Meeting documents

Social Services Scrutiny Committee
Thursday, 20th September, 2018 9.30 am

Date: Thursday 20th September 2018 Time: 9.30 a.m. Place: Council Chamber, Civic Centre

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

PresentAndWithReport toReport of
Item/Resolution Status Action
Tudalen Glawr Agenda Gymraeg/Welsh Agenda Coversheet (173K/bytes)

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


Apologies for absence were received from Councillors S.C. Thomas, T. Sharrem and the Corporate Director of Social Services.


No declarations of interest or dispensations were reported.

Minutes (268K/bytes)
Cofnodion (206K/bytes)

The minutes of the Social Services Scrutiny Committee held on 26th July, 2018 were submitted.

The Committee AGREED that the Minutes be accepted as a true record of proceedings.

Action Sheet (52K/bytes)

The action sheet arising from the Social Services Scrutiny Committee held on 26th July, 2018 was submitted.

The Committee AGREED that the action sheet be noted.

Report (123K/bytes)
Appendix 1 (564K/bytes)
Appendix 2 (84K/bytes)

Consideration was given to the report of the Head of Children's Services which provided an overview of the Care Inspectorate Wales (CIW) inspection report on Children's Social Services in Blaenau Gwent.

The Head of Children's Services spoke to the report and highlighted points contained. She confirmed that the CIW had undertaken an inspection of Children's Services over a two week period in February 2018. During that time Inspectors selected 56 cases to look at, in varying degrees of depth, as outlined in section 2.2 of the report.

The full inspection report was attached at Appendix 1 and included a summary of findings and areas for development under each of the following headings:

- Leadership, management and governance
- Access arrangements: Information, Advice and Assistance
- Assessment
- Care and support and pathway planning
- Safeguarding

Section 2.5 highlighted some positive practices within the service and the Officer was pleased to report that one of the first comments she received from the Inspector was that we had an incredible workforce and how committed they were. They also recognised the passion the workforce had when talking about children and families they worked with.

The Head of Children's Services said she was very proud of the comments within the report, particularly in relation to children and young people leaving care and the work of the 14+ Team. Section 2.6 of the report highlighted 9 areas for improvement and the Officer confirmed that an action plan had been developed (Appendix 2) and this was monitored and updated on a regular basis.

In response to a question raised by a Member regarding the make-up of the Complex Needs Panel the Officer confirmed that the Children and Families Regional Partnership Board were currently undertaking a piece of work on the commissioning and funding of placements for children with complex needs, and hopefully this work would also resolve the issues in relation to the contribution of partner agencies.

A Member referred to the overview of findings outlined on page 25 of the inspection report, where it stated that the Authority's self-assessment described the current rate of increase in looked after children as unsustainable from a workforce and budgetary position. The Officer said this was covered in the next report on the agenda, however, whilst the number of looked after children had increased over the last few years as at February this year the figures had seemed to plateaux. If the level of increase in workload had continued the demand would have been impossible to manage.

The Officer said the nature of the work was un-predictable but assured that children were always safeguarded. The following report on the agenda highlighted some of the work being undertaken to manage the risk. The Officer said the situation was not unique to Blaenau Gwent, and the WLGA and Association of Directors of Social Services in Wales (ADSS Cymru) had issued a joint position statement on the condition of Children's Services within Welsh LA's, highlighting some very stark facts about the pressures currently being experienced by Children's Services and at a time when budgets are reducing.

In response to a question raised by a Member regarding the number of out of county placements, the Officer undertook to report back with the figure and those in foster care. The figure for children in residential care was 18 which was significantly high, of those 3 were in Blaenau Gwent and 15 were outside the Authority, and only a small number outside Wales.

Another Member referred to the use of Contracts of Expectations, and the Officer explained that these were entered into with families generally when safeguarding issues were identified and alongside the care planning process. The Contracts set out what was expected of the family and what would happen if they were not complied with. The Inspectors felt they could be used more effectively in partnership with parents, and the workforce needed more clarity about when and how they should be used. The Officer confirmed that new procedures had been developed.

In response to a question raised by a Member regarding training the Officer confirmed that every Team would receive outcome based training to deliver interventions by February next year.

A Member then referred to the second bullet point on Page 26 of the inspection report where it stated that 'the capacity of the police to respond promptly to the requirement to hold a strategy discussion, regularly resulted in delay decision making', and asked whether the police were aware of the inspection report.

