Y Pwyllgor Cyfrifon Cyhoeddus - Y Bumed Senedd
Public Accounts Committee - Fifth Senedd03/12/2018
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Adam Price AC||Cadeirydd Dros Dro|
|Darren Millar AC||Yn dirprwyo ar ran Nick Ramsay|
|Substitute for Nick Ramsay|
|Jenny Rathbone AC|
|Mohammad Asghar AC|
|Neil Hamilton AC|
|Rhianon Passmore AC|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Adrian Crompton||Archwilydd Cyffredinol Cymru, Swyddfa Archwilio Cymru|
|Auditor General for Wales, Wales Audit Office|
|Jo-Anne Daniels||Cyfarwyddwr, Cymunedau a Threchu Tlodi, Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Director for Communities and Tackling Poverty, Welsh Government|
|John Howells||Cyfarwyddwr Tai ac Adfywio, Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Director for Housing and Regeneration, Welsh Government|
|Matthew Mortlock||Swyddfa Archwilio Cymru|
|Wales Audit Office|
|Tracey Burke||Cyfarwyddwr Cyffredinol, Grŵp Addysg a Gwasanaethau Cyhoeddus, Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Director General, Education and Public Services Group, Welsh Government|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Claire Griffiths||Dirprwy Glerc|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 13:33.
The meeting began at 13:33.
Prynhawn da. Croeso i gyfarfod y Pwyllgor Cyfrifon Cyhoeddus. A gaf fi groesawu Aelodau i’r cyfarfod? Yn gyntaf oll, mae gennym ni ymddiheuriadau oddi wrth Jack Sargeant. Nid oes ymddiheuriadau eraill, er y bydd dau Aelod arall yn ymuno â ni yn nes ymlaen yn ystod y cyfarfod. A oes yna unrhyw Aelod eisiau datgan buddiant sy’n berthnasol i’n trafodion ni heddiw?FootnoteLink
Good afternoon. Welcome to this meeting of the Public Accounts Committee. May I welcome Members to the meeting? First of all, we have apologies from Jack Sargeant. There are no other apologies, although two other Members will be joining us later on during the meeting. Are there any Members who want to declare any interests that are relevant to our discussions today?FootnoteLink
Os nad oes yna, gwnawn ni fwrw ymlaen, felly, i’r eitem nesaf ar ein hagenda ni, sef y papurau i'w nodi. Felly, yn gyntaf, a dweud y gwir, fe wnawn ni jest gadarnhau cofnodion y cyfarfod diwethaf. A ydy Aelodau—? A oes yna unrhyw beth yn codi neu unrhyw newid sydd ei angen yn y cofnodion? Os na, fe wnawn ni symud ymlaen, felly, i’r papurau i’w nodi. Mae yna bedwar ohonyn nhw wedi’u rhestru yn y pecyn, felly a gaf fi fynd drwyddyn nhw fesul un? Mae'r un cyntaf yn deillio o graffu ar gyfrifon Comisiwn y Cynulliad. Mae yna wybodaeth ychwanegol wedi dod i law gan brif weithredwr y Cynulliad. A oes yna unrhyw Aelod eisiau codi unrhyw fater yn deillio o’r wybodaeth honno? Na. Mae yna wybodaeth ychwanegol, wrth gwrs, wedi'i hatodi.
Yn ail, felly, mae yna lythyr oddi wrth Ysgrifennydd Parhaol Llywodraeth Cymru, yn ymateb i nifer o gwestiynau a oedd yn deillio o'r sesiwn graffu y bu hi'n cymryd rhan ynddi. A oes yna unrhyw beth mae Aelodau eisiau ei godi yn sgil y wybodaeth honno? Darren.
If not, we'll press ahead, therefore, to the next item on the agenda, which is the papers to note. So, first of all, we'll just confirm the minutes of the last meeting. Are there any issues arising or any changes that need to be made to the minutes? If not, we'll move on, therefore, to the other papers to note. There are four of them listed in the pack, so could I just go through them one by one? The first one stems from the scrutiny of the Assembly Commission accounts. There is additional information that has come from the chief executive of the Assembly Commission. Does any Member want to raise any issues relating to that information? No. There's additional information, of course, that's been attached to that.
Secondly, therefore, there is a letter from the Permanent Secretary of the Welsh Government responding to a number of questions that stemmed from the scrutiny session that she took part in. Are there any issues that Members want to raise in the wake of that information? Darren.
I thought that the number of days seems to be extraordinarily high, and I just wondered whether we could challenge the national museum on the action it's taking to address this, because there's clearly an issue there. It's much higher than in many other organisations, including across the public sector, and I think it is something that we ought to take an interest in, given that it's in receipt of taxpayers' money.
Ymddiheuriadau, Darren—rydw i'n credu fy mod i wedi neidio draw i'r llythyr oddi wrth yr Ysgrifennydd Parhaol, ond, ie, gallwn ni ofyn am ragor o wybodaeth. A ydy'r archwilydd eisiau cyfrannu?
Apologies, Darren—I think I jumped to the letter from the Permanent Secretary, but, yes, we could ask for more information. Does the auditor general want to contribute?
Just on that, Chair, just to say that my office is in touch with the museum just to clarify the basis for the preparation of those figures, because it's not crystal clear in the letter. So, as soon as we've got an answer on that obviously we'll relay it back to the team to weave it into your report.
Iawn. So, fe gawn ni'r wybodaeth yna gan yr archwilydd. A ydych chi eisiau, Darren, inni ysgrifennu yn annibynnol ein hunain?
Right. So, we'll have that information from the auditor general. Darren, do you want to write independently on that?
I still think that we ought to write separately, yes. I think that would be a good idea.
I got my marching orders here, thank you.
Great. We're just discussing a suggestion from—so, it's item 2.2, I think, on the agenda. So, it's the additional information that specifically refers to sickness rates, absence rates, at the national museum, and Darren's suggestion that we ask for some further information.
Yes, it came up in the culture committee too.
Yes, okay. So, if the committee's content with that, let's do that.
Sorry, Chair, on that particular point, we did ask for a breakdown stratification of if there was data collected around mental health, and I think that they said that they did do that. So, if that could be included in that as well—.
Yes, great—useful suggestion. Okay. So, if we're content to move forward on that basis.
Roeddwn i wedi dechrau sôn am y wybodaeth ychwanegol a gawsom ni gan yr Ysgrifennydd Parhaol o ran Llywodraeth Cymru. A oes unrhyw beth yn codi o'r gwahanol benawdau yn y llythyr yna? A ydym ni'n—? Darren.
I had started talking about the additional information that we received from the Permanent Secretary in terms of the Welsh Government. Is there anything arising from the different headings in that letter? Are we—? Darren.
Just on the reform plan and efficiency targets, it seemed to me that the Permanent Secretary was simply drawing attention to work that has been ongoing for many years, which doesn't appear to be bearing a lot of fruit. There's a lot of reference to the grants and due diligence work and the admin around grants, but there's nothing else particularly tangible that can be pointed to in the letter. If that's the sum of the focus of that work, I don't think it's particularly good enough. I don't know whether the committee wants to explore in a bit more detail with the Welsh Government precisely the wider impact of that work, but to me it doesn't seem to be particularly broad.
