IRVINE, 19 April 2005 - At a Meeting of the Social Services Committee of North Ayrshire Council at 2.00 p.m.
Alan Munro, Anna Donn, Margaret Munn, Margie Currie, Drew Duncan, Jane Gorman, Jean Highgate, John Moffat, David O'Neill, John Reid, Samuel Taylor and Nan Wallace.
B Docherty, Corporate Director, S Paterson, Head of Service (Children, Families and Criminal Justice) and L Skehal, Head of Service (Community Care) (Social Services); A Grossart, Finance Manager (Finance); M Adams and M Anderson, Corporate and Democratic Support Officers and J Stevenson, Communications Officer (Chief Executive's).
Councillor Munro in the Chair.
Apologies for Absence
John Bell, Jack Carson, Ian Clarkson, Alan Hill, Margaret McDougall and Elisabethe Marshall.
The Minutes of the Meeting of the Committee held on 1 March 2005, copies of which had previously been circulated, were confirmed.
2. Strategic Review of Older People's Services
Submitted report by the Corporate Director (Social Services) on the progress of the redesign of Canal Court residential unit in Saltcoats to a new intermediate care facility.
The Corporate Policy Committee, at its meeting on 23 April 2003, agreed that in-house residential care provision for older people, based in 6 units across North Ayrshire, be re-designed and that intermediate care provision be introduced to provide a service between hospital care and remaining at home.
The internal re-design of the Canal Court Residential Unit in Saltcoats was completed in February 2005. The new facility includes 10 single en-suite bedrooms, a therapy room for intensive rehabilitation, and an office for physiotherapy and occupational therapy staff, as well as office space for Health, Housing and Social Services personnel. It is anticipated that the facility will be in a position to accept referrals by summer 2005 and an official opening ceremony is planned. Canal Court will be the first intermediate care facility based in the community within North Ayrshire and represents joint working across the whole care system to deliver services aimed at preventing the admission of older people to hospital and reducing delayed discharge from hospital.
Some existing staff who do not wish to be employed in intermediate care or who do not have the necessary skills or qualifications, have agreed to be redeployed and the resulting vacancies have been advertised through Health and North Ayrshire Council vacancy bulletins. Staff training and development will be undertaken by North Ayrshire Council Social Services Training Section, with support from District Nursing staff. All protocols and procedures for the intermediate care facility have been agreed jointly. Awareness sessions are also being developed for Health and Social Services personnel prior to the opening of the new facility.
Following the opening of the new Canal Court facility, a project plan will be prepared for Montgomery Court in Kilbirnie to provide a specialist facility for dementia across the whole of North Ayrshire.
The Committee (a) noted the current position in terms of the re-design of Canal Court, Saltcoats; and (b) agreed the next phase of re-design in connection with the Montgomery Court, Kilbirnie facility.
3. Code of Practice to Facilitate the Provision of Therapeutic Support to Child Witnesses in Court Proceedings
Submitted report by the Corporate Director (Social Services) on the development of a Code of Practice to facilitate the provision of therapeutic support to child witnesses in court proceedings.
The Code of Practice has been developed in response to Recommendation 10 of the Report of the Lord Advocate's Working Group on child witness support. It aims to facilitate the provision of therapeutic support to child witnesses in court proceedings, while at the same time seeking to ensure that such support does not prejudice the child's evidence in court. The Code of Practice has been developed by a Multi-agency Steering Group, following extensive broad-based consultation and liaison with key practitioners.
The Code of Practice covers:-
types of therapeutic support and interventions;
an explanation of the evidential issues;
best practice guidelines in providing therapeutic support without potentially contaminating evidence; and
information sharing, record keeping and confidentiality.
Familiarisation with the Code of Practice will be progressed through the Child Protection Committee, the "Nurtured" Sub Group of the Children's Services planning mechanism and with Social Services staff through the Social Services training section.
It is envisaged that there will be a small number of young people in North Ayrshire each year who may require therapeutic support. This could result in additional expenditure for the Council where such support requires to be purchased.
4. Anti Social Behaviour etc (Scotland) Act 2004
4.1 Guidance on Local Authority Accountability
Submitted report by the Corporate Director (Social Services) on guidance on local authority accountability in relation to the Anti Social Behaviour Etc (Scotland) Act 2004.
In the Scottish Executive's consultation on its Anti-Social Behaviour Strategy "Putting our Communities First", Ministers indicated their intention to look at the following two specific areas where a failure by the local authority in its duties can have an impact on children referred to a Children's Hearing:-
the duty of a local authority to give effect to a supervision requirement; and
the duty of a local authority to provide education without undue delay for pupils excluded from school.
Following consultation, provision was made in the Anti-Social Behaviour etc (Scotland) Act 2004 to introduce a new legislative framework to ensure that children receive the service they need and to introduce mechanisms to follow up poor or inadequate action on the part of local authorities.
The local authority already has a statutory duty to give effect to supervision requirements. However, where this duty has not been met, there has, until now, been no specific statutory mechanism which allows early action to be taken to remedy that failure. The measures in the 2004 Act are designed to allow the Children's Hearing and Reporter to take legal action to hold local authorities to account and ensure young people receive the service they require.
In North Ayrshire, there are approximately 450 children and young people subject to supervision requirements. Regular meetings are held between Social Services, Educational Services, the Reporter and Panel Members to promote co-operation and understanding between all involved in this work.
4.2 National Pilot on Parenting Orders
Submitted report by the Corporate Director (Social Services) on the national pilot beginning in April 2005 in relation to Parenting Orders.
