Agenda item

Social Services Improvement Plan Progress Report

To present the report of the Interim Director of Social Services.


The report of the Interim Director of Social Services and Interim Head of Adults’ Services providing a summary of progress and improvements to date within the Social Services was presented for the Committee’s consideration.


Councillor Llinos Medi, Leader and Portfolio Member for Social Services provided a summary of the key developments since the Committee was last updated in September, 2010 as follows –


           That Social Services are currently working within budget and both Adults and Children and Families’ Services are on target to close the financial year in this position.

           In September, 2020 as part of the national Welsh Government initiative to roll out an ID card for young carers throughout Wales, the Service began working in partnership with Gwynedd Council and Action for Children to develop an ID card for young carers. This work has since progressed as detailed within the report and the Service is currently working with regional partners to develop a unified approach to design for a North Wales Young Carers ID card in digital, card and wristband format. The ID card is to be formally launched next week.

           That two of the established Small Group Homes are running at full capacity, work is progressing on a third and an offer has been made on a fourth property using ICF funding to provide accommodation for children cared for by the Authority.

           The Service has secured ICF provision funding to purchase a detached bungalow in order to offer an improved day care service for children with complex needs. A property has been identified and its purchase is in process.

           A “no wrong door” approach is being developed in responding to the emotional well-being and mental health needs of children and young people which have been brought into sharp focus by the pandemic. This means that families, children and young people seeking help with mental health and emotional well-being needs will not be bounced between services or told that they are knocking on the wrong door. A plan has been formulated to further develop and take this approach forward.

           An independent audit of Adults’ Social Services has been commissioned and will report on findings to the Social Services Improvement Panel.

           Three Community Resource teams in Amlwch, Ysbyty Penrhos Stanley and Llanfairpwll are now in place and due to Covid-19 restrictions, are meeting virtually.

           A position update is provided with regard to the two projects aimed at delivering the   Adult Learning Disability Strategy – these encompass external day services and the in house provision. Due to Covid 19 the commissioning timetable for the externally commissioned provision has slipped.

           The development of the Shared Lives Programme has been severely impacted by the pandemic. The project which is ICF funded is to be continued but will be opened up to support older people,

           The expansion of the community hubs has been put on hold during the pandemic. Elements of the work are continuing virtually examples of which are given in the report. 


The Interim Director of Social Services said that despite the daily challenges of Covid-19, and the third national lockdown which came into effect on 19 December, 2020 and the unprecedented demands on staff, both Adults and Children and Families’ Services have continued to fulfil their statutory duties and as the report testifies, have succeeded in progressing a range of developmental and innovative projects as well. The Service and the Council are proud of their staff.


The Interim Head of Adults’ Services referred to the Learning Disability Day Services noting that despite the lockdown closure of learning disability day centres, digital contact with clients has been maintained throughout the period. Consequently in developing its recovery plan, the Service will be looking to build on the lessons learnt during the pandemic in terms of doing things differently recognising that technology can be a part of supporting people with learning disabilities. This is in tune with the feedback received form clients and is one of the positives to come out of the pandemic.


Councillor Richard Griffiths reporting on the work of the Social Services Improvement Panel confirmed that despite Covid-19 the Panel has continued to meet regularly over the past six months in virtual form and has meetings scheduled for the coming few months as well. The Panel has continued to receive evidence of development across both Adults and Children and Families’ Services and in the three meetings held over the course of October, 2020 to January, 2021 the Panel has given attention to the two services’ performance over Qtrs. 1 and 2 2020/21; care home arrangements during Covid-19; progress against the Older People’s Services Improvement Plan; winter pressures in Adults’ Services and safeguarding with specific reference to domestic violence. An independent audit of Adult Social Care Services has been commissioned and an Internal Audit review of the Corporate Parenting Panel has been conducted and concluded that there would be advantages in more closely aligning the Panel with the Social Services Improvement Panel.