Mae yna gynnig yn y papur sy'n ymwneud—wel, ynglŷn â'n blaenraglen waith ni—â gwneud astudiaeth ehangach yn deillio, a dweud y gwir yn union o'r dystiolaeth a gawsom ni gan yr Ysgrifennydd Parhaol er mwyn crafu o dan yr wyneb, a dweud y gwir, ynglŷn â'r targedau effeithlonrwydd ac, fel rŷch chi'n dweud, Darren, y gwaith sydd wedi bod yn mynd rhagddo hyd yn oed, wrth gwrs, cyn cyfnod yr Ysgrifennydd Parhaol yma. Felly, efallai y bydd yr ymchwiliad hynny i mewn i lywodraethiant Llywodraeth Cymru, mewn ffordd, yn fodd i edrych i mewn i'r materion hynny, os ydych chi'n fodlon â hynny.
There is a proposal in the paper that relates to the forward work programme in terms of doing a broader study stemming directly from the evidence we received from the Permanent Secretary in order to scratch below the surface in terms of the efficiency targets and, as you said, Darren, the work that has been going on even before the Permanent Secretary's period in post. So, maybe that inquiry into the governance of the Welsh Government, in a way, would be a way to look into those issues, if you're content with that.
Iawn, ocê. A oes unrhyw beth arall o dan y papur yma? Na. Felly, mae un papur olaf, sef y wybodaeth ychwanegol sydd wedi dod i law yn sgil ein hymchwiliadau, neu'r ymchwiliadau gwahanol, i mewn i Pinewood, gyda rhagor o wybodaeth fanwl ynglŷn â'r cronfeydd gwahanol. A oes yna unrhyw beth yr hoffai unrhyw Aelod godi o dan y pennawd yma?
Right, okay. Is there anything else arising from this paper? No. Therefore, there's a final paper, namely the additional information that's come from our inquiry, or the various inquiries, into Pinewood, with more detailed information in terms of the different funds. Is there anything that Members would like to raise relating to this issue?
Chair, just for clarification, and I think it's simplistic: so, table 2—my questioning around this was around what was funded externally from this. So, table 2 is the external projects. That's just what I need to seek assurance on, and that's pack page 17.
Yes. Okay. So, that's the case, is it? So, those are the external projects funded. Okay.
Yes, I think that's my reading of it anyway. I don't know whether the clerks—
Yes, it seems to be. Okay, thank you.
Symudwn ymlaen, felly, i brif ffocws ein cyfarfod y prynhawn yma, sef cyfle i gael holi ymhellach ynglŷn â rhaglen Cefnogi Pobl Llywodraeth Cymru. Fe hoffwn i groesawu ein tystion ar gyfer y prynhawn yma, ac os caf i, yn y lle cyntaf, ofyn iddyn nhw gyflwyno eu hunain ar gyfer aelodau'r pwyllgor.
We'll move on, therefore, to the main focus of our meeting this afternoon, which is an opportunity to further ask about the Supporting People programme of the Welsh Government. I'd like to welcome our witnesses this afternoon, and could I ask them, first of all, to introduce themselves for the record?
Wrth gwrs. Prynhawn da, bawb.
Of course. Good afternoon, everyone.
I'm Tracey Burke. I'm the director general for education and public services.
I'm Jo-Anne Daniels. I'm the director for communities and tackling poverty in Welsh Government.
John Howells, cyfarwyddwr tai ac adfywio.
John Howells, director of housing and regeneration.
Director of housing and regeneration, Welsh Government.
Iawn. Diolch o galon i chi. Mae nifer o Aelodau, wrth gwrs, wedi nodi eu diddordeb mewn gwahanol feysydd. Fe wnaf i ddechrau, os caf i. A allwch chi grynhoi yn fyr y rhesymeg tu ôl i benderfyniad Llywodraeth Cymru i newid ei dull gweithredu trwy benderfynu peidio, wedi'r cwbl, â chyflwyno un grant ymyrraeth gynnar, atal a chefnogi integredig o'r flwyddyn nesaf ymlaen, ond yn hytrach sefydlu dau grant wedi eu hintegreiddio, gyda chyllid Cefnogi Pobl yn cael ei gynnwys fel yr elfen fwyaf o'r grant cymorth tai newydd?
Thank you all very much. A number of Members have identified their interest in different areas. I will start, if I may. Could you summarise briefly why the Welsh Government decided to change its approach by not rolling out a single integrated early intervention, prevention and support grant from next year onwards, but instead establish a two-grant integrated approach, with Supporting People funding included as the largest element of the new housing support grant?
Okay, yes, Chair. Thank you. So, some of the committee members will be aware, because they were committee members when we came for a scrutiny session—sorry, I'm getting an echo back in my ears there—in January, that the early intervention, prevention and support grant—so, quite an acronym; we call it 'EIPS'—was something that we were exploring. At that time, we were going through a pathfinder phase to establish what was the best way forward, and the purpose of this was to look at flexibilities for local authorities in terms of delivery of their services. And I think I was clear at committee last time that no decision had been taken as to how we would proceed from there.
So, I think we learnt a lot, certainly in the lead-up to the pathfinders, and in the preparation for that, and during the first few months of the pathfinders. We also had the benefit of some interim findings from the first stage of the evaluation process, but we also learnt from the local authorities, our delivery partners and, of course, from others. And I think our conclusion was that some form of alignment was likely to bring about positive impacts in the longer term. So, I think we were clear on the principle of alignment. I suppose the next stage, then, is to what degree—obviously, going ahead with the 10 grants would have been, in a sense, the full alignment—the decision to go to two grants was a decision to align grants and to give more flexibility, but it was a step short of the full grant. So, I suppose why that decision was taken is the essence of it.
I think there had been, certainly, indications from our stakeholders, so both our delivery partners, Welsh Local Government Association, on behalf of the local authorities, and also from the third sector that they felt that that would be a better alignment. It was something that the evaluation had identified as something that should be explored further, and it was certainly something that this committee asked us to consider, which we did.
So, I think that really was a kind of mix of factors, but a decision to pursue the flexibilities and the alignment agenda, but into two grants, really, rather than just the single grant. It also allowed us to take forward more clearly some of the recommendations from this committee and from the Wales Audit Office on Supporting People. So, it had a number of benefits.
A oeddech chi wedi ystyried gadael y penderfyniad hwn tan ddiwedd y gwerthusiad, yn hytrach na gwneud y penderfyniad hanner ffordd, mewn ffordd—hynny yw, adroddiad interim—o ran y gwerthusiad sydd wedi cael ei—? Hynny yw, yn y rhan fwyaf o sefyllfaoedd, efallai byddai honno ddim yn ffordd berffaith o wneud pethau. A ydych chi’n derbyn hynny?
Had you considered leaving this decision until the end of the evaluation, rather than making the decision halfway through, in a way—that is, in the interim report—in terms of the evaluation that has been done? In the majority of situations, that wouldn't be a perfect way of doing things. Do you accept that?