From 4 April 2005, local authorities and the Principal Reporter have a new power to make application to the Sheriff Principal for a Parenting Order in terms of Part 9 of the Anti-Social Behaviour etc (Scotland) Act 2004. There will be a 3-year National Pilot from April 2005 until April 2008 in relation to the processes and systems to be used by local authorities in connection with this provision.
Parenting Orders will be targeted at those parents (or other individuals with parental responsibilities) who "wilfully refuse to seek or engage with help and support". This power may be used by the local authority when the existing compulsory legislative measures available from the Children's Hearing System are exhausted or ineffective in their impact on parental behaviour which is negatively affecting children. Parenting Orders will last for up to 12 months, with at least a 3 month period where there is a requirement for the parent to attend "counselling or guidance".
Local authorities are responsible for delivering parenting services and support for those subject to Parenting Orders. A nominated officer will be appointed in each case to oversee and co-ordinate input and monitor compliance with the requirements.
The final guidance will be accompanied by a National Framework document to support and improve the effectiveness of interventions to parents and families.
Additional funding has been made available by the Scottish Executive in connection with the Pilot. North Ayrshire Council has been awarded £33,000 in financial year 2004/05, with a further £69,000 for financial year 2005/06.
5. Supporting Frontline Staff Initiative
Submitted report by the Corporate Director (Social Services) on progress in relation to a national Supporting Frontline Staff Initiative.
In February 2004, the Committee agreed proposals to establish a North Ayrshire Council Social Services Focus Group comprising "Frontline" members of staff from all operational settings within Children and Families, Community Care, Criminal Justice Services and Resources.
A planning day was organised by the Focus Group in June 2004 and 5 key themes emerged:-
learning and development; and
Five further Focus Groups were then established to investigate these issues, with a range of meetings taking place between August 2004 and January 2005. Each Group then presented its findings to a meeting of the Workforce Planning Group in February 2005. An Action Plan has now been developed to progress the issues which have been identified.
It is proposed that further development of the Initiative be co-ordinated by the Resources Manager and involve the existing Focus Group Chairs and representatives from other relevant services or agencies. The North Ayrshire Council Social Services web page on the Supporting Frontline Staff website will be updated on a regular basis to promote the work of the Group across the rest of Scotland and secretarial and organisational support for the Initiative will continue to be provided by the Resources Administration Team.
The Committee agreed to the proposals for the further development of the supporting Frontline Staff Initiative as outlined in the report.
6. Social Worker Posts and Vacancies
Submitted report by the Corporate Director (Social Services) on the recruitment and retention of qualified Social Workers within North Ayrshire.
Local authorities report on a quarterly basis to the Scottish Executive Health and Community Care Section on the number of qualified Social Worker posts and vacancies in their areas. In January 2005, there were 4,707 qualified Social Worker posts across Scotland, with a total 575 (11%) vacancies. At that time, there were 92 such posts in North Ayrshire Council, 7 of which (7%) were vacant.
The vacancy level in North Ayrshire Council has fallen considerably due to proactive recruitment and retention practices. A supervision policy and workload management system has been implemented, raining and career progression opportunities have been provided, and financial incentives have been offered to retain qualified Social Workers.
Nationally, the number of vacancies as a proportion of all Social Worker posts remains largely unchanged since October 2004. However, in North Ayrshire, there has been a reduction from 10% in October 2004 to 7% in January 2005. The introduction of revised terms and conditions of service and the requirement to register with the Social Services Council should assist in the ongoing establishment of a stable, trained and registered workforce. The recruitment and retention of qualified Social Workers will continue to be monitored on a quarterly basis.
7. Hospital Retraction Programme for Adults with Learning Disabilities
Submitted report by the Corporate Director (Social Services) on the progress of the Hospital Retraction Programme for adults with learning disabilities.
At its meeting on 30 September 2003, the Committee approved the retraction of hospital based continuing care services for adults with learning with disabilities based at Arrol Park and Strathlea Hospitals. It was proposed that the retraction programme be achieved by 31 March 2007 subject to adherence to the following basic principles:-
no individual be moved from continuing care unless there were adequate support services and the new arrangements represented an improved quality of life for the individual;
traditional group living in registered care homes was no longer acceptable;
all partners must have a skilled workforce to competently provide a range of support services; and
Person centred planning (PCP) would not be restricted to those moving from hospital into the community.
Thirty individuals who originated from North Ayrshire were identified as part of the Hospital Retraction programme. To date, 7 have moved to accommodation within their own homes and 2 people have died before they could be discharged. A further 10 people will be discharged from hospital between April and September 2005. Person centred plans have been completed for each individual and care providers identified. Tenancies have been located at Links Road (Lochwood Gardens), Saltcoats, Bridgend, Kilwinning and Mount Pleasant, Stevenston.
Of the 11 people awaiting hospital discharge, 2 have chosen to remain in hospital, 2 have applied for tenancies in Fife and 1 person is considering a tenancy in the Garnock Valley which will require adaptations. Person centred plans have begun on the remaining 6 people in order to identify how they would wish to be supported in the future. Social Services staff are working closely with Health colleagues to progress the Hospital Retraction programme and discussions are also taking place with Housing Services to identify appropriate tenancies for those still in hospital. In some cases, it may not be possible to consider individual tenancies if the level of challenging behaviour presents a risk to individuals themselves or to others, or where staffing levels would be prohibitive.
The Committee agreed to approve the continuation of the Hospital Retraction programme as outlined within the report.