Agenda and minutes
Venue: Council Chamber, The Shire Hall, St Peter's Square, Hereford, HR1 2HX
Contact: Sarah Smith
APOLOGIES FOR ABSENCE
To receive any apologies for absence.
Apologies were received from Councillor J Lester.
DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
To receive any declarations of interest by Members in respect of items on the Agenda.
To approve and sign the minutes of the meeting held on 21 September 2016.
Resolved: That the Minutes of the meeting held on 21 September 2016 be approved as a correct record and signed by the Chairman.
To report on the annual reports of the HSCB and HSAB, which address the work of multi-agency partners in Herefordshire in safeguarding and promoting the welfare of children, young people and vulnerable adults within the county, including achievements and areas for improvement, and priorities identified for 2016/17.
The cabinet member for health and wellbeing thanked the independent chairs of the two safeguarding boards for their work. She stated that looking after the most vulnerable people was the most important work the council did. She noted that a great deal of good work goes on but that often it was only the failures that received notice.
The Manager of the Safeguarding Business Support Unit informed the meeting that the boards had a statutory requirement to produce annual reports for consideration by cabinet. The role of the boards was to co-ordinate the work of partner organisations involved in safeguarding and to ensure the effectiveness of this work. The business manager summarised the report and drew attention to the priorities for each board.
The cabinet member for health and wellbeing asked how Herefordshire council rated in terms of spend on safeguarding issues compared to other authorities. The director for children’s wellbeing responded that Herefordshire was in the highest spending quartile of authorities nationally.
The cabinet member for health and wellbeing asked for feedback on the national Wood review. Alan Wood, past president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, had been commissioned by the government to look at the effectiveness of Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) and make recommendations about their future. The review had highlighted issues with alignment of board areas to the boundaries of the relevant public bodies and stressed that continued partnership working was crucial. It identified the health service, police and local government as key partners. The report also put forward the case for national serious case reviews. The report had made recommendations that statutory arrangements for LSCBs be replaced and guidance on how this would be taken forward was awaited from the government.
A group leader asked if there were weaknesses in systems dealing with children who went missing and how long it usually took for police to inform the council that a child had been reported missing.
The business manager responded that there were areas in which the partner organisations could do better, for example in learning lessons from cases locally and nationally. There was greater recognition that children who went missing were people at risk rather than categorising them as exhibiting bad behaviour. An example of work still to do was the improvement of debriefs of children when they had been returned and sharing of information with partner agencies to identify common factors and threats. The response to a missing child would depend on the risk assessment surrounding each individual child but the police work closely with children’s services staff.
A cabinet support member asked what the impact of budget constraints would be on the safeguarding boards.
The director for children’s wellbeing reported that there would undoubtedly be an impact but noted that the experience nationally was that those services which were not performing well were also the most expensive to run. Early intervention to prevent issues from becoming more serious was most cost effective and focussing on this aspect of work ... view the full minutes text for item 40.
To agree the model for future operation of customer services and libraries across the county.
The cabinet member contracts and assets introduced the report. He stated that councillors were grateful for the letters received from members of the public in terms of support for their particular library, and this was considered in terms of the provision of these services across the county.
The assistant director communities stated that the pressures on the council budget and the need for safeguarding were well rehearsed. She explained that all services had to be tested in terms of their relevance and contribution to their community. It was also necessary to take account of changing needs within the community, changing technologies and better ways of working.
The savings target in the medium term financial strategy for customer services and libraries was based on centrally retained services though subsequent consultations had shown strong support for retention of libraries. The research for the needs assessments showed that 23% of the population were regular library users, but more people recognised libraries as a good thing even if they did not use them. The assistant director also commented on the useful feedback received from the General Overview and Scrutiny Committee to help inform recommendations.
The assistant director drew attention to the fact that the recommendations in the report would not fully meet the savings target. Work would continue on ways to use library buildings to assist other service areas to deliver services more efficiently.
A group leader asked what mitigation would be put in place against the withdrawal of face to face customer services in the market towns. He also asked whether the further efficiencies would include redundancies.
The assistant director responded that the impact assessment identified the types and levels of impact, with less than 6,000 face to face queries in market towns for council tax and benefits. A system of appointments were to be introduced for these queries for at least 12 months and information would be gathered to help assess the particular needs of users. The revised website would be clearer and easier to use with better online help for users making payments, phone contact would continue, and face to face services in Hereford. Efficiencies were not redundancies but based on change of practice within the services for example sending a text or email to remind users of overdue books rather than letters. Any staff impacted in the longer term would be supported through redeployment in the first instance. The cost of any redundancies if needed would depend on the work history of the individual member of staff.
A scrutiny chair stressed the importance of having professional library staff to back up volunteers or staff from other services and asked if HALO would have access to professional support in delivering services at Bromyard.
The assistant director communities responded that existing and new community libraries would receive support including training and part of the county book stock system. She gave the example of Leintwardine community library that had flourished and shown a greater sense of ownership and involvement.
A group leader noted ... view the full minutes text for item 41.
To approve a detailed smallholdings disposal programme.
The cabinet member contracts and assets introduced the report. He pointed out that cabinet had previously approved the policy of disposing of the smallholdings estate and the appointment of Fisher German as the professional agent for the council. The recommendations put to the meeting reflect the advice from the agents with regard to the disposal process.