Yes, I do accept that, Chair, but we always knew we’d have to take this decision early. In fact, I think it was something I said at the last committee. I went through the pain of reading back through my transcript from last time on the weekend, with a large cup of tea, and I think I was clear that it was a decision that we'd have to take at this—well, we'd have to take a decision at this stage. Ministers would have to take a decision at this stage, partly because of the budget cycle. If a decision had not been taken, it would really be another 18 months, I think, before a new grant arrangement could have come in, because local authorities needed to plan their provision, provide a network, and wanted certainty. We ourselves need time to get the grant offer letters, award letters, those sorts of things in place. So, I think we always knew that we’d have to take a decision at this time, and, in fact, we timed the interim evaluation to give us the best possible information to inform that decision for Ministers.
I suppose one other thing I might say is that this was a decision about ways of working. So, I think it wasn’t, on your point on—[Interruption.] Sorry, everybody. On your point on would it be better to have waited til the end of the evaluation—and this evaluation was a process evaluation, it was looking at the ways of working, and, essentially, this was a process decision that was taken by Ministers. So, it wasn’t a decision to stop funding something or to start funding something, or to increase or decrease the funding of something; it was informing a decision about giving local authorities more flexibility. So, I suppose we need to see the evaluation in that context.
Mae yna un awgrym penodol yn yr adroddiad interim yr hoffwn i gyfeirio ato fe, sef y sylwadau nad yw grantiau fel grant gorfodi Rhentu Doeth Cymru—y Rent Smart Wales enforcement grant—yn addas ar gyfer ariannu hyblyg o gwbl, am fod y cyllid yn anrhagweladwy. A ydych chi’n derbyn y casgliad hwnnw, a sut mae hynny’n mynd i adlewyrchu yn eich bwriadau o dan y trefniant newydd?
There's one specific suggestion in the interim report that I'd like to refer to, namely the comments that grants such as the Rent Smart Wales enforcement grant are not suitable for flexible funding, because demand for this funding is likely to be unpredictable. Do you accept that conclusion, and how is that reflected in your intentions under the new arrangement?
I think I would accept that. I don't think it's necessarily a perfect mix of grants. I think there'll be some people that could argue that some grants would be better in that mix. All of the grants are about providing support for people at very vulnerable times of their lives. I think, actually, that one that you've picked out, Rent Smart Wales, is slightly different from those, because that grant is about helping local authorities with their enforcement duties. So, it is different, in that it's not about directly providing services. It was in the 10-grant proposal, because it was part of the 10 grants that the then Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children—they were in his portfolio. From my memory, it's of really tiny—well, not tiny by some people's standards, but small grants of about £200,000—
Two hundred and seventy-five thousand pounds.
So, I think it could come out, but then we'd have to have a separate grant administration for it. But I take your point.
Nid wyf yn teimlo ein bod ni mewn sefyllfa i'ch collfarnu chi am ymateb yn bositif i rai o'n hargymhellion ni, mor bell ag y mae ail-lunio'ch cynlluniau ar gyfer integreiddio—. Ond a ydych chi wedi ystyried unrhyw risgiau y bydd rhywbeth yn cael ei golli wrth beidio â symud ymlaen gyda'ch cynllun gwreiddiol chi? Hynny yw, a oes yna rai anfanteision i'r trefniant newydd rŷch chi'n bwriadu ei weithredu arno fe?
Ac a oes yna hefyd—? Os gallaf i gysylltu'r cwestiynau, a oes yna dal—? Er bod yna ddau glwstwr, os mynnwch chi, o grantiau nawr yn mynd i gael eu hintegreiddio ar wahân, a ydych chi'n dal yn rhagweld rhyw fath o integreiddio neu gydberthynas rhwng y ddwy golofn fanna?
I don't feel that we are in a position to judge you for responding positively to some of our recommendations as far as restructuring your plans for integration is concerned, but have you considered any risks that something might be missed by not taking forward your original proposals, in that are there some disadvantages to the new arrangement that you're intending to implement?
And also—to connect those questions, are there still—? Although there are two clusters, if you like, of grants that are going to be integrated separately, do you still foresee some kind of integration or collaboration between those two columns there?
Thank you, Chair. I think there are pros and cons to any of the options—genuinely, pros and cons. I think, if we had to think about what was the con or the negative of a two-grant model, it's the potential for two silos or they become two different ways of working. And, actually, all of the grants, with the exception of the rent smart, which you just referred to, are all about tackling issues that very vulnerable people are experiencing. And as we all know, everybody's lives are quite complicated and complex, and people sometimes need more than one type of support. So, I think there is a danger with the two grants that those two things could become quite separate—separately administered, et cetera. So, I think the job for us to do is to make sure that there's good collaboration. So, internally, there will be good collaboration. It's both John and Jo-Anne's teams who will be leading on those two grants, and, I think I'm right in saying, you've got a joint implementation board. Is that right?
Yes, that's correct.
And with our local partners, through the local authorities, we will be making sure that that join-up is there. I don't know if there's anything else. You're a bit closer to it.
Mi oedd y gwerthusiad yn tynnu sylw at ba mor gymhleth oedd e i'r awdurdodau a oedd yn cychwyn ar y daith o uno'r gwaith y tu ôl i'r grantiau i wneud hynny, ac un o fanteision cychwyn gyda dwy ran ar wahân yw—.
The evaluation did highlight how complex it was for the authorities starting on the journey of merging the work behind the grants to do that, and one of the advantages of starting with two separate parts is—.
Mi wnaf i dynnu i mewn Rhianon Passmore mewn eiliad. Cariwch chi ymlaen, John.
I'll pull Rhianon Passmore in in a minute. Please carry on, John.
Un o'r manteision yw bod yr awdurdodau yn cael cyfle i gael eu pennau nhw o gwmpas yr her o uno'r grantiau sy'n gysylltiedig â thai ar un ochr, a'r grantiau cymunedol ar yr ochr arall. So, mae yna ochr bositif o gychwyn gyda'r ddau ffrwd yma o waith.
One of the advantages is that the authorities have an opportunity to get their heads around the challenge of merging the grants related to housing on the one side and the community grants on the other side. So, there is a positive side to starting with these two streams of work.
Iawn. Diolch. Rhianon Passmore.
Fine. Thank you. Rhianon Passmore.
Thank you, Chair. In that regard, the joint implementation board, obviously, is going to be a very important plank in order to be able to get that lack of a silo mentality from Welsh Government. In regard to the local authority level, how are you going to ensure or reassure committee that that is still going to happen at a local level, bearing in mind the overlap, in terms of tackling poverty and, obviously, the drive behind the single grant idea in the first place? Obviously, there's been a big amount of concern around the Supporting People mega grant, so, obviously, this is welcome. So, how are you going to ensure at a local level that we get the same strategic co-operation?
Do you want to answer that?
