approach to recording and measuring outcomes. It was noted that there had been many discussions about the interpretation of the guidance in an attempt to reach a consensus across the region but it was apparent from the data that there was still quite a bit of work to do for this to be achieved.
In addition, the authority had also changed its approach to self-assessment and these were now reported against 5 quality standards as outlined in Paragraph 1.8.3 of the report.
The Head of Children's Services spoke to the report and advised that there continued to be high numbers in residential care and an increase in the number of children in Independent Fostering Agency placements. There had been a decrease in the number of child specific foster carers but these arrangements had been transferring into Special Guardianship Order arrangements which had seen an increase spend against this budget line.
To tackle this increase, 3 full-time Social Worker posts had been funded on a fixed term basis until April 2017. It was noted that a report would be submitted to Corporate Management Team in January 2017 requesting a further extension to these posts.
With regard to Corporate Parenting a briefing session had been held for Members and a considerable amount of work was on-going in order to improve the outcomes for looked after children.
In terms of foster carer's, the comments and messages from the foster carer's survey had been developed into an action plan to be taken forward to improve service delivery.
Budget Pressure - a Member stated that whilst the Council would always support social services he expressed his concern that the current budget pressure of 2.2m was affecting so many other services and this concern should be highlighted at a senior level.
The Temporary Head of Adult Services advised that Adult Services continued to remain within budget following the implementation of the National Living Wage and there continued to be a potential underspend. The Department had been collating information in the first few months of the new Social Services and Well Being Act in order to ascertain if any service changes could be identified, with a primary focus on preventative services.
In line with the Act the integration between Health and Social Services was being driven forward and three specific priority areas had been identified. The BOLD (Better Outcomes for Learning Disabilities) pilot continued to look to deliver new ways of working and a report was being developed around the lessons learnt so far and the next steps.
Social Care provision had been aligned to east and west teams in order to mirror the Neighbourhood Care Networks provision.
Case Studies - a Member referred to the case studies contained within the appendix to the report, in particular the issue of social isolation that had been highlighted and commended the work of Adult Services who helped supported these individuals.
Mental Health - a Member expressed his concern that mental health had been underfunded by central government for a considerable period of time and this should be recognised by senior officials.
The Temporary Head of Adult Services advised that this was not just a social care responsibility but also a health responsibility. It was noted that Adult Services benefitted from good working relationships with colleagues in the health service and if there were challenges that involved health responsibilities dialogue would take place to ensure these duties were enacted.
REVIEW OF COMMISSIONING AND CONTRACTING ACTIVITY IN 2015/16
The Temporary Head of Adult Services spoke in detail to the report and highlighted points contained therein which included:-
â€ž Children's Services - two service level agreements had been established with independent providers, namely Barnardo's and the National Youth Advocacy Service.
â€ž Domiciliary Care and Brokerage Service - since 2010 the amount of packages commissioned had grown significantly to approximately 6,550 per week as at 31st March, 2016. The increasing number of service users remaining in their own home rather than entering a care home had impacted upon the work of the Community Resource Team's Reablement Service as the majority of care packages were of a complex nature.
â€ž Learning Disabilities - where possible joint visits from officers of both the Contracts and Commissioning Team took place to monitor placements which included out of county placements.
â€ž Residential and Nursing Homes within Blaenau Gwent - both announced and unannounced visits took place to care establishments during the year.
â€ž Voluntary (3rd) Sector - service level agreements had been extended until 31st March, 2017 to allow for an understanding and evaluation of the impact of the Social Services and Well Being (Wales) Act 2014. This Act had been implemented on 1st April, 2016.
Members were then given the opportunity to raise questions/comment in relation to the report.
National Living Wage/Mental Health Illness - a Member commended the work of the directorate but expressed his concern that the implementation of the national living wage ( 1m to cover the costs) was putting additional pressure on other services.
The Member continued by referring to hospital visits made by people suffering from mental health issues and expressed his concern that these people had special needs and required a different type of treatment and that this issue needed to be addressed within the health system.
The Temporary Corporate Director of Social Services advised that a Dementia Board had been established and a substantial amount of its work focussed on hospital services, in particular, the training of nursing staff to deal with people living with dementia. Whilst it would take some time to achieve this cultural change the figures in terms of the number of staff trained around dementia was reported to the Board.
