Audit Commision Reports
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42 Pages
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Inspection report December 2003 Supporting People Programme Wirral MBC p 2 Wirral MBC - Supporting People Programme Contents Introduction to the Supporting People Programme 3 Background 3 Scoring the service 4 Recommendations 7 Context 9 Supporting People – ODPM Framework for Delivery 9 Supporting People – housing related support services in Wirral MBC 10 How good is the service? 12 Are the aims clear and challenging? 12 Does the service meet these aims? 12 How does the performance compare? 21 Summary 23 What are the prospects for improvement to the service? 24 Ownership of problems and willingness to change 24 A sustained focus on what matters 25 The capacity and systems to deliver performance and improvement 26 Integration of continuous improvement into day-to-day planning 27 Summary 28 Documents reviewed 29 Reality checks undertaken 29 List of people interviewed 30 Demographic information 32 Performance information 33 Positive Practice 40 Wirral MBC - Supporting People Programme p 3 Summary Introduction to the Supporting People Programme 1 ‘Supporting People’ is the Government’s long-term policy to enable local authorities to plan, commission and provide support services which help vulnerable people live independently. The programme went live on 1 April 2003. 2 The aim of the Supporting People programme is to establish a strategic, integrated policy and funding framework, delivered locally in response to identified ...

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Inspection repor
December 2003
 
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Supporting People Programme
Wirral MBC
 
p 2 Wirral MBC - Supporting People Programme Contents Introduction to the Supporting People Programme Background Scoring the service Recommendations Context Supporting People – ODPM Framework for Delivery Supporting People – housing related support services in Wirral MBC How good is the service? Are the aims clear and challenging? Does the service meet these aims? How does the performance compare? Summary What are the prospects for improvement to the service? Ownership of problems and willingness to change A sustained focus on what matters The capacity and systems to deliver performance and improvement Integration of continuous improvement into day-to-day planning Summary Documents reviewed Reality checks undertaken List of people interviewed Demographic information Performance information Positive Practice
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Summary Introduction to the Supporting People Programme 1‘Supporting People’ is the Government’s long-term policy to enable local authorities to plan, commission and provide support services which help vulnerable people live independently. The programme went live on 1 April 2003. 2The aim of the Supporting People programme is to establish a strategic, integrated policy and funding framework, delivered locally in response to identified local needs, to replace the current complex and unco-ordinated arrangements for providing housing related support services for vulnerable people. 3The Supporting People programme brings together a number of funding streams including transitional housing benefit (THB), which has paid for the support costs associated with housing during the implementation phase, the Housing Corporation’s supported housing management grant (SHMG) and probation accommodation grant scheme (PAGS) into a single pot to be administered by 150 administering local authorities. 4Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council (MBC) is one of the first councils to be inspected. This report therefore reflects the current context for the council as it moves from implementation to the introduction of the programme and focuses on determining the effectiveness of current service delivery, the prospects for improvement and the outcomes of these for vulnerable people. Background 5Wirral is a Metropolitan Council in the North West of England. The population is 312,293 of which 3.5 per cent are from minority ethnic communities. 6The council is made up of 66 elected members and a leader and cabinet model is in place. No party has an overall majority the council employs 13,000 full time equivalent staff across all services including teachers. 7Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council acts as the administering authority for the Supporting People programme in its area. The council works in partnership with the Birkenhead, Wallasey and Bebington and West Wirral Primary Care Trusts and the Merseyside Probation Service in commissioning Supporting People services. 8The total amount of Supporting People funding available in 2003/04 is £10,422,285. The council receives £285,154 in Supporting People administration grant from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) as a contribution to the administering costs of its role as the administering local authority.  
p 4 Wirral MBC - Supporting People Programme Scoring the service 9We have assessed the council as providing a ‘good’ two star service that has promising prospects for improvement. Our judgements are based on the evidence obtained during the inspection and are outlined below. Scoring chart1: Wirral Council- Supporting People Programme Prospects for improvement?       service‘a good      Poor Fair Good Excellentthat has promising Excellentprospects for improvement’
Promising Uncertain
Poor
A good service?
 