Yes, I can, hopefully, provide you with some reassurance. So, as Tracey has said, we've got internal programme arrangements that try to align the two grants as far as possible, and we wrote out to all chief executives back at the start of November to explain to them how we were going to, as far as possible, make sure that the administrative arrangements for the two grants were the same. Obviously, we have to respect the differences between the two grants. In particular, we have to respect the protection that is afforded Supporting People and the expenditure on that programme. But, as far as processes are concerned, we want to make those as simplified and as straightforward as possible.
We are also continuing to look at a single outcomes framework, which will operate across the two grants and should therefore allow opportunities for alignment between the objectives of those grants to be pursued. I think it's probably fair to say that some of the pathfinders from this year have expressed some concerns that the new arrangements could require them to unpick some of the sort of joined-up working practices that they've been forging over the last few months. So, we're very keen to ensure that, as we develop the arrangements for the two grants going forward, we keep testing it with them and checking that, actually, it's not going to unpick the very good work that many of them have done to bring partners to the table to discuss the opportunities that alignment brings.
Diolch. Darren Millar sydd yn mynd i fynd â ni ymlaen i'r pwnc nesaf neu'r cwestiynau nesaf.
Thank you. Darren Millar is going to take us on to the next subject or questions.
Can I ask you how confident are you that local authorities will be able to seize this two-grant opportunity come April, given that it's just a few months away and that they've been planning all year on a completely different basis in terms of the finance that was going to be available to them?
I think, as Jo-Anne has just said, there are some concerns in some of the pathfinders that they might lose some of the benefits of the ways of working that they have been seeing, but I think, in many respects, the ways of working will sort of remain the same for the pathfinders, it's just a split between the two grants. The real challenge is for the non-pathfinders, so these are the 15 local authorities that haven't got off the mark yet on this. I think it's a bit of a curate's egg, a bit of a mixed bag. Some of the non-pathfinders were very disappointed to not become pathfinders in the first place, and, in fact, they have been chomping at the bit, really, to get started with those flexibilities. So, I think they're ready to go, ready to run. There are some local authorities who I think have shown less interest, and I think they are the challenge, really, for us. Do you want to say a bit more, Jo-Anne?
Yes. Throughout the process of running the pathfinders, we've been engaging with the non-pathfinders, and of course they have had some degree of flexibility. It's not as if they've had nothing. So, they've had flexibility, I think, of up to 15 per cent of budgets across a smaller number of grants. I think it was five grants rather than 10. So, they've been dabbling their toes, I suppose, a bit in the water, but we've been keeping in contact with them. We held an event in July, which was an all-Wales event where the pathfinder authorities presented their work to date to enable the non-pathfinders to find out a bit more what was going on. We held another series of events last week in north Wales and in south Wales, again bringing the pathfinders and the non-pathfinders together to share experiences. So, I think, as Tracey has said and as the evaluation reflected, there is a mix there of authorities who will be ready to go on 1 April and implement a well-thought-through plan of action, and there'll be others who are still really starting to think about what they might need to do, and we'll need to be ready to support them at whatever stage they're at in their development of proposals.
Would it not be better to phase this approach so that you can actually pick up on some of the lessons learnt from the evaluation, which, of course, isn't yet complete? There's still more work to go; we've only had an interim evaluation at the moment. It is pretty risky, isn't it? Would it not have been better to phase the approach so that you can apply all of the learning from the evaluation?
In a sense, we have phased the approach by having the pathfinders in the first place. We haven't gone from nothing to suddenly launching a whole new way of working.
But you're only halfway through the evaluation.
We are only halfway through, but it is what you might call an action research evaluation. So, it's giving us outputs all of the time in real time to help us develop, but also the pathfinders themselves have been very keen, I think, to work with non-pathfinders. It's almost a sense of buddying up. I think it's something that they're exploring, to do that. But if we didn't proceed now, it would be another 18 months for some authorities to be able to explore these flexibilities, and that felt an awfully long way off from doing that. Is there anything more to say there, Jo-Anne?
Yes. I think I'd also reflect that, obviously, all of the authorities are very, very familiar with the programmes that are supported by these grants. So, just to focus a little bit on your point about risk, in a sense, the worst thing that can happen, come 1 April, is that authorities just carry on doing what they've always done, which is not necessarily bad, because they've been running some very good programmes. The risk is that they miss an opportunity, not that something goes wrong, if you see what I mean. So, I think we wouldn't necessarily see there being a significant risk of something going badly wrong.
You just see a risk of things staying the same, is what you're saying.
We are going to phase the introduction of the arrangements. We're not going to—on the housing support front, for example—rush to change the current detailed terms and conditions that surround Supporting People or homelessness prevention. We're going to hold fast on the rules as far as 2019-20 is concerned, with a view to engaging with the wider sector in beginning to identify whether there should be further changes to be introduced from 2020-21 to fully take advantage of the closer integration that we would hope to see. So, there's a kind of—. We are conscious of the risks in the way we're going to implement the change.
And it's a two-year grant approach now, is that right?
It's till the end of this Assembly term, so, yes.
Till the end of the Assembly term.
Yes. So, it's two full financial years.
So, given that you've got a piece of evaluation work that is halfway through, which has still got some time to go, are you going to continue that evaluation all the way through to the end of the Assembly term? How are you going to monitor whether this is effective, this change, or not?
Yes, you're right. The evaluation's due to report, I think in May of next year, so the final bit. But there will be at least one product in between that, which will be the outcomes framework, which they'll be working for us, with us, on. After that, clearly, we've got tried and tested monitoring arrangements in place, so we'll have plenty of monitoring information available. I think we certainly haven't taken a decision yet about evaluation of the two-grant model—how we will go about that—and that's definitely work in progress at the moment. But we won't be short of information to inform any future decisions that Ministers make. We collect and know an awful lot about these programmes.
But there's nothing at the moment that you've set up ready to—
We don't have—not for the two grants. We don't have a formal process in place for that yet.
Okay. Rhianon Passmore.
Thank you very much. Briefly, then, in regard to the amount of concern that was brought forward in regard to amalgamation into a single grant, you mentioned that there isn't a huge risk attached to this in terms of it being a collaboration issue, but obviously we're dealing with some of our most vulnerable people. So, in regard to those local authorities that are potentially not at the top of this in terms of that collaboration, how are you working with the pathfinders to buddy up with those? It seems to me like they're being left to do this voluntarily. How are you strategically manipulating that so that it occurs systemically?
You've had two regional meetings now, haven't you? Do you want to say a bit about those, Jo-Anne?
Yes. So, we had a meeting in north Wales and a meeting in south Wales last week with pathfinders and non-pathfinders. We talked about the findings from the evaluation. We had, of course, already—the evaluation was published back in October, so has been available for people to consider. So, we went through some of the evaluation findings, some of the key lessons that Wavehill drew out about what they felt had been most effective within the pathfinders—things like having governance arrangements in place, having a project manager who could lead this, about undertaking reviews of the various programmes and the commissioning arrangements that many of them employ. And then we had a free and open discussion with the non-pathfinders and pathfinders about what support they'd find helpful from us and what areas of concern they have. I think we are—in a sense, we're in the same position with the non-pathfinders as we were with the pathfinders at this time last year. We've said to them that we think that 2019-20 is going to be, if you like, a year of exploration. So, we don't expect them from 1 April to have fully fledged plans for transforming service provision, but we do expect them to have, if you like, a plan for a plan—so, how are they going to work towards rethinking some of the opportunities that might be available for better service integration, which would benefit their citizens? So, we'll be using the planning guidance that we'll be issuing, and the delivery plans that all of the authorities will have to produce early next year as a way of monitoring their progress and providing them with support where it's needed.