He continued by stating that one area that may be pursued was to make the Local Authority a 'dementia friendly council' and raise staff awareness of the issues.
A Member commenced by complimenting the Temporary Head of Adult Services on her professional delivery of the report. He referred to the report and said that he would be interested to know the level of growth in dementia in particular the number of people that required hospitalisation.
The Temporary Head of Adult Services advised that the report reflected a change in the market of EMI i.e. there had been a significant reduction in the number of people being placed in general nursing beds and the report demonstrated a growth in EMI nursing beds.
The Temporary Corporate Director of Social Services advised that recent figures indicated a population increase of 35% by 2035 in the number of people over the age of 65 in Wales and a 113% increase in the population of over 85 year olds and it was this group that would be more likely to have a dementia related illness.
Domiciliary Care - in reply to a question raised, the Temporary Head of Adult Services explained that care providers had an electronic monitoring system to clock in and out but their activity was not monitored. Monitoring was undertaken via a review system whereby the social worker met with the family and domiciliary care worker. A holistic approach was taken whereby physiotherapists also worked with care workers to implement the re-enablement model.
RESOLVED to recommend that the report be accepted and the approach detailed within the report be supported, namely:-
â€ž Contract monitoring of Care Homes and Domiciliary Care Providers within Blaenau Gwent continue to be undertaken, to include at least one formal visit per year.
â€ž Work continued to be undertaken closely with the Learning Disability Team and Providers and undertake joint contract monitoring visits.
â€ž Unannounced and practice observation visits to Care Homes within Blaenau Gwent be increased.
â€ž Further analysis and evaluation of actual costs involved with delivering care and support services commissioned within Blaenau Gwent be undertaken.
â€ž Voluntary (3rd) Sector Service Level Agreements be reviewed to support and improve service delivery in response to SSWBA.
â€ž Changes to the brokerage services and domiciliary care specification be established and developed with Practitioners and Providers to facilitate person centred outcomes.
â€ž The Domiciliary Care Market continued to be managed and options for the future commissioning of the service be considered.
â€ž Work be undertaken towards achieving collaborative commissioning opportunities and the regional commissioning group's work streams and objectives be contributed to.
REVIEW OF SUPPORTING PEOPLE CONTRACTS AND COMMISSIONING UPDATE 2015/16
Appendix 1 (44K/bytes)
Appendix 2 (340K/bytes)
The Temporary Head of Adult Services spoke in detail to the report and highlighted points contained therein which included:-
The Supporting People Team provided proactive services and support to enable vulnerable people to live independently in the community thus assisting in preventing homelessness, exclusion, isolation, institutionalisation and reducing crime and disorder. This service was directly grant funded by Welsh Government - 2,552,176 for 2015/16.
Whilst the service budget balanced, the budget was still under constant pressure and it had been indicated that the Supporting People (SP) Programme would face budget reductions in subsequent years. Therefore, it was critical that strategic commissioning priorities and service direction was clear in order to ensure that the service delivered effective, sustainable, high quality housing relating support services which were fit for purpose to meet the needs of the citizens of Blaenau Gwent in the future. It was noted that a recent retendering exercise had resulted in significant savings being realised of 205,000.
Despite the SP budget for Blaenau Gwent being reduced in the 2015/16 the SP Team was still able to commission a number of pilot services in Blaenau Gwent and these were outlined on Page 113 of the report.
The Temporary Head of Adult Services concluded by providing Members with additional updates outlined in Paragraph 1.5 of the report which included Mental Health Services, Older Person Services, Young People, Services, Annual SP Needs Evidence Events, Tackling Poverty Programmes, Welsh Government SP Review and Pricing Policy.
Members were then given the opportunity to raise question/comment in relation to the report.
Tai Calon - Sheltered Housing Schemes - in reply to a question, the Temporary Head of Adult Services advised that officers had met with Tai Calon in the last 6 weeks to discuss development around the schemes within the Ebbw Vale area.
A Member referred to part of the closure programme within the Badminton Ward and stated that these buildings could be upgraded and used for different purposes.
The Temporary Corporate Director of Social Services advised that regular meetings took place with Tai Calon to explain the needs and demands together with future accommodation needs to ascertain if an existing buildings could be upgraded to meet that demand.