 What works well 10During our inspection we found a number of positive features in the way that the Supporting People programme has been implemented to date. These include:  The Supporting People programme has been a key priority in Wirral for a number of years and is set to remain so. Implementation has been shaped by a strong and challenging vision that is leading to better joint working and improvements in service delivery.  There has been a comprehensive analysis of supply and unmet need and further research has been undertaken to address gaps in knowledge.  The commissioning body is well established and is clear about its priorities. The core strategy development group and the inclusive forum are effective planning and information sharing groups and enable wide ownership of the programme.  The council’s approach in developing the Supporting People programme has been well planned and managed. The funds available meet the costs of existing services. All the key ODPM milestones have been met. The expertise of the Supporting People team is valued by partners and providers alike.  The Supporting People programme has delivered a range of new services focused on ensuring positive outcomes for vulnerable people. A number of people are now benefiting from the programme where previously they would have had little or inappropriate housing related support.  The inspection team found some innovative practices at a number of levels including user involvement and alternatives to residential/hospital care or custody.  1The horizontal axis shows how good theThe scoring chart displays performance in two dimensions. service or function is now, on a scale ranging from no stars for a service that is poor (at the left-hand end) to three stars for an excellent service (right-hand end). The vertical axis shows the improvement prospects of the service, also on a four-point scale.
 
Wirral MBC - Supporting People Programme p 5  The targeted assistance given by the council to housing related support providers, in advance of rolling out the service review programme, has enabled them to be well informed about requirements. It has also given them the opportunity to put some things right in advance of the service review. This is a good example of the council encouraging learning and self improvement.  Partnership working is advancing well and the Supporting People programme is adding essential prevention capacity which aims to tailor services to individual needs and reduce demand on mainstream services.  been undertaken by the council with the relevantSome detailed work has service providers concerning risks posed by offenders, for example, there is a Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangement (MAPPA) which is agreed through a forum, for partner agencies to meet and prepare plans for a number of individuals who pose a risk to public safety. Areas for improvement 11we found a number of weaknesses with the Supporting PeopleHowever, programme that need to be addressed. These include:  The commissioning body does not currently exercise sufficient influence with regard to developments in local health services. There needs to be a clearer picture of how the Supporting People programme can address local health inequalities and add capacity to some wider service challenges such as delayed transfers of care from hospital.  There are gaps in services for people with alcohol related needs and for members of black and minority ethnic communities that need to be filled with some urgency.  There are some access difficulties which prevent people from moving on into general needs housing.  There is a lack of awareness by some frontline customer services staff of the Supporting People programme and the services that it can offer. Public information is not yet available in a range of formats to ensure a wider access for people with different needs.  The role of the Supporting People team is not yet adequately linked into complaints investigations or the protection of vulnerable person’s protocol. 12We have judged that the Supporting People programme has promising prospects for delivering further improvements. We found the following strengths: What works well  team is a key strength in Wirral MetropolitanThe council’s Supporting People Borough Council. Staff are motivated, work hard and are well thought of by providers.  There is strong political and officer leadership in the council and a high level of consensus about what needs to be done to address need.  Supporting People is seen as being used as a key driver in the council and its partners’ modernisation programmes.   The council has tackled most of the areas for improvement identified in the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) feedback and other previous inspections.  Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council has a good track record of partnership working and is creating more opportunities that allow resources and skills to be shared across agencies.  Financial management has been strengthened and regular monitoring of expenditure and commitments has been undertaken.
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 The new general adults’ services team in social services lends additional capacity to addressing the needs of vulnerable people who otherwise are unlikely to receive assistance.
Areas for improvement 13There are, however, some areas in which the council needs to improve:  Performance management and monitoring systems within the Supporting People programme are currently under developed. The opportunities for closer alignment with targets set within mainstream services are not yet maximised. Some customer services staff are not yet well informed about the range of community groups that may assist vulnerable people or are appropriately equipped to meet the needs of people with sensory impairments or those whose first language is not English.
 
