Agenda and minutes

Social Services Scrutiny Committee
Thursday, 21st January, 2021 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:

There were no apologies for absence reported.

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 238 KB

To receive the Minutes of the Social Services Scrutiny Committee held on 10th December, 2020.

 

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

Minutes:

The Minutes of the Social Services Scrutiny Committee Meeting held on 10th December, 2020 were submitted, whereupon:-

 

INTEGRATED CARE FUND (ICF) UPDATE 2019/20

 

In response to a Member’s question regarding the Integrated Care Fund (ICF), the Director of Social Services said that the Regional Partnership Board had received a letter from the Welsh Government confirming the continuation of funding for next year and even though the funding would be slightly lower than expected, the Director felt comfortable continuing to deliver services on that basis.

 

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

5.

Corporate Parenting Progress Report 2020-21 pdf icon PDF 555 KB

To consider the report of the Service Manager, Children's Services.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Service Manager, Children’s Services which was presented to inform Members of the progress made by Blaenau Gwent Corporate Parenting Board (CPB) throughout 2020 to improve outcomes and services for our Children Looked After (CLA).

 

The Service Manager Children’s Services spoke to the report and highlighted the main points contained therein and informed Members that the action plan had been developed in February 2020, prior to the Covid pandemic, and some other measures had been put in place which may have superseded some of the actions because of priorities.

 

In relation to Key priority 2, the Chair enquired if the Multi Agency Child Exploitation (MACE) meetings had been held on a quarterly basis throughout the pandemic.  The Head of Children’s Services confirmed that the MACE meetings had continued as they were part of the safeguarding structures in place within Gwent.  The Directorate had taken safeguarding responsibilities very seriously, particularly through the pandemic, as children were not being seen as regularly as they would have been through the Education system.  Existing structures and systems continued to be in place.

 

A Member enquired regarding support for young carers.  The Head of Children’s Services said this report focused on Children Looked After, but informed the Member that the Authority regarded young carers as vulnerable learners and all had been offered places in school hubs throughout the Covid pandemic.  The Families First Team had responsibility for providing services to young carers and they had been actively involved in making contact with that cohort.  Where necessary, face to face visits had been undertaken to ensure that cohort of children were supported.  Effort had also been made to bring this cohort of children together, virtually as a group, so they could provide peer support to one another.

 

In response to a Member’s question regarding providing laptops to Children Looked After, the Service Manager said an audit had been carried out with parents, guardians and carers of Children Looked After to establish if laptops or Wi-Fi connections were needed.  During March and April 2020 laptops had been bought for each child in the household that needed one so they were ready to go online with their schools.  The Team worked closely with schools and social workers to ensure that these children could do online learning.

 

A Member referred to Key priority 3, Action 3 – Promote “Children Looked After Friendly Schools” and felt that the wording on this action point should be changed.  The Service Manager said the Children Looked After friendly schools was a policy document, however, the word promote could be changed to - ensure that schools are adhering to the policy.  The Head of Children’s Services explained there was a duty on schools to ensure they meet the needs of Children Looked After.  Action Point 3 referred to a Blaenau Gwent guide, that had been created on what is best practice, for all schools supporting Children Looked After.  The guide had been adopted and was being tested  ...  view the full minutes text for item 5.

6.

Community Meals pdf icon PDF 449 KB

To consider the report of the Head of Adult Services.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Head of Adult Services which was presented to inform on the transition of the Community Meals (CM) service and progress made since transition from the Community Services Directorate to the Social Services Directorate.

 

The Director of Social Services spoke to the report and highlighted the main points contained therein.

 

A Member requested clarity on the actual numbers of drivers and vans.  The Director of Social Services clarified that two drivers went out at the same time in one van and subsequently the fixed term post had reduced and three drivers had been allowed to finish. Through redeployment, an additional driver had been used to support the service going forward.

 

A Member commented that with the significant 36% increased demand for the service was there capacity in the service to take it to where the Directorate needed it to be to offset any budget pressures.  The Director of Social Services said the vision was to develop a model to make it work within the Community Options Service, whereby   people with learning disabilities or mental health issues would go out with the drivers and learn new skills in terms of delivering the meals.  In order to continually develop the model and service there was a need to understand the underlying cost to deliver the service to look at employing additional staff if demand for the service increased further.  A full budget report would be presented to the Scrutiny Committee when the information became available.

 

In response to a Member’s question regarding hot and frozen meals, the Director of Social Services said the service provided both hot and frozen meals, often hot meals during the week and frozen meals at the weekends. Potentially an additional service such as sandwiches could be introduced in the future. 

 

A Member enquired if hospitals had been approached to promote this service to patients being discharged.  The Director of Social Services said the service was currently in the process of rebranding and marketing, however, the pandemic had slowed this process down, but social workers were promoting the delivery of an in-house service.  When patients were discharged from hospital they were offered community meals rather than obtaining meals from the private sector. 

 

A Member felt that rebranding was a good idea to make it more commercial and could encourage those people who could afford to pay to take up the service and raise revenue. The Director of Social Services said there was a need to be competitive with the private sector, but at this point in time the focus was to identify the full costs to run the service and look at opportunities to develop the service going forward and be much more commercially aware of the market to be successful.

 

In relation to resilient budget monitoring a Member enquired if the use of electric vehicles had been explored with the Community Services Directorate.  The Director of Social Services confirmed that discussions had taken place and would be further explored when  ...  view the full minutes text for item 6.

7.

Use of Consultants pdf icon PDF 485 KB

To consider the report of the Corporate Director Social Services.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

Consideration was given to the report of the Corporate Director of Social Services which was presented to provide Members with the information requested, relating to expenditure incurred during 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 on the use of consultants to support, supplement and complement the work of Officers across the Council.

 

The Director of Social Services spoke to the report and highlighted the main points contained therein, which included the advantages of engaging consultants for short periods of time which could be an effective use of Council’s resources.

 

A Member commented that it was good to see that consultants were only used where required and not just for the sake of it, he felt that the Council should look to its own staff before engaging consultants.  With regard to consultants for complaints he felt these figures should not be included in the Appendix as they were required by the Welsh Government.

 

With regard to Stage two complaints a Member enquired if these could be carried out via a partnership approach with other local authorities.  The Director of Social Services said this had been done on occasion but the difficulty was that Stage two complaints could be a considerable amount of work and when approached sometimes other local authorities were unable to undertake the work due to capacity issues at the time.

 

With regard to complaints against the Directorate a Member commented that it was essential to investigate complaints properly to achieve a suitable outcome for the complainant and the Directorate as the complaint could end in a lengthy court case where the costs to the Authority could be greater than the costs of the initial use of consultants.  The expert advice provided by consultants in areas such as Adoption was invaluable and he felt that legal advice provided in most cases was money well spent to protect the Authority.

 

The Chair echoed these comments and said that it was a transparent report with the consultant fees deemed to be necessary.

 

The Committee AGREED to recommend that the report be accepted and endorse Option 1; namely the use of consultants be noted.

8.

Forward Work Programme: 11th March 2021 pdf icon PDF 395 KB

To receive the report.

Additional documents:

Minutes:

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

 

The Chair advised of a proposed change to the agenda items, and after a brief discussion

 

The Committee AGREED that the report be accepted and endorse Option 1; namely that the report on Living Independently in the 21st Century Strategy be postponed and a report on the Safe Reduction of Children Looked After Strategy be presented to the meeting on the 11th March, 2021.