Substance Misuse - a Member expressed his concern regarding level of substance misuse within the County Borough. The Temporary Head of Adult Services explained that reinvestment was taking place into floating community support schemes rather than investing within capital projects. This type of support scheme provided more resilience within the community.
Communities First - a Member referred to the closure of the communities first schemes by Welsh Government and expressed his concern that as a result of the withdrawal of funding more onus would be placed on Social Services.
RESOLVED to recommend that the report be accepted and the approach detailed within the report be supported, namely:-
â€ž Contract monitoring visits and contract compliance meetings continue to be undertaken with all SP Providers in Blaenau Gwent.
â€ž Unannounced visits to SP supported housing schemes within Blaenau Gwent be increased.
â€ž Learning disabilities services continued to be reviewed and remodelled in Blaenau Gwent.
â€ž Work continue with Tai Calon to remodel their older person services in Blaenau Gwent in order that they were delivered based on need not tenure.
â€ž Further participation and involvement in the Homelessness and SP Provider forums continue to be developed.
SUPPORTING PEOPLE LOCAL COMMISSIONING PLAN (2017-20)
The Temporary Head of Adult Services spoke in detail to the report and explained that the annual Local Commissioning Plan would inform the Regional Strategic Plan. The Regional Collaborative Committees were responsible for producing the Regional Strategic Plan which would set out the priorities/spend for the region and was reviewed on an annual basis.
The priorities outlined in the Commissioning Plan would only be commissioned if funding became available either through new monies or if services were remodelled locally/regionally. The Local SP Planning Group had to make some difficult decisions in planning for the implementation of potential cuts to the budget and the SP Team was currently in discussions with providers regarding different service models and how services could be delivered in the future.
In reply to a question, Members were advised that the Supporting People budget was grant funded and could not, therefore, be utilised to fund an overspend within another budget area.
RESOLVED to recommend that the report be accepted and Blaenau Gwent's SP Local Commissioning Plan 2017/20 be noted. The Local Plan would then inform the Gwent SP Regional Strategic Plan which would be submitted to the Welsh Government.
GWENT FRAILTY JOINT SCRUTINY PROPOSAL
The Temporary Corporate Director of Social Services spoke to the report and highlighted points contained therein. He explained that the Section 33 Agreement had been in place since April 2016 and this outlined a number of Welsh Government recommendations including ensuring effective governance arrangements of the programme as a whole.
The review of the programme had also been guided by two external reviews, the Cordis Bright Review (commissioned by the GJFC in July 2014) and the Wales Audit Office review published in December 2015.
Councillor B. Scully left the meeting at this juncture.
A new governance structure had been agreed and the Gwent Joint Frailty Committee would continue until May 2017 and be reviewed at that point. The intention was that this would eventually be superseded by the Greater Gwent Partnership Board set up under the auspices of Social Services and Well Being Act 2014. Scrutiny would continue to be undertaken by the Scrutiny Committees in the five local authorities and the Public Health and Partnership Committee of ABUHB. It was noted that the funding formulae had been split between the Health Board 77% and local authorities 23%.
At the Gwent Frailty Joint Scrutiny Seminar held on 21st October, 2016 it was proposed that a Task and Finish Group be set up to include a Scrutiny Officer from each local authority and two Member representatives from each local authority's Scrutiny Committee to consider what options there were for developing joint governance arrangements for the Gwent Frailty Programme across Gwent.
A discussion ensued when it was agreed that the Chair and Vice-Chair of the Social Services Scrutiny Committee be nominated to attend the Task and Finish Group.
AGENDA ITEMS FOR THE NEXT MEETING OF THE SOCIAL SERVICES SCRUTINY COMMITTEE
Agenda Items (56K/bytes)
RESOLVED that the following items be agreed:-
- Corporate Parenting Report
- 1000 Days Public Health Wales Programme - Information Item
FURTHER RESOLVED in order that a full year's figures could be produced that the report relating to Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards be submitted to the March meeting of the Scrutiny Committee.
The Chair pointed out that quite often the authority was criticised for the level of information contained within reports and for appropriate officers not being in attendance at Scrutiny Committees in order to respond to questions raised by Members.
The Chair commented, that in his opinion, the reports and presentation of items within the Social Services Scrutiny Committee had been of a high quality throughout the process and officers were able to answer all questions raised and this should be noted accordingly.