The Officer confirmed that the report had been discussed with the police and it had also been raised at the Regional Safeguarding Board.

In response to a further question raised in relation to section 2.1 on page 31 of the inspection report, i.e. assessments, the Officer said this was around improving how we assess and analyse information. She said improvements to the induction process for newly appointed Social Workers was key in addressing this issue, and Senior Practitioners would be undertaking joint working and leading by example on this.

The Committee AGREED to recommend that the report be accepted and the Scrutiny Committee support Option 1, namely that the CIW report and areas for improvement be endorsed, and the action plan be supported.

Report (175K/bytes)
Appendix 1 (148K/bytes)
Appendix 2 (335K/bytes)

Consideration was given to the report of the Head of Children's Services which provided an update on the current situation in relation to the numbers of children who are looked after, and progress made in relation to the implementation of the Safe Reduction of Looked After Children Strategy.

The Head of Children's Services spoke to the report and highlighted points contained. She confirmed that the numbers of looked after children continued to be monitored on a regular basis and monthly meetings were held to review all children in residential care, and high cost placements.

The Children's Services 'Safe Reduction in Looked After Children Strategy 2017-2020' had also been adopted, with 3 clear objectives, i.e:-

- To support families to stay together
- To manage risk confidently and provide support at the edge of care
- To provide affordable high quality placements

Each of these objectives had a number of actions aligned to them and a list of progress against these actions was attached at Appendix 1.

The Officer referred to the Supporting Change Team which commenced in January 2018, and confirmed that performance management data, an evaluation of the impact of its work and information on projected savings generated via cost avoidance was provided at Appendix 2.

Section 2.15 of the report indicated a significant increase in the number of children coming out of the Public Law Outline process, preventing the need to go to court, which was positive, and avoided the children becoming looked after and the additional costs that would be incurred.

The Officer said whilst it was acknowledged that not all children could be prevented from becoming looked after, if the criteria was applied to the 65 children who the Supporting Change Team had worked with, the maximum potential cost avoidance was in excess of 673,000 per year. These figures were expected to rise in line with the number of children the Team work with.

The Team had only been operational for a short period of time, and a full evaluation of the first year would be undertaken in January 2019, which would hopefully demonstrate a positive impact on improving outcomes for looked after children, and how many children are no longer 'looked after' as a result of the Team. The Officer pointed out that Appendix 2 also included some very positive case studies.

In terms of the numbers of looked after children, the figures seemed to have plateaued, and not continue to escalate at the rate it had been. Whilst it was too early to say for certain, it seemed the implementation of the Safe Reduction in Looked After Children Strategy had started to work.

A Member asked why the Supporting Change Team was not operational until January 2018 when development of the Team was approved in July 2017.

The Officer explained that the initial timescale was to have the Team up and running by October 2017, however, following the recruitment process a number of the successful candidates had to give notice in their existing jobs. It was also recognised that intensive training was required and this was undertaken throughout December 2017.

In response to a question raised by a Member the Officer pointed out that the heading of the report should be amended to read 'Update on the looked after children population in Blaenau Gwent and implementation of the Safe Reduction in Looked After Children Strategy'.

A brief discussion ensued when a Member referred to the budget position and asked whether Welsh Government could be allocating more funding to promote parenting skills.

In response the Officer said Children's Services was projecting a significant overspend again this year due to the demand and complex nature of the service. However, the Department would do its best to mitigate this, with the caveat that children at risk would continue to be safeguarded. In terms of funding for improved parenting skills, the Officer confirmed that Flying Start and the Families First Programme were two initiatives funded by Welsh Government and very much focussed on improving parenting skills.

A Member referred to Section 4 of Appendix 2, namely the low number of referrals made to the Supporting Change Team from the Children with Disabilities Team, and asked how far this had been investigated. The Team Manager said she was unable to comment on the number of referrals but confirmed that greater links were being made with the Children with Disabilities Team to raise awareness of the Supporting Change Team criteria.

Another Member said the number of referrals may rise around the Christmas period as a result of the implementation of Universal Credit, and the Head of Children's Services said the Section was as prepared as it could be, but there were no additional resources available if that did occur.

In response to a question raised by a Member regarding the possibility of Welsh Government funding to extend the Supporting Change Team beyond 3 years, the Officer explained that the Team was established from grant monies from Welsh Government and other budget lines within Children's Services. However, the grant money was now within the RSG and pass-ported over to Children Services, so the money would not disappear after 3 years. The challenge was to ensure that the Team delivered what was hoped for, and in time a reducing budget pressure.