Okay, thank you.
Rhianon, a ydych chi eisiau parhau gyda'r set nesaf o gwestiynau ar bwnc gwahanol?
Rhianon, would you like to continue with the next set of questions on a different topic?
Okay, thank you. In regard to the paper from Welsh Government, it mentions previously planned cuts to the programmes around supporting early intervention, prevention and support. So, in that regard, would you say that the overall amount of pot of money has been cut in terms of delivering efficiency savings in a way that protects front-line services, or would you not agree with that narrative?
The budget was reduced last year, but has been reinstated this year. So, the budget was reduced by £13.4 million—from memory; the figure stuck in my head—and it has been reinstated this year. I think £8 million of that came from reserves. It might be slightly more. I think it's £8.4 million that came from reserves and then £5 million came from the childcare offer, and that reinstated the budget.
I'll be coming on to the childcare offer. In that regard, in the figures that I've got here, the overall combined budget for both of the grants was £262 million. That does seem to leave £3.4 million missing. So, you're saying that that is not the case. That £3.4 million has not been taken out.
Is there—[Inaudible.] That would be between the two financial years, possibly.
So, from—. When we—. Apologies, because this is sort of—because we published the budget two years in advance. So, when, last year, we set out the budget for 2019-20 for EIPS, there were more grants in that budget line than are involved in the 10 that will be taken forward under the two new grants. So, there are some—. I think there are three additional grants that were included in that that now don't form part of the children and communities grant or the housing support grant.
So, they're still there, but they're not particularly in the two—
They're still there, but they're not in those pots.
Where have they gone, then?
So, they will have been transferred to other MEGs, whichever MEG is relevant.
Could you provide a paper on this for us? I think—
Would it be helpful if we provided a note on that? I think what we're saying is that there were three grants, which—. They would comprise £3.4 million, would they? Or whatever it was—
So, if we could have some clarity.
We'll provide you with a note of clarity on that, yes.
Yes, thank you. So, what you're implying is that there hasn't been a cut; it's just been separated into different—
No, the money for the communities and children and housing support grants is the same as last year. We have reinstated the £13.4 million—
Okay. From the reserves.
Yes, from reserves and from the childcare offer. But we will definitely provide a note about what else might have been in that line that is now elsewhere in the budget. Okay. Sorry for any confusion.
Obviously, taking from the reserves is, I would presume, a one-off occurrence.
I would assume.
We'll see. Okay, thank you. Jenny, did you want to—?
Chair, could I just—? Before we move off this £13.4 million, my take from it was that, by bringing all these things together, it would enable an administrative saving of just over £13 million, so—. And my concern is that we're not delivering best value, because we've failed to march forward with the changes that we need to make, given that austerity isn't about to go away. So, I just wondered if you could say why you think that that isn't the case—that you got your figures wrong in the first place, or what?
So, one of the painful parts of reading back through my transcript was reading back through actually what I said about the budget when I was here at committee last time. So, I was very clear at committee last time that this was a budget challenge, that this was a figure that we had been given that we needed to work to, but I was also very clear that we would try to find efficiency savings. But, again, I was clear at committee last time that, you know, there was no way that we would get to £13.4 million of savings through better administration or reduced bureaucracy—
It was an unrealistic figure.
It was a reduced budget and that was what we were working to. There are opportunities to drive efficiencies, I think, both through administrative efficiencies and through service provision efficiencies, but not in the order of £13.4 million, and I think I was clear, reading back, about that last time. We will continue, of course, to press for efficiencies in the programme.
Because you're absolutely right: the pressure on local authorities to be able to administer these grants is growing all the time because of the wider budget pressures. For example, on the Supporting People side, we don't pay for local authority administration costs through the programme. That's a charge on the local authorities, and we're conscious that that's got to be funded within their mainstream budgets, which are under very significant pressure the whole time. So, we are definitely interested in finding ways that we can streamline systems, and we hope that the fact that we are streamlining across both sets of integrated grants will be an opportunity at least to bring some savings in administration. As Tracey says, we haven't got a target figure, but we do need to be alive all the time to not constructing bureaucratically complicated processes if we can simplify them and still get the accountability data that we need.
So, in regard to your evaluation of the impact of the diversion of the childcare offer of £5 million, could you just give us a little bit of oversight in terms of what's occurring in that area?
Yes, of course. Jo-Anne, that's mostly your area on childcare, but I think our thinking is that it won't have a major impact on the childcare offer.
No. So, I'm the director responsible for the childcare offer. So, as the committee may be aware, we started the roll-out of the childcare offer in September last year in seven local authority areas, and from September this year we've got another seven local authority areas that have started to deliver, and there will be further local authorities beginning implementation from January and from April. So, we've now got a rolling programme supporting the introduction of the childcare offer, which supports our intention to have the offer rolled out on a Wales-wide basis from September 2020. So, that was the intention that we set out, and that's what we're still on track for—
Which is absolutely fine as background context, but in regard to my understanding—and it may be incorrect—has there been any diversion of moneys set—that £5 million figure—for that programme that have now gone somewhere else?
Yes. So, the £5 million has been transferred into the 10 grants in order to contribute towards the removal of the requirement for a reduction of £13.4 million, so that does mean that the budget—
So, are you now £5 million worse off for the childcare offer?
So, the budget for the childcare offer in 2019-20 is £5 million less than was previously planned, but we're confident that that's not going to have any material impact on the roll-out of the offer and our ability to meet our commitment to September 2020. It's fair to say that the childcare offer has—and a number of committees have scrutinised us on this point, and I think we've been fairly open that estimating the costs of the childcare offer is quite challenging because it depends in part on the number of families that choose to take it up; it also depends in part on how many hours they choose to take up. So, the offer is for 30 hours, but, clearly, if they don't need 30 hours and they only want 25 or 20, et cetera—. So, there's quite a lot of variability that plays into the overall cost of the offer, and so we're learning all the time about what the take-up is, and we're also seeing take-up growing over time. So, I think, as I say, we're confident that it's—
Sorry, Chair, but my understanding, if I can interrupt you—and we're not specifically here to talk about the childcare offer; I understand that fully—but my understanding is that it is successfully being implemented in the pilot areas, and particularly in my own area it's been extremely successful. There is excellent, if not aggressive take-up—
Yes, Caerphilly is one of our star performers.
Thank you, not that I can take any credit for that. But what I'm saying is, it just surprises me, then, that a £5 million black hole that is not of anybody's wish should suddenly occur to a highly successful programme and it's not going to have any impact. But you think that it's manageable.
Obviously, in making the decision to move the budgets, we took an assessment of risks and we were comfortable that it wouldn't materially affect the roll-out of the childcare offer.