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 Recommendations 14the challenge of continuous improvement, councils need inspectionTo rise to reports that offer practical pointers for improvement. In this context, the inspection team makes the following recommendations:  The commissioning body needs to re-configure some of the investment currently tied up in supported accommodation in order to assist more people to move on to more independent housing and support arrangements.  the areas where there is currently noThe commissioning body must address specialist provision available. This particularly relates to people with alcohol abuse related needs and members of black and minority ethnic communities. It will also need to ensure providers develop increased capabilities in supporting people with multiple needs.  The commissioning body should ensure that there is greater access by vulnerable people to general needs housing so that people do not have undue delay before they can access their own property. This relates particularly to women fleeing domestic violence and homeless people.  Users and their carers need to be more actively involved in shaping the vision and in giving feedback so that the Supporting People programme has a stronger user focus and there is wider awareness of its goals. Service users need to have greater choice of accommodation and support. The role of carers in the Supporting People programme needs further development.  The commissioning body must ensure that the cultural, gender, ethnicity and disability related needs of vulnerable people are addressed so as to achieve equality of opportunity and access. All agencies and providers must ensure that public information is available in a range of formats and languages so that users can understand what services are on offer. Better access is needed to interpreting and translation services.  secure a fuller role for both primary careThe council must take steps to trusts in the Supporting People programme and in working with partner agencies to raise the profile of health related prevention services, identify shared targets and the contribution the programme can make to achieving these.  The wider community and some key frontline staff need to be made more aware of the Supporting People programme and the complementary work of voluntary organisations in the area.  The commissioning body should put in place systems for ensuring regular reporting on performance relating to partner agency activity as well as service provider performance. This could include reporting on unmet need, progress against performance indicators, benchmarking of costs and outcomes, complaints and managing risks.  Individual support plans need to be in place across the sector and user groups and lead to wider social and community involvement. We would like to thank the staff of Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council, the Supporting People team and particularly Ian Grindrod, Sheila Rice and Vicki Roberts who made us welcome and who met our requests efficiently and courteously.
15  Inspection Team: Sue Talbot  Inspector (Wirral inspection lead) Housing Eileen O Sullivan Inspection Officer – HM Inspectorate of Probation Adrian Rushworth Inspector – Social Services Inspectorate Sandra Haughton Tenant Inspection Adviser
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 Dates of inspection: 29 September to 3 October 2003  Email: s-talbot@audit-commission.gov.uk  
           
 For more information please contact Audit Commission C n 1ste dgri Br,ooFl   ,kraP ssenisuBgeoilaR nert Bridge Park Road Thurmaston Leicester LE4 8BL www.audit-commission.gov.uk 0116 250 4100  
 
