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Rhondda Cynon Taf Council - Scrutiny Blog

Councillor Jill Bonetto - Community Services Scrutiny Committee - Chair's Blog

Posted on 27/04/2023
As Chair of the newly formed Community Services Scrutiny Committee, I am pleased to write this blog to highlight to ongoing work we have undertaken this year, and the approaches we have taken to maintain constructive challenge and scrutiny, whilst considering what matters to local people, in our community. 

Following the re-structure of Scrutiny Committees following the Councils AGM in May 2022, the Committee is responsible for focussing on the services provided by the Council which support the Health and Well-being of our communities. The Committee has considered children’s and adult social services as well as all other factors which contribute to the Health and Well-being of the County Borough, such as Leisure services and Public Health and Protection related Services. As the Authority has leaned more towards a thematic approach in its new scrutiny arrangements, this Committee is now the Council’s designated Crime and Disorder Committee (under Sections 19 and 20 of the Police and Justice Act, 2006).

The Committee received in-depth Scrutiny training throughout June and July 2022 ahead of our first meeting in October 2022 where we considered the draft Forward Work Programme (FWP) as well as having the opportunity to receive the Director of Social Services Annual Report 2021/22, that set out how the Council had delivered its social services functions during the previous year, including an evaluation of performance, and identified priorities going forward. The Committee recognised how much work had been undertaken throughout the service and thanked staff for their hard work and commitment, whilst acknowledging, that pressures were not easing, so, it remained a priority, for the service, to work towards delivering more sustainable solutions, that would address some of the challenges, in the longer term. 

The Committee also welcomed the opportunity to Pre-Scrutinise the Children’s Services Residential Transformation Strategy with the vision for the strategy being that by 1st April 2027, all RCT young people who need residential care are looked after close to home in high quality settings where they can thrive, and that they are looked after by a stable, resilient, skilful and well supported staff group. We heard how It has been increasingly evident over recent years that the largely outsourced residential provision has struggled to supply services to meet the changing needs of our looked after young people, and commissioning systems have not entirely had the desired impact. Having discussed at length the challenges being faced it was clear the consequences were significant and the reason the strategy was before Members was the need to increase the capacity, and do so closer to home, fairly rapidly, so children and young people were likely to have better outcomes, as well as receiving better support in the communities that they came from.  Members agreed that a further update to the Committee should be forthcoming within the next 6-12 months to include more about the range of providers and their positions, and the implications for young people.

In January this year we scrutinised the support being provided by the Council to refugees, Ukraine nationals and asylum seekers in RCT. We looked at the considerable work undertaken by the Council and partner organisations to respond positively and as effectively as possible across all the resettlement schemes. We also heard from an Afghan refugee who shared his experience as a refugee, coming to Wales. We wholeheartedly support the work that is being carried out by the resettlement teams for asylum seekers expected to come into RCT and will continue to monitor to ensure this is done in a comfortable and respectable way. We were also keen to ensure the community cohesion strategy is as strong as it could be to make sure that the most vulnerable can access resources needed.

At our meeting in January, we also had the opportunity to scrutinise the Rhondda Cynon Taf (RCT) Housing Allocation Scheme which gave the Committee an opportunity to understand how the policy worked, and to what extent the policy helped the Council and its partners to meet the housing needs of people in RCT. We discussed in detail the availability of adequately sized housing and mixed sharing in low occupancy housing allocations, and it was pleasing to hear that the Allocations Policy is being reviewed and that the full details of the policy will be reported to Committee for scrutiny by Members when available. We recognise as a committee the importance of having good housing and the impact this can have on people and welcome the opportunity to continue to work on this topic.

We are continuing to scrutinise the development of a new draft Day Services operating model and Strategy for people with a learning disability in RCT and in March we had the opportunity to comment on the outcome of the consultation on the engagement and co-production activity undertaken to date as part of the comprehensive Learning Disability Service ‘My Day My Way’ project. We noted the excellent work undertaken as part of the engagement process and were pleased to see the recognition it has received from the Social Care Institute for Excellence as an excellent example of co-production. The impactful responses received from individuals with a learning disability, parents & carers and staff were shared with Committee and cemented our view of the need for change regarding the way forward for the service and the offers provided to support individuals. We recognise the ongoing work of the project and welcome the future opportunity to undertake pre-scrutiny of the draft strategy and associated actions plans.

This year has paved the way for the ‘new normal’ for how scrutiny committees can operate in a hybrid model allowing the opportunity for greater inclusion for Members and far-reaching outcomes. As we take a moment to reflect on this past year, we can be proud of the work we accomplished and looking forward to the year ahead we will continue our vital role focussing on issues and services which effect local communities.
Posted on 27/04/2023