Okay. I'm going to move swiftly on, Chair, unless you want to come in.
Mae Darren eisiau dod nôl ar y pwynt yna, a wedyn dof i nôl atoch chi.
Darren wants to come back on this point and then I'll come back to you.
Yes. I think it has been widely reported that the take-up of the offer has not been as wide as had been anticipated. To what extent do you think that that is as a result of the lack of promotion of the offer in those areas that currently have parents who are eligible for it? And isn't it likely, as it becomes more widely accessible, that, because awareness levels will be raised, you're going to have to spend that money on the childcare offer, aren't you?
So, again, the committee may well be aware that the evaluation of the first year of the childcare offer was published—I think it was about a week and a half ago—
The week before last.
—the week before last, and it, as you say, highlights that take-up in some areas has been lower than perhaps might have been anticipated, and it does also highlight that communications have been a challenge in some local authorities. That's, in part, because, in some local authorities, the offer has been restricted to some wards; it's not been authority wide, and, of course, that then means that doing a big marketing campaign is quite difficult. So, we've changed our approach and so more of the authorities now are offering the childcare offer on a whole-authority basis, which we think will help them with communications. We do expect take-up to grow, but, as I said, even factoring in growth in take-up, we are confident that the reduction won't affect the roll-out.
Because you've changed the profile of the roll-out as well, haven't you? So, there are some places you've brought forward that were not previously anticipated to start in January—for example, Denbighshire in my constituency.
Again, that's in part been as a result of conversations with the various local authorities about their readiness to implement the offer. You'll be aware that we're asking authorities to work together so that we don't have 22 administrative systems for the offer.
In north Wales, Flintshire, Gwynedd and Anglesey have been acting as the—. I think we call them 'delivery authorities' because they're actually processing the applications, and so on. So, partly, it's been about their capacity to take on more applications to ensure that we don't get backlogs and delays, and, again, partly about the readiness of the sector within the different authorities. So, there's a range of factors that affect the roll-out and—
But the point I'm making is that you are confident that you're not going to run out of cash if the take-up is higher than you're anticipating.
At this stage, we're confident.
'At this stage'—sounds a bit wobbly.
On our best forecast, we are confident at the moment.
And that takes into account the bringing forward of the dates—
Yes. The increased marketing.
—the widening awareness of the scheme.
All of those things. We are confident that that £5 million can be spared, I suppose, to go into the wider grants that we've just spoken about.
Fe allwn ni ddychwelyd i hyn, wrth gwrs, maes o law, os oes rhaid i ni, ond gadewch inni fynd nôl at Rhianon.
We'll return to this in due course, if we need to, but let's go back now to Rhianon.
Thank you. You partially answered what I was going to ask you in terms of the £13.5 million, so I'm not going to dig any more there. With regard to the Society of Welsh Treasurers' work, in that regard, do you know when that work will be finished off in terms of their analysis around this?
No, I don't know when that will be.
Okay. We'll find that out.
We took a paper to the Society of Welsh Treasurers following the committee last time, pointing out where we thought efficiencies might be gained through administration and service delivery. The initial read-out was that it was too early for them to say where those efficiencies might be. It was a little bit disappointing. I think that wouldn't be saying something out of school. They didn't feel that they could identify where efficiencies might fall at this stage. However, they have committed to looking at about five or six different areas—so, things like eligibility checks, those sorts of things.
But you're not aware of a timescale for it.
No, we're not.
Maybe you could find that out. I'm sure we'd be interested in that. In regard to the planning around the allocation for housing support grant, is that going to remain the same for 2021?
The budget, or the—?
The housing support grant.
For the housing support grant, yes. The budgets are as published in the—. I can't think if there's anything—. Is there something behind your question? As far as I know, the budgets are as published, so it will remain the same for 2019-20 and 2020-21.
It's just encouraging and positive that there's not been that level of cut and that you've managed to keep it sound.
No, the budgets are as they were.
We are confident that we are protected until the end of the current budget period, which takes us up until April 2020. All Welsh Government budgets will be subject to review during the course of next year. A comprehensive spending review is expected, and that will mean that all budgets need to be looked at.
But we're planning on the basis of the—
Our plan is for flat running at minimum.
And I just wanted to state that, obviously, after the levels of concern that were expressed during this committee, it's encouraging that there has been flexibility around this proposal.
Yes, thank you.
Iawn, diolch yn fawr. Oscar.
Okay, thanks. Oscar.
Thank you, Chair. Before I ask my question, I would like to ask about the same line my previous colleague asked. For 2019-20, in the budget you are putting forward for communities and children and prevention and interventions and support grants, there are various figures—£250 million, to small amounts like £35 million and then £20 million. So, basically my question is just to clarify that, if the budget—. Because the budget starts on 5 April to 5 April. Am I right? That starts from next year to the following year.
So, you're at very early stage, and this question is: is there any provision, if the money that hasn't been spent in one area, for it to be transferred to another? I just heard from Jo-Anne that she's confident to achieve, and you mentioned earlier that the principles of alignment are there. So, I'd like to find out whether you're confident that this budget is properly used and, if there's a shortfall, it can be transferable, and, if not, then, you told this committee that the saving is there on the line. So, the budget is always short in supply at the end of the term. So, that budget can be used for other areas rather than sticking and going back.
Yes, absolutely. I think we're pretty confident that the budget will be spent. The demand is there, as we know. There are growing numbers of vulnerable people who need support, so I think we're confident that the budgets will be spent.
The flexibilities that local authorities have mean that what would have been in separate grants and they would have had to have come back to us to vire between those grants, they don't have to do, with the exception being, as I say, that we've protected the Supporting People grant. But I suppose if either of those two new grants—housing support grant or the communities and children grant—were very, very underspent, we'd certainly have a big question about why that was. But technically—
Can I just ask for a clarification on that? So, which was the grant that was underspent?
There weren't any grants underspent. Sorry, I'll try to speak up a bit. I'm so sorry. No, there are no grants, but I'm saying that if there were underspends, then they would definitely be redeployed to other areas through the normal budget allocation processes.
Why I'm asking you this question is because homelessness is the area that is probably to be looked at in different areas in Wales, rather than a specific area. There was somewhere, I read, where there was an idea to ring-fence that budget for so many years. So, basically, are you thinking along those lines, to make sure that the budget for that area, there is no shortfall, or anywhere in your budget?
No, I think—. John, is there anything more we can say on that?
We do have other projects that are supporting the pressures that local authorities and third sector organisations are facing with regard to homelessness that can meet some of those pressures. But, at the moment, we're expecting full spend on these programmes. The demands are increasing. As you say, homelessness is one of the areas where the demands are increasing.
Okay, thank you. My other question is on stakeholder engagement. Do you now accept that if the Welsh Government had engaged earlier and more clearly, particularly with the third sector, it would have reached its decision to implement a two-grant approach sooner and in a less contentious way?