Points made and questions raised by the Committee were responded to as follows –


           Members were encouraged by the financial performance of Adults’ Services and Children and Families’ Services to date this year but accepted that both services could face increased pressures going into the new financial year as lockdown restrictions are eased and demand grows. In light of this the Committee sought assurance about the services financial resilience and ability to cope  going forwards and whether any good practices could be taken from the pandemic that could mitigate the concerns in this respect.


The Committee was advised that Welsh Government has announced the provision of a £206m support package to help councils meet the additional costs of dealing with the pandemic for the first six months of 2021/22 to be accessed via claims to the hardship fund. Whilst it is difficult to project the level of demand and therefore the likely costs going forward, the experience in Children and Families’ Services has shown that as lockdown restrictions have eased, referrals to the service have increased and the significant year end underspend projected in Quarters 1 and 2 of the current financial year has consequently reduced going into Quarters 3 and 4. It is possible that in returning to some normality the budgets for Adults and Children and Families’ Services may prove insufficient leading to overspend which is where having reserves is important.


With regard to good practice, the increased reliance on technology during the pandemic has brought specific benefits for example the number of looked after children attending assessment review meetings conducted virtually has increased because they are more comfortable with meeting in this way and are used to the technology. The Service aims to capitalise on these gains by extending the use of technology to for example the support provided for foster carers.


The challenge moving forwards will to be to recognise the effects of the pandemic on adults and children and to ensure that the service is prepared accordingly going into the recovery period. Some of the innovative projects referred to in the report e.g. the No Wrong Door mental health project lay the groundwork for recovery and further mitigations have been put in place through the establishment and expansion of the community hubs.


           Reference was made to the Young Carers ID cards with the Committee seeking clarity on the advantages they are expected to bring.


The Committee was advised that the ID card is a national scheme funded by Welsh Government and developed as a partnership between the Carers Trust and local authorities to help establish young people’s status as carers and make it easier for them to be supported accordingly. From the feedback received young carers said that they would prefer to have a digital ID and so with Welsh Government and the Carers Trust approval, Anglesey and Gwynedd are  piloting this option as part of the roll-out of Young Carers ID cards throughout Wales and have developed an app for the purpose.


           Reference was made to the independent audit of Adults’ Social Services and the reasons for its being commissioned.


     The Committee was advised that the independent audit will perform the function of a critical friend and provide an in-depth analysis of systems, processes  and procedures in Adults’ Services to ensure they are fit for purpose and that the delivery of services is timely and responsive and not hampered by bureaucracy or duplication. The audit will provide the Council with a detailed overview of what is a complex service area and will provide clear and agreed recommendations with regard to specific areas that the Service needs to focus on to improve outcomes for the service user.


           With reference to the No Wrong Door scheme, the Committee noted that the stresses on mental health and social care for children are recognised and that a significant increase in need is anticipated over the coming months. Reference was also made to evidence of school children seeking access to GP services because of mental health issues. The Committee sought assurance that current provision is adequate to be able to respond to this new additional need and that further, the plan for progressing the No Wrong Door scheme is sufficient and enables the Service to move quickly to deal with the potential upsurge in demand.


The Committee was advised that in acknowledging the challenges of the coming months the Service will consolidate its current approach and practice with regard to the good working relationship it has with schools and with the Learning Service especially in terms of tailoring and shaping services to meet the need, expanding the services on offer and using grant monies differently to ensure that the response is timely. Prior to the pandemic, the Service had commissioned joint working with Parabl which provides support for individuals over 18 years of age in North Wales with mental health needs and, on the basis of the evidence of need that has emerged during the pandemic, the Service is now working with Parabl to lower the age threshold at which individuals can be seen so that the organisation can meet virtually with children and young people under 18 years of age who might not be eligible for CAHMS intervention but who nevertheless require support. The Service is seeing families access support who but for the pandemic would not necessarily have made the approach to Social Services.


It was resolved 


           To confirm that the Corporate Scrutiny Committee is satisfied with the pace of progress and improvements made to date in Social Services and,

           To recommend to the Executive that progress and pace of improvements in Social Services are adequate.



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