Meeting documents

Social Services Scrutiny Committee
Thursday, 1st November, 2018 9.30 am

Date: Thursday 1st November 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
COUNCILLOR S. C. THOMAS - CHAIR
Item
No
Item/Resolution Status Action
PUBLIC
1. TUDALEN GLAWR AGENDA GYMRAEG/WELSH VERSION OF AGENDA COVERSHEET
Tudalen Glawr Agenda Gymraeg/Welsh Version of Agenda Coversheet (172K/bytes)
Noted
2. SIMULTANEOUS TRANSLATION

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

Noted
3. APOLOGIES

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors:

J. Millard

M. Moore

J. Wilkins

Noted
4. DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST AND DISPENSATIONS

Councillor G. A. Davies declared and interest on:

Item 8 - Update Report - Social Services Assisted Transport Provision

Noted
5. SOCIAL SERVICES SCRUTINY COMMITTEE
Minutes (267K/bytes)
Cofnodion (265K/bytes)

The Minutes of the Social Services Scrutiny Committee held on 20th September, 2018 were submitted.

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

Agreed
6. ACTION SHEET
Action Sheet (48K/bytes)
Attachment (862K/bytes)

The Action Sheet arising from the Social Services Scrutiny Committee held on 20th September, 2018 was submitted.

The Corporate Director informed Members that there was also a Position Statement in relation to Adult Services and offered to distribute the information to Members.

The Committee AGREED that the action sheet be noted.

Agreed
7. ANNUAL REPORT OF THE DIRECTOR OF SOCIAL SERVICES 2018/19 (QUARTERS 1AND 2)
Report (106K/bytes)
Appendix 1 (2M/bytes)

Consideration was given to the report of the Corporate Director of Social Services which was presented to provide Members with the key points from Quarters 1 and 2 of the Annual Report of the Corporate Director of Social Services 2018/2019.

The Corporate Director of Social Services spoke to the report and explained that the report merely highlighted Quarter 1 and apologised for this. He highlighted the key points contained therein:

- Purpose of the Report
- Scope and Background
- Supporting Evidence
- Children's

The Corporate Director updated Members in relation to LAC and that the Directorate had seen a slight reduction in numbers over the last couple of months and was now at 222, unable to confirm that there was a trend but would report back to Committee.

The Head of Adult Services spoke on the Supporting Evidence - Adults.

Following the request by a Member, the Corporate Director undertook to provide the number of children who had taken up the Child Care offer.

A Member asked how many 'Step Up', 'Step Down' beds were available throughout the County Borough and whether the Department were satisfied with the amount. The Service Manager stressed that there would never be complete contentment with the amount of beds and explained that there were 8 beds stretched across the County Borough, however, a conversion was currently being undertaken on a property in Brynmawr to acquire a 9th facility.

Reference was made to page 2 of the Annual Report and the Corporate Director was asked that if Quarter 2 had been included in the report would there have been any difference to the figures shown. The Corporate Director responded that the figures may have been different by a small amount, although there had been an underspend in Adult Services which had offset the overspend in Children's Services.

A Member stressed that Looked After Children was a statutory function of the Council and should an additional child be taken into care the cost would dramatically increase. The Corporate Director concurred with this and stated that there had been an increase of two children in residential care since the last report, these placements are costed for the full year although there was the possibility that some children could come out of care early. He stated that there had previously been occasions where children came out of the care system as well as one recently where their care had been extended over 18. He said that it was anticipated that a benefit to the budget would be seen when Project 5 was up and running.

A question was asked about the number of Foster Carers and if there was intention to recruit more. The Officer said that with regard to the number of Carers, there was never enough, although recruitment was ongoing and a part time Recruitment Officer had been employed.

A Member expressed the importance of Scrutiny raising concerns regarding Foster Care and felt that having to go out of County attributed to a high cost and assurance was needed that money was available to do what the law required.

It was noted by a Member that this issue was UK wide and talks needed to be extended with Members in Welsh Government. Another Member responded that this Authority's responsibility was to provide the right services for the young people of Blaenau Gwent.

A Member felt strongly that the AM should be pursuing the issue of extra funding as there was fear that Blaenau Gwent would possibly lose out; and requested that senior politicians be asked to highlight this issue and make contact with the relevant Departments for further funding.