That's a good question. Yes and no, I suppose. Yes, I think there are some things for us to take away about engagement. It's something that you may recall we discussed a lot at the last committee the last time I was here on Supporting People, because there were real concerns by some of the third sector about the level of engagement that there had been up to the point of deciding to do the pathfinders. And I think I said then, and will say again today, that we haven't got everything right on engagement, and we'll learn what lessons there are there. We did actually engage quite a lot. I just think that what I described at the time as 'signalling intent' probably just wasn't clear enough, and there's something for us to take away there.
I suppose the 'no' part of my answer comes from, 'Would we have got there less contentiously?' Would we have got to the same place I think is what you're saying. I'm not sure that we would have got there any sooner or less contentiously, really, because there were very differently held views—very different. There was a wide range of grants, a wide range of stakeholders and an equally wide range of views, and if we take, perhaps, where local government was—WLGA—they wanted at that time everything into the revenue support grant, and only at the very end stage, just before Ministers took the decision in October, did they come forward and say they would support a two-grant model. I think, reading the papers for this committee, Cymorth Cymru themselves said that they had had to move their position from protecting Supporting People to moving to the two grants, and we ourselves have moved from our starting assumption of a single grant to two grants.
So, I think, at some point, there would have had to have been very robust discussions to get to this point. So, I don't think there was any way of really avoiding that, but there are always lessons to learn in any of these processes.
Thank you. Having given assurances to the committee previously that engagement with the third sector would take place, how do you respond to Cymorth Cymru’s written evidence that highlights ongoing concerns about the extent of meaningful and constructive engagement both by your officials and through the interim evaluation?
I was a bit disappointed to read some of their letter to the committee, because they obviously still have strongly held views about engagement with them. But there's been a huge amount of engagement during the pathfinder phase with various organisations. I'm thinking through the Supporting People national advisory board, through the pathfinder working group, with various groups like the youth offending teams, various family teams, et cetera, and I did take a crumb of comfort from the comments towards the end of Cymorth's paper, where they said that they had faith in us as officials. You know, they had confidence that we were going to work co-productively and actually pointed to some examples of when we've done that. So, I'm hoping that that gives us a very good platform now to go forward, and I think, certainly in the initial meetings that have been had, with the housing support grant, Cymorth and other bodies as part of that group—your steering group—the engagement seems to have been good there so far. But I'm guessing somebody else will tell me if not.
I'm afraid I'm missing a very important meeting of the Supporting People national board today, which is part of the old governance structure, where they're discussing the changes that are coming through the housing support grant, and Cymorth will be part of those discussions, and other third sector organisations.
This is a pretty important meeting, though, isn't it, Chair?
This is even more important.
Ocê. Diolch, Oscar. Neil Hamilton.
Okay. Thanks, Oscar. Neil Hamilton.
Diolch yn fawr, Gadeirydd dros dro.
Thank you very much, temporary Chair.
You will recall that we received evidence, or at least it was suggested to us in our inquiry by witnesses, that financial uncertainties, funding uncertainties, were causing potential bidders for Supporting People projects to withdraw from the process, as a result of which you've commissioned some work to understand what's happening amongst potential bidders. And that was supposed to be completed by the autumn of 2018. We've got three weeks of autumn left, so, perhaps you could update us as to where this has got to.
I think I get my autumn days wrong, because I've always thought they ended on 30 November and winter started, but I think it's about the twenty-first, isn't it? So, we did do that. We did do that work. We contacted all of the local authorities to follow up, because they were very powerfully made comments here and in the supporting evidence from the previous session.
We heard back, I think, from about three quarters of the commissioning teams, and they didn't raise any significant concerns with us about funding uncertainties affecting, I suppose, the bidding for services. However, I think that was on our minds, really, and certainly on Ministers' minds about providing more certainty to the sector and taking the decision, when Ministers took it, in order to provide that certainty. So, I think we were mindful of it, but it hadn't been evidenced from the work that we had undertaken.
All right, okay. Thank you very much.
Welsh Government has committed, as you said earlier, to keep the two-grant approach to the end of this Assembly. Do you think that the possibility of change adds further to the uncertainties that caused you to have the review that you've just spoken to? Is there any chance, do you think, that local authorities will be less likely to enter the bidding process as a result?
I think that's a sort of two-part question there, really. I think it would have been difficult to have extended it for longer. I think that Ministers were clear that they didn't want to commit beyond the end of the next Assembly term—this Assembly term, rather. But I did note in the interim evaluation, I think, that the feedback from local authorities was that unless they had more certainty, they were less likely to innovate, because they needed a longer term trajectory. Actually, WLGA came forward with a timetable of three years, I think. So, we're a bit short of what they had proposed. I know that Cymorth and other bodies wanted to see a five-year horizon. I think we are where we are. It's to the end of the Assembly term. It's certainly better than where we were.
I don't think I answered the first part of your question, and I wonder if you might just repeat that, sorry.
Yes. I was saying that Cymorth, in their evidence to us, said that it's common for Welsh Government to publish strategies that commit to particular policies for up to a period of 10 years, which, obviously, is too far in the future possibly for us to foresee events. But you are satisfied, anyway, that the timescales that you've decided on are sufficient to—
I think the timescale is what it is, and we will try to encourage as much innovation as possible within that time frame.
Good. Okay. Thank you very much.
Thank you. Some of this feels a little bit like watching paint dry, because it feels to me that the pace of change is perhaps not as fast as it needs to be. John Howells, you said that we're not going to rush anything, but we seem to be in quite a sort of very deliberative phase. So, I suppose I want to understand a little bit more about, you know, we've got these public service boards, we've got the regional partnership boards, then we've got these RCCs. How do these regional collaborative committees—? How do they all not fall over each other and actually get on with some work?
Well, I think you're right; it's quite a busy landscape really, with the number of bodies and boards there. I think it's something that we are very much aware of and would like to review, and particularly in light of the fact that the regional partnership boards, which primarily are looking at social care, et cetera, now have a seat for housing on the table, which we pushed quite hard for. I think there is potential for the regional co-ordination committees and the regional partnership boards to overlap. So, I don't think that's a decision that we can take as Government—I think that would be wrong—but it is certainly something that we have discussed taking forward, to try to find a better alignment, really, and to understand whether they're all still required and what functions they are performing. We've done a little bit of work in this area to try and make sure that the roles are clear—we've reclarified the roles of the regional co-ordination committees. But I agree with you, it's quite busy and—
Because I haven't even quoted some of the other organisations that are mentioned in the guidelines for RCC. [Inaudible.]
I don't think we'd disagree there at all, John, would we?
No, and we're also very conscious of the criticism contained in the Wales Audit Office report about the operation of regional collaborative committees and that governance model, which has been on our agenda for some time. But we are conscious that this is now operating against a different backdrop, given the emergence of regional partnership boards, as Tracey mentioned, which are taking on increasingly complex questions, where health and social care are coming together and where housing has now got a place around that table. We're on to that and, although I wouldn't want to be too deliberative in our approach, we are anxious to engage with local authority and third sector colleagues before coming to any formal view on what's the best way forward. But we can't be asking people to turn up to have the same discussion in different places. We're very concerned to avoid that.
