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National Overview Report of Assurance Checks

We looked at performance and reviewed activities across Welsh local authorities, between September 2020 and July 2021.

What we did

In March 2020, as COVID-19 infection rates increased and Wales entered the first lockdown, we suspended our programme of routine performance review activity to enable local authorities to focus fully on responding to the challenging circumstances.

We developed new ways of working which reflected the need for us to engage in more supportive relationships with local authorities. Across our assurance check activities we spoke to over 800 people who work in, work with or experience social care services.

For children and young people in the care of the local authority, we asked questions in each local authority about children in care, the findings of which are detailed in this report.

We looked at these key themes:

  • People – are their voices heard and do they have control?
  • Prevention – is there a reduced need for formal support from statutory agencies?
  • Partnerships and integration – are opportunities for partnership working being positively exploited?
  • Well-being – are people able to maintain their safety and achieve positive outcomes that matter to them?

Our findings

  • People – voice and control - Many people, including prospective service users and/or carers as well as professionals, told us it was easy to contact local authorities; most people said they felt listened to and were treated with dignity and respect.

However, some care leavers told us finding appropriate accommodation in safe settings could be a challenge and choices were limited in many local authority areas. Not all local authorities sufficiently prioritised care leavers for access to the housing register.

  • Prevention - We found an increasing lack of capacity within adult domiciliary support services/reablement services, as well as, early help provision and placement services for children. We found insufficient capacity to keep pace with demand.

For those young people needing intensive levels of support we found local authorities were often unable to identify suitable placement options with skilled, trained and experienced foster carers. Senior management teams, corporate parents and portfolio holders, and  partner agencies are concerned about this and consider it a high priority.

  • Partnerships and integration – We found an increased commitment to collaborative working between local authorities and partners. The benefits of strong partnership working between health, social care and wider public services to create a whole system approach have been clearly demonstrated during the pandemic.

However there remains a lack of mental health support for children in local authorities across Wales. We found thresholds for access to services are high, interventions short and of withdrawal of support at times where risk of harm is extremely high.

  • Well-being We found many good examples of local authorities supporting people to maintain and promote their well-being. We found people were often active participants in designing their own care and support packages.

On the other hand we found the quality of care and support assessments and plans in children and adult services could be improved in many areas.

Next steps

We acknowledge the overwhelming pressures local authorities have faced in providing care and support during the pandemic.

We are committed to following up the recommendations contained in this report and will work with others to ensure people’s safety and well-being is paramount.