The head of corporate asset management stated that the report set out the work that had been undertaken to date and that it was clear and transparent.
A group leader asked if sufficient time had been allowed for the process and if the council would achieve the return that had previously been anticipated.
The head of corporate asset management stated that significant advice had been taken regarding the process and that he believed there was sufficient time. The process aimed to deliver value for the council as well as giving existing tenants the opportunity to buy land. The Adamson Trust helps people in agriculture looking to find another home. Officers had met with the trust some 2 or 3 months previously and any tenants with concerns were advised to contact the trust for advice.
A scrutiny chair asked how the receipts would be used. He suggested that the funds should be used to invest in the county.
The leader responded that the capital receipts would be used in the best interest of the public good at the time they were available.
The cabinet member contracts and assets stated that he felt the receipts should be used to reboot the economy of the county and focus on regeneration.
A group leader asked why this method of disposal was preferred and whether tenants had been consulted on the recommendations that had been put forward.
The cabinet member infrastructure stated that the agent had made the recommendations based on what the council wanted to achieve. The council wanted to look after existing tenants as far as possible and it was felt that this was the best method for them. It was recognised that tenants would need professional help to make the most of the opportunities the disposal offered and a fund had been made available to support tenants in getting that help. When the tender process was completed the transfers would be completed very quickly.
The leader stated that tenants had been told that the fund was available and that there would be continued consultation.
A group leader commented that land prices had dropped over the previous 12 months and were continuing to fall. He asked if this had been taken into account and asked if it was the right time to sell.
The head of corporate asset management stated that professional advice had been taken from the agent who was very familiar with the market. He noted that there were a number of objectives set by cabinet in relation to the disposal and that it was not purely about achieving the highest possible value.
A group leader queried the proposed overage clause as no clawback was ... view the full minutes text for item 42.
To inform cabinet of a decision by the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) of maladministration and injustice, and confirm actions being taken in response.
The monitoring officer introduced the report. She explained that the monitoring officer was required to bring the findings of maladministration by the LGO to the attention of cabinet and that all councillors had seen the report.
The cabinet member for health and wellbeing stated that in her view the report was self-explanatory and contained nothing for the council to be proud of. She asked the director for adults and wellbeing to explain the steps that had been taken to ensure such a failure would not happen again.
The director for adults and wellbeing stated that it was clear there had been a failure on the part of the council. The individual who was the subject of the report had been in a placement which was not suitable for his needs for 11 months and this was far too long. Although social workers were engaged in his care the move to a suitable placement only happened due to pressure by the family of the individual concerned. The director reported that significant steps had been taken to address the issues identified in the report.
Pathways had been redesigned for individuals in similar situations and reviews were being completed more regularly. It had been reiterated to staff that there must be a focus on meeting the needs of individuals. The director reported that the teams within this service area had been reorganised away from dealing with individual diagnostic cohorts into geographical teams, with a separate team for individuals with complex needs. Each team had expert professional advice and oversight. This had already lead to a reduction in waiting lists for care needs to be assessed.
The social worker directly involved with the case and the wider team had been placed on a development programme. This had drawn on expertise both from within the council and from outside agencies.
The director stated that this area of the service was not yet performing at the level he expected and that he and his management team were taking an active interest in driving improvements. He noted that some progress had been made and was confident that such a failing would not happen again.
The director for adults and wellbeing apologised to those affected by this case, in particular to the individual, his family, to cabinet and members of the council.
(a) the report and recommendations of the Local Government Ombudsman, at appendix 1, be considered;
(b) the findings be accepted and the recommended actions agreed; and
(c) in implementing the recommendations:
(i) the director for adults and wellbeing undertake to apologise to the parties and ensure training is provided to social workers; and
(ii) the monitoring officer makes the recommended payments.
To agree the executive response to the recommendations from the task and finish group review of early years and children’s centres.
The cabinet member health and wellbeing thanked the task and finish group for their work. She noted that almost all of the recommendations had been accepted. Recommendation 6 was felt to be encompassed by the other recommendations. The cabinet member asked for an update regarding recommendation 7 on the performance of speech and language therapy.
The director for children’s wellbeing responded that the main responsibility for speech and language therapy lay with the clinical commissioning group (CCG). The CCG acknowledged significant delays in accessing the service and had confirmed that while a broader review was under way they would also engage in a short term improvement process. The CCG expected improvements over the following few months and certainly by March 2017.
The chairman of the task and finish group stated she was pleased that the majority of recommendations had been taken on board. With regard to recommendation 6 the concern of the task and finish group was that it was not known if some of the other organisations using the children’s centres were paying anything at all and that it was not always known which other organisations were using the centres. She reported that the children’s centres were massively underused, despite having good facilities and being in areas that should attract a good number of people.
A group leader asked if there was an overarching strategy to pull together the rationalisation of services and buildings taking place across the council.
The cabinet member health and wellbeing stated that services rather than buildings helped people. She went on to say that giving children a good start in life had the biggest impact on health and wellbeing later in life.
a) the responses to the health and social care overview and scrutiny committee’s recommendations regarding the early years and children’s centres report, as attached at appendix 1 be considered and approved.