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Report Context 16This report has been prepared by the Audit Commission (‘the Commission’) following an inspection under Section 10 of the Local Government Act 1999, and issued in accordance with its duty under Section 13 of the 1999 Act. The locality 17Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council was formed in 1974. It is situated in the North West of England. The Wirral peninsula is bounded by the River Mersey to the East, the Irish Sea to the North, Flintshire to the West and Cheshire to the South. The area is very diverse and has a mix of industrial, maritime, residential and agricultural areas. Birkenhead is the main commercial, residential and administrative centre. 18The population is 312,293 (2001 census) living in 141,000 households. Wirral’s total population decreased by 20,000 between 1991 and 2001. The council has an ageing population and a profile of increasingly smaller sized household units. Older people aged 65 years and above now make up 18.1 per cent of the population, a higher incidence than either its nearest neighbours, 16.2 per cent or the average for England, 15.9 per cent. Only 3.5 per cent of the population are from minority ethnic communities and this includes 1 per cent who are white Irish. 19There are pockets of affluence in the West of the borough which contrast markedly with areas of deprivation in the East. The council is ranked as the 70th most deprived district overall, out of 354 nationally, in terms of multiple deprivation, but 6 out of 22 wards fall within the most deprived 10 per cent. One of these, Bidston, has the highest rate of child poverty in England. Unemployment levels have significantly reduced in recent years and now stand at 3.6 per cent (April 2003), but there are still high incidences of unemployment in some areas. This compares with a national average of 2.6 per cent. The council 20The council is made up of 66 councillors. No party has overall control. The elections in May 2003 resulted in 26 Labour seats, 23 Conservative seats, 16 Liberal Democrat seats and 1 Independent. Currently a leader and cabinet govern the business of the council. The cabinet comprises representatives of the three main political parties and if there is a problem in achieving cross party consensus, the portfolio holder for the item in question has the casting vote. 21There are twelve council departments each with a director and the chief executive has overall responsibility for running the council. The council’s overall budget for the year 2003/04 is £336 million. Current projections indicate a balanced budget at year end. 22There are 8 area forums each covering 2 or 3 wards that have been established to build closer links between the council and its communities and to ensure a better focus on local need. The views of local people are being sought and will be used to shape the future direction of the community plan and the local strategic partnership. Supporting People – ODPM Framework for Delivery 23The ODPM has set out the following structural arrangements for the development and delivery of the Supporting People programme:  Accountable officer and the Supporting People team: drive the whole process.  Inclusive forum: consults with service providers and service users.
p 10 Wirral MBC - Supporting People Programme  Core strategy group: proposes strategic direction, service review procedures and timetables and work needed to secure the effective and efficient delivery and development of the programme.  Commissioning body: agrees strategic direction, compliance with grant conditions, outcomes of service reviews and monitors the delivery and development of the programme.  Elected members: approve key decisions of the commissioning body.  Supporting People team: delivers the local programme. 24Supporting People commissioning bodies are a requirement under grant conditions and must have senior representation from the administering local authority (ALA), the local health services (usually one representative from each primary care trust) and the area probation service. In two tier ALAs each district council is entitled to one representative. Each named representative has one vote although the ALA has a veto where it can demonstrate a financial risk to the ALA. Supporting People – housing related support services in Wirral MBC Management Arrangements 25The housing and environmental protection department has responsibility for administering the Supporting People grant. The Supporting People team is located within this department and acts as a resource to all partners. The team was established in 1999. The accountable officer is the direct line manager of the Supporting People team. He is directly line managed by the assistant director responsible for housing strategy. The director of housing is the chair of the commissioning body. 26Team membership includes a Supporting People lead officer who manages the team. She is supported by a Supporting People officer/team leader who also undertakes reviews as part of her role. There are an additional two contracts and reviewing officers, a Supporting People administration and IT officer and an administration assistant. There are also two seconded staff who have been completing the validation visits and undertaking work with provider and advocacy organisations to encourage the involvement of service users in the programme. ‘The Supporting People team is very helpful and is always available for advice and assistance’ –A Service Provider. 27The Supporting People team has successfully met each of the key milestones set by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) for implementation. The team has access to the housing benefit management information systems and there is tight scrutiny of users’ changing circumstances. Data protection has been secured. 28The Supporting People programme has been a key priority for the council for a number of years. The commissioning body has been meeting regularly since September 2001 and membership includes senior managers in probation, health, social services and housing. The core strategy development group has been meeting monthly since February 2000. Meeting frequency has now been increased to fortnightly to accommodate the growing agenda arising from service reviews and performance management. 2965 organisations in its membership and has beenThe inclusive forum has over meeting monthly since January 2000. The Supporting People team are now encouraging providers to develop their own provider forum. 30Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council has organised and chaired bi monthly cross authority meetings since December 2000.
 Wirral MBC - Supporting People Programme p 11 31Members of the inspection team observed a commissioning body, core strategy development group and inclusive forum meeting. The meetings were well structured with active participation by most partners. The core strategy development group particularly impressed us given its strong focus on outcomes with responsibilities clearly defined and shared. It is proving to be very effective as a process for information sharing, resolving potential conflict and ensuring progress is achieved in line with timescales. Supporting People Strategy and Budget 32The ODPM required all Supporting People administering local authorities to submit a shadow strategy in the autumn of 2002. The shadow strategies were required to demonstrate a clear vision and strategic steer for the programme and to set out the map of existing housing related support provision. The ODPM assessed the council’s shadow strategy as excellent. 33The shadow strategy provides a detailed appraisal of needs in most areas and highlights gaps in provision for all user groups. Supply information was gathered from a wide range of individuals and groups including frontline staff, registered social landlords, the inclusive forum and voluntary organisations. 34The Greater Merseyside cross authority group also commissioned research on the extent to which Wirral residents move to other local councils for accommodation and support and the extent to which residents of other councils move into Wirral. 35The shadow strategy provided limited information about need for people with alcohol problems, people with HIV/AIDS, older people with mental health problems, younger people with physical disabilities or sensory impairments and people from black and minority ethnic communities. The commissioning body has recognised this and additional research has now been commissioned which will be available for inclusion in the five year strategy. The commissioning body directed that the maximum amount of Supporting People funds should be available for investment in frontline services and has encouraged the sharing of resources and expertise across departments and agencies. There are a total of 79 different organisations that provide housing related support services in Wirral including a mix of public, voluntary and private sector organisations. Many of the specialist support services are provided by the voluntary/private sector. There is almost equal provision of sheltered accommodation for older people in terms of schemes run by the council and those commissioned externally. Six hundred people each year benefit from services provided by the home improvement agency. Help is given to ensure vulnerable people’s homes are warm and safe and that repairs are attended to. The council has been proactive in assessing transitional housing benefit (THB) claims prior to the introduction of the Supporting People programme on 1 April 2003. Social work staff worked closely with the Supporting People team to assess the appropriateness of claims. Steps were taken to ensure that THB was paid in accordance with the ODPM’s guidance for eligible housing related support services. There has been a significant increase in the range of services available in line with the council’s identified gaps in service provision. New services which have become operational since December 2002 include fifteen floating support schemes serving the needs of offenders, people with a physical/sensory impairment, people with drug dependence, people with learning disabilities, people with mental health needs, teenage parents, young people at risk and older people. In addition six accommodation based services have been developed for young people, people with learning disabilities, people with mental health needs and older people.
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