The Chair summarised that the report demonstrated that the Social Services Directorate was doing all that it could to tackle the huge overspend in LAC; therefore, the Committee recommended that senior politicians assist this work by:


- Seeking a meeting with Welsh Government to call for financial support to help with the current substantial cost pressure, once again highlighting the particular difficulties experienced by a small Authority like Blaenau Gwent with all of its associated deprivation issues.

- Mounting a member led media campaign to highlight Blaenau Gwent's current financial predicament and to demonstrate to the public that the Council is doing all that it can with very limited resources available.

The Committee AGREED this course of action.

The Committee FURTHER AGREED to recommend, subject to the foregoing, that the report be accepted and the Scrutiny Committee support Option 1, namely:

- That Members scrutinise the information for Quarters 1 and 2 detailed within the Director of Social Services' 2018/2019 Report and contribute to the continuous assessment of effectiveness by making appropriate recommendations to the Executive Committee;

- To seek a meeting with Welsh Government to call for financial support to help with the current substantial cost pressure, once again highlighting the particular difficulties experienced by a small Authority like Blaenau Gwent with all of its associated deprivation issues; and

- Mount a member led media campaign to highlight Blaenau Gwent's current financial predicament and to demonstrate to the public that the Council is doing all that it can with very limited resources available.

Agreed
8. YEAR END FINANCIAL POSITION FOR SOCIAL SERVICES
Report (171K/bytes)
Appendix 1 (38K/bytes)
Appendix 2 (48K/bytes)
Appendix 3 (103K/bytes)

Consideration was given to the report of the Corporate Director of Social Services which was presented to provide Members with information on the Financial Management within Social Services, the Final Budget Position for 2017/2018 and the First Quarter Forecast 2018/2019.

The Corporate Director of Social Services spoke to the report and highlighted the salient points contained therein:-

- Purpose of the Report
- Implications Against Each Option
„ Impact on Budget
„ Progress Against Approved Financial Efficiency Projects
„ Risk including Mitigating Actions
„ Legal
„ Human Resources
- Supporting Evidence

A Member referred to the Supporting Change Team and asked if figures were available revealing the number of children being prevented from going into care. The Corporate Director stated that this information was included in the report given in September; he said that work was being done with 63 families (44 children) some who had avoided going through the care system but the Authority would continue to work with. The Member asked for an update to be provided.

A Member questioned the 16 children that had avoided being taken into care and requested feedback be provided on the monitoring of their progress. The Corporate Director responded that this information could be accessed and the Officer undertook to provide the numbers and outcomes.

Concern was raised regarding the high cost in legal fees in 5.3.1 of the report and an update was requested. The Officer confirmed that the MD had held talks with the Chief Executives of neighbouring authorities and there had been an indication, especially with Monmouthshire and Torfaen, that there was a willingness to consider collaboration, as it was evident all authorities were under pressure. Following the Member's request the Officer undertook to establish the percentages of the 2 solicitors working on cases as well as those who are employed externally.

A Member referred to page 70 of the report and the 214k reduction in placements for LAC and asked if the Officer felt that this amount of savings had been slightly ambitious. The Officer confirmed that it had been ambitious, but explained that the figure was based on the strategy having an immediate impact on LAC numbers; however more recently there had been a slight reduction in numbers.

The Committee AGREED to recommend, subject to the foregoing, that the report be accepted and Option 1 be endorsed, namely that Members scrutinise the Finance Report and are satisfied with the level of challenge by the Directorates.

Agreed
9. UPDATE REPORT - SOCIAL SERVICES ASSISTED TRANSPORT PROVISION
Report (196K/bytes)
Appendix 1 (181K/bytes)
Appendix 2 (29K/bytes)
Appendix 3 (154K/bytes)

Consideration was given to report of the Corporate Director of Social Services which was presented to provide Members with the outcome of the Efficiency Service Review of Current Provision of Assisted Transport within the Community Options Service (Adult Services) and to determine the future Assistive Transport Policy arrangements for 2019/2020.

Councillor G. A. Davies declared an interest in this Item and remained in the Meeting.

The Executive Member outlined the purpose of the report and the Head of Adult Services spoke at length on the report highlighting the salient points contained therein:

- Scope and Background
„ Outcomes of Service Review Completed by May 2018
„ Citizen Consultation - What we have done?
„ Consultation Findings
- Options for Consideration
- Implications Against Each Option
- Risk Including Mitigating Actions
- Legal

A Member asked the Officer what the projected saving would be between Options 4 and 5. She responded that she was unable to provide the full cost recovery at this time due to not having the understanding of what the demand would be.

A question was asked about the Blue Badge Mobility Scheme and the affect that Assisted Transport would have on it, would it offset any idea of providing Assisted Transport to those with a badge. The Officer confirmed that it would. She also stated that 80,000 had already been saved by the Department and overall further reductions could potentially be made.

Councillor D. Bevan left the Meeting at this juncture.

The Officer continued that in relation to people receiving benefits, this should in fact cover the cost of travel to their destinations. However, should a person be in receipt of a Blue Badge it does not suggest that they would not be entitled to Assisted Transport, but they would however be encouraged to use their mobility car if they were also in receipt of full mobility allowance.

A Member gave thanks to the Officer for the extensive report and referred to the families of the clients who travelled to Centres. He felt that during the time their relative was at the centre, this was prime time for the family to have respite. He stated that he was not totally against a charge and that a small fee would not be unreasonable, but if the charge was too high there was the possibility of a reduction in the usage of the Centres as well as our most vulnerable clients becoming isolated. The Member asked the Officer what route our neighbouring authorities were taking in relation to this Policy. The Officer responded that Caerphilly, Monmouthshire and Newport had made the decision to agree the Assisted Transport Policy but would not be seeking to charge.

A Member referred to DLA and PIP and the regular changes in circumstances around the people claiming these allowances. He felt that if the Fleet were reduced the clients would cease using the facilities. He stated that he found it difficult to support the recommendation.

A Member said that information received from the Mobility Board stated that if people were in receipt of mobility allowance and claimed assisted transport allowance this would be classed as dual funding.

The Options were discussed and a Member asked if whatever option was to be agreed by Members at the Meeting what would be the next steps. The Officer said that whichever option was agreed the Assisted Transport Policy would go ahead in principal and the introduction of a charging policy would come back to Committee, with costings, at a later date. The Corporate Director stated that this would obviously take time as all of the 210 clients would need to be reassessed.

Members reiterated their concerns in supporting the recommendation without having the knowledge of the amount of savings to be made. The Officer confirmed that should the report be agreed with no charge requested the Authority would be in line with neighbouring authorities where the Policy would be in place but with no charge to clients.

It was noted that if Option 5 were agreed the charges would involve all passengers and would be comparable to public transport, however if Option 4 was agreed it would entail full cost recovery.

A question was asked about those who were eligible for free bus passes and would they be expected to pay for assisted transport. The Officer stated that bus pass holders would be assessed; however they would be encouraged to use public transport if they were fit and able. The Service Manager, Provider Services explained that the times of the bus services would also be taken into account.

Members were keen to explore Option 5 and a Member suggested that the Policy be accepted with the revision that all individuals are assessed and the Department return to Committee with the cost element.

Another Member felt that Option 5 be agreed with no charges being implemented, in line with neighbouring authorities.

Option 4 was proposed - no seconder.

Option 4 was proposed to include the Department come back at a future date with the cost of transport and the number of clients able to pay - seconded.

Option 5 was proposed with an amendment that the Authority are in line with other authorities and to look at introducing a charge at a later date comparable to neighbouring authorities - seconded.

Upon a vote being taken:

The Committee AGREED to recommend that the report be accepted and Option 5 be agreed with an amendment, namely:

- To introduce a Policy for undertaking eligibility assessments for all new and/or existing service users wanting to access transport to and from Community Options, and;

- To continue in line with neighbouring authorities and come back to the Social Services Scrutiny Committee with figures at a later date.

Agreed
10. FORWARD WORK PROGRAMME - 13TH DECEMBER 2018
Report (81K/bytes)
Appendix 1 (49K/bytes)

Consideration was given to report of the Chair of Social Services Scrutiny Committee which was presented to provide Members with the Forward Work Programme for the Meeting on the 24th January, 2019 for discussion, and to update the Committee on any changes.

Following a discussion:

The Committee AGREED that the December Meeting be CANCELLED and all items be accepted for the meeting scheduled to be held on 24th January, 2019.

- Corporate Parenting Progress Report
- National Adoption Service Annual Report
- Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards

Information Item
- Annual Independent Reviewing Officer Report

Agreed