Okay. Well, it's good to know that you recognise that. You mentioned that you'd had some conferences to share the learning from the pilots to enable those who weren't part of the pathfinders to find out what was going on. Have you had all local authorities engaging in this exchange of information and best practice? Are there any local authorities who've simply failed to send anybody?
I'd have to check that with Jo-Anne. I know that we've communicated out to all local authorities. Whether or not they've all engaged back with us, I think, is—.
I will double check for you. Certainly, we had representation from all of the six north Wales authorities at the meeting last week. The meeting of south-west and mid Wales authorities, I didn't note down attendees. So, I can go back and double check that everyone was represented.
All right. But you recognise that it's an important point that if there were to be somebody that wasn't engaging with the process, then they're starting from—
A very low base, yes, because they're probably the people that have got the least interest in it and, therefore, the furthest to go. So, yes, I take your point.
But, obviously, for their populations, it's going to be a significant failure if they're not engaging in it.
Okay. You mentioned earlier that some pathfinder authorities or collaboratives are anxious that the two-pronged approach might now force them to row back on some of the joined-up solutions that they've come up with, and I wonder if you could just elaborate a bit more. Are you able to say who they are who've actually gone further than this two-pronged approach? And, how much has that been shared with other local authorities in these forums?
I think, even amongst the pathfinders, some have forged ahead further than others and some of that has come out in the evaluation report, I think, where they cite those. Jo-Anne, could you provide a bit more?
So, who are they, because I'm afraid I haven't read the report?
The evaluation report doesn't name authorities. It identifies one authority that it says has made less progress, two that are making okay progress and—making sure I get the maths right—four that are making very good progress. So, across the seven pathfinders, that's the sort of breakdown they refer to.
As Tracey said, and I think as the evaluation says, local authorities started in very different places, so I think it's important to put those comments about progress into context. So, just as one illustration, these 10 grants, in terms of where they land within a local authority, where they're administered, which department or directorate they're within, it varies. So, I think, in about half of the 22 local authorities, Supporting People is managed within the housing department. In the other half, it's actually managed from within their social services department. Then, when you look at some of the other grants—Flying Start, Families First—sometimes those are within education departments, sometimes they're within children's services departments, sometimes they're within regeneration. In Newport, for example, they're in the regeneration department. So, the amount of practical alignment that has already taken place often reflected the administrative arrangements within the authority. So, there have been some areas where, actually, all of these grants have sat under the same management. So, their journey, if you like, is probably more advanced than it is in some of the others, where they're more disparately located across the functions of the authority, and so bringing people together has required a much more concerted effort to get them around the table to start having the conversations.
So, as I say, just from a very practical perspective, authorities have started from very different places and, then, I think that reflects how far they've gone in the very short time, actually, that the evaluation was looking at how things were going.
Okay, but if I'm the leader or the chief executive of a local authority that has not been part of the pathfinders, why is it that they're not able to find out who the four who are making very good progress are? Some of them may have different features—urban, rural, et cetera—but why can't all local authorities find out who's making the best progress so that they can go and piggyback quickly to catch up?
I'm happy to reflect back and discuss with the evaluators the pros and cons of, as it were, naming them. I suspect there may have been some reluctance at such an early stage to be, if you like, forming a judgment or to be perceived to be forming a judgment on those local authorities that actually might not turn out to be supported over the longer term when the final evaluation is produced.
That makes me a bit anxious about the quality of the interim evaluation, then, if we're uncertain as to whether they are making good progress.
No, I don't think I reflected that we weren't certain about their progress. I was reflecting whether their progress over the course of the year would reflect their progress to date, because, obviously, there are still eight months left for these authorities to develop their proposals.
Shall we take that back up with the evaluators? We'll take that back up with the evaluators and add that to the other two notes that we've taken.
Okay. Can you give us a sense of what kind of actions and wider commitments characterise those local authorities that have made the most progress in integrating their funding streams? Have they got any particular features—urban, rural, or anything like that?
I think my sense has been about the commitment of the senior leadership to want it to happen, to want to join up those services and to want to have earlier intervention and prevention. I think that has probably been the key to it. I think also those who have had a transformation programme or something else where they've been able to join this work with it. That's my read, but you're a bit closer to it.
Yes, again, the evaluation draws out that, in many of these local authority areas, they had transformation programmes that, in a sense, predated funding flexibilities, and one of the reasons that they put themselves forward for this, to be a pathfinder, was because they saw funding flexibilities as an opportunity to accelerate the progress that they were already making. So, they were starting from the position of transforming services for their citizens rather than starting from a position driven by grant arrangements.
But given the flat cash situation of most local authorities in budgets, why would any local authority not need a transformation programme, given the challenges they've got?
I think those more or less are over. They absolutely need to be looking at new ways of providing their services, and that was right back to the original ethos of the programme, wasn't it, to allow local authorities to have new ways of working, so we're hoping that that will cascade from the pathfinders to the non-pathfinders.
Okay, but I'm still confused as to how a local authority that hasn't been involved in being a pathfinder is able to do some pretty quick catch-up, because they all need to be engaged in this—
Yes, that's right, and they are, because we've had meetings with the pathfinders and the non-pathfinders, where the pathfinders have been sharing their lessons learned and their ways of working, so there are mechanisms in place. Whether they will be sufficient for those furthest away, I think is a case in point that we need to look at. So, those non-pathfinders who are furthest away from it—I think we may need to do something supplementary for them.
Okay. What's your strategy, then, for ensuring that all senior local authority officers are committed to delivering on the aims and ambitions of the flexible funding programme?
I think we're using all channels that we have, really, from the Minister writing to all of the chief executives, from us engaging with the chief executives through the events that we've been holding, et cetera. We're trying all sorts of channels to get that buy-in, including using the pathfinders as well.
It will be interesting to reflect on the complete evaluation report when we have it next year, because it does contain some very clear messages about not seeing this work in isolation and about seeing this as part of a much wider set of challenges that local authorities have to face up to, given budget pressures. I think that, when we get that evaluation report, we need to reflect on how we share those messages, which are about lots more than just specific grants.
Okay. So, when next year do you expect to finish it?
The evaluation report is May 2019.
May 2019. Okay. So, just to go back to those who've made the most progress and are really joining up the dots, are they going to be able to continue to use their funding flexibly, even though you've got a two-pronged approach? They're still able to—
They'll still have flexibility. Obviously, it'll be the two-grant mechanism, but they will still have flexibility within that.
Thank you, Jenny. Just to clarify, and it was implicit, I think, in your earlier remarks: will the best performing and the not so—the underperforming, I suppose—I was thinking of a kinder word. Will they be named in the final evaluation report?
We're going to take that away and speak to the evaluators about it, because we need to know the basis on which they engaged with the local authorities.
Okay. And the second question: are you aware of who the different categories of local authorities are? I understand it's not published, but are you aware?
Right, okay. So, that is informing at least your policy development.
Yes, indeed. We know who's doing well.
Thank you very much, Chair. My question is regarding planning for the new housing support grant around this. What will the creation of the new housing support grant mean for the existing Supporting People national and regional governance arrangements—the national advisory board