In response to a question raised the Officer confirmed that future reports would include an update on the budget position.

A discussion ensued regarding legal costs when the Officer confirmed that work was ongoing to consider the development of collaborative arrangements across other LA's to provide legal services, but in the interim outside legal firms would continue to be used.

The Committee AGREED to recommend, subject to the foregoing, that the report be accepted and the information contained therein be acknowledged (Option 1).

Report (152K/bytes)

Consideration was given to report of the Head of Children's Services which outlined a proposal to develop a joint multi-disciplinary intensive therapeutic fostering service for looked after children and young people in partnership with Monmouthshire County Borough Council.

The Head of Children's Services spoke to the report and highlighted points contained therein. She explained that Torfaen CBC had commissioned a therapeutic fostering service called MIST which had been running for 12 years. It provided intensive support to a small number of specially recruited and trained therapeutic foster carers to repatriate young people placed in out of area residential care, and to prevent young people who may be at risk of residential care from moving out of the area.

The service had been independently evaluated twice in Torfaen, and both evaluation reports were positive. Some of the benefits from such a service were outlined in section 2.11 of the report.

The Children and Families Partnership Board recognised the need for a MIST type model to be rolled out to all 5 Gwent LA's and therefore a bid was made to the ICF to implement a project. The aim of Project 5 was to develop a Gwent wide approach in delivering enhanced therapeutic support for children and young people with challenging and complex needs. As Torfaen and Caerphilly already have such a service in place, the Partnership agreed the ICF grant money for the development of a joint-multi-disciplinary intensive therapeutic fostering service to Blaenau Gwent and Monmouthshire.

In terms of the budget, the ICF grant would sustain the local team for 18 months, and based on the success of Torfaen and Caerphilly the predicted impact on the budget in the medium/long term was that it would reduce the expenditure on expensive residential placements for children and young people.

The Committee AGREED to recommend that the report be accepted and Option 1 be agreed, namely that the proposal of developing a joint multi-disciplinary intensive therapeutic fostering service for Looked After Children and young people between Blaenau Gwent and Monmouthshire County Borough Councils be supported, and the report be presented to the Executive Committee for approval.

Report (128K/bytes)
Appendix 1 (236K/bytes)
Appendix 2 (19K/bytes)
Appendix 3 (18K/bytes)
Appendix 4 (5M/bytes)

Consideration was given to report of the Corporate Director of Social Services which provided an update on the work and decisions taken over the last 6 months by the Regional Partnership Board.

The Executive Member for Social Services spoke to the report and highlighted points contained therein. He reported that the Board met yesterday and confirmed that further reports would be submitted to Committee on a bid to the ICF to further develop Augusta House in Ebbw Vale.

He referred to the Parliamentary Review 'A Healthier Wales: our Plan for Health and Social Care' which set out a new 100m transformational programme. The Plan emphasised the role of the Regional Partnership Boards in setting the strategic change agenda and providing the collaborative leadership required to deliver system change through an 'Area Plan'. The new transformation fund was intended to provide additional funding to catalyse 'whole system change', driven through the Regional Partnership Boards with an expectation that each region develops a 'transformational offer'.

He confirmed that the Leadership Group were working to scope and develop a 'Gwent transformational offer' which was based on the development of a 'place based approach' to the delivery of integrated community services over time, which could be scaled up into a consistent 'regional model'.

The Committee AGREED to recommend that the report be accepted and Option 1 be supported, namely:

- To support the decision of the Regional Partnership Board
- To continue to evaluate and allocate the Integrated Care Fund for Gwent to ensure this money is spent most appropriately
- To continue to progress the Section 33 Agreement as previously agreed, for the integrated commissioning and pooling of funds in relation to care home accommodation functions
- To endorse the governance arrangements for integrated working across health and social services as set out in Appendices 1, 2 and 3
- To endorse the Regional Annual Report as set out in Appendix 4
- To endorse the proposed approach to developing a Gwent transformation offer

Report (88K/bytes)
Appendix 1 (60K/bytes)

Consideration was given to report of the Scrutiny Officer which provided the Scrutiny Committee Forward Work Programme for the meeting on the 1st November, 2018 for discussion, and to update the Committee on any changes.

The Committee AGREED to recommend that the report be accepted.