Agenda and minutes

Social Services Scrutiny Committee
Thursday, 5th November, 2020 10.00 am

Venue: virtually via Microsoft Teams - if you would like to attend this meeting live via Microsoft Teams please contact committee.services@blaenau-gwent.gov.uk

Contact: Democratic Services  5100

Media

Items
No. Item

1.

Simultaneous Translation

You are welcome to use Welsh at the meeting, a minimum notice period of 3 working days is required should you wish to do so.  A simultaneous translation will be provided if requested.

Minutes:

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

2.

Apologies

To receive.

Minutes:

Apologies for absence were received from Councillors G. Collier, G.L. Davies and L. Elias.

 

The Chair said that Councillor Elias had requested that the Director of Social Services pass on his thanks to the Head of Adult Services and her team for their help and quick response to a recent matter.

3.

Declarations of Interests and Dispensation

To consider any declarations of interests and dispensations made.

Minutes:

There were no declarations of interest or dispensations reported.

4.

Social Services Scrutiny Committee Minutes pdf icon PDF 259 KB

To receive the Minutes of the Social Services Scrutiny Committee held on 17th September, 2020.

 

(Please note the Minutes are submitted for points of accuracy only)

Minutes:

The Minutes of the Social Services Scrutiny Committee Meeting held on 17th September, 2020 were submitted.

 

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

5.

Forward Work Programme - 10th December 2020 pdf icon PDF 395 KB

To consider the Forward Work Programme.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Chair of the Social Services Scrutiny Committee.

 

The Committee AGREED that the report be accepted and endorse Option 2; namely that the Social Services Scrutiny Committee Forward Work Programme for the meeting on 10th December, 2020 be approved

6.

Update on Strategy to Safely Reduce the Numbers of Children Looked After pdf icon PDF 855 KB

To consider the report of the Corporate Director Social Services.

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Director of Social Services which was presented to update Members on the progress made in relation to the implementation of the Safe Reduction of Children Looked After Strategy 2017-2020.

 

The Head of Children’s Services spoke to the report and highlighted that the Strategy to Safely Reduce the numbers of Children Looked After had three objectives:-

 

1.      To support families to stay together.

2.      To manage risk confidently and provide support at the edge of care.

3.      To provide affordable high quality placements.

 

In response to a Member’s question regarding foster carers, the Head of Children’s Services said that it had been a challenge over the summer for the recruitment campaign. Heads of Service across Wales had been developing a national approach for local authorities to recruit foster carers.  The brand ‘Foster Wales’ had been developed and funding of £300,000 had been allocated by the Welsh Government to support the 22 local authorities, and an official launch would take place next year.  The number of foster carers in Blaenau Gwent remained constant, however, enquiries had increased in January/February 2020 but slowed in March due to the pandemic.  The challenge for the Service was to transfer enquiries into approved foster carers as not all applications were successful.  Consultation had been undertaken with existing foster carers regarding how they had been supported over the summer and the feedback had been extremely positive.

 

A Member enquired regarding the £400,000 overspend on legal costs, the Head of Children’s Services explained that there were many different elements to each case and some may need a number of independent assessments that were commissioned through the court such as assessments of parents or of a sibling group.  Another part of that overspend was the full year costs associated with external legal services as the Council’s Child Care Solicitor had left the Authority.  The Legal Department had gone through the procurement process to enquire if neighbouring authorities were interested in taking on this legal work, at that time there had been no take up of the offer, however, a neighbouring authority had since expressed an interest and the Directorate were now exploring this option.

 

In response to a Member’s question regarding the Integrated Care Fund monies and how the Directorate was meeting the three objectives, the Head of Children’s Services said that the Welsh Government had given verbal confirmation that the Integrated Care Fund would continue up to April/March 2022.  In relation to meeting the three objectives, this was evidenced by a reduced number of children coming into care and demonstrated the important work of the Supporting Change Team in supporting families and how to manage risk confidently.  As there was further work to be carried out, the Directorate was in the process of developing a five year strategy.

 

With regard to legal fees a Member felt that the Welsh Government should look at legal fees with a view to providing support for local authorities.  He also enquired if collaboration with  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Regional Partnership Update pdf icon PDF 449 KB

To consider the report of the Corporate Director Social Services.

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Director of Social Services which was presented to update Members on the work and decisions taken over the last 9 months by the Regional Partnership Board, developed under statutory guidance Part 9 of the Social Services and Wellbeing (Wales) Act 2014 (SSWB Act).

 

The Director of Social Services spoke to the report and highlighted the main areas that had occupied the Regional Partnership Board:-

 

        Coronavirus outbreak across partner agencies and the effect on services.

        The continuation of the Transformational Offer beyond 2021.

        The reallocation of underspend for 2019/20.

        The continuation of the Integrated Care Revenue and Capital Funds.

        Integrated Winter Plan for 2020/21.

 

In response to a Member’s question regarding the impact on child and adult mental health services, the Director of Social Services said that it had been difficult to deliver the service in the same way as before the pandemic as there had been less face to face contact.  During the first lockdown there had been an increase in mental health issues for adults and children and he felt that there would be some additional pressures on the system as a result of this.  It was important to continue to deliver the service going forward and to continue to make face to face contact and by other social media means.

 

A Member referred to the verbal agreement for Transformational funding up to 2022 and enquired what impact next year’s Welsh Assembly elections may have on this funding.  The Director of Social Services said that because of the Welsh Assembly elections next May this had been a transitional period to allow any incoming or existing party to be able to make decisions whether the funding continued going forward. The Directorate had been evaluating programmes to evidence the clear benefits of each and what outcomes they could achieve for families and communities living within the Gwent region.  The Director felt confident that similar funding would continue for the transitional year and this would protect some services.

 

On a point of clarity the Director of Social Services said that the offer in Gwent related to four areas derived from the priority areas within the Area Plan.  The fifth bullet point on paragraph 2.9 related to the development of workforce planning and organisational development to underpin transformation activity and was to support the four themes.

 

The Chair enquired regarding the relationship between the Authority and the private sector residential settings and if there was an improved exchange of information with regard to possible Covid-19 outbreaks within those care homes.  The Director of Social Services said that an excellent relationship had developed with the private sector care homes with regular feedback from commissioners, Environmental Health Officers were also in contact with private sector care homes to provide advice and guidance.  Information was gathered regarding staff and residents within care homes and if there were any positive cases an enhanced testing regime was carried out within those care homes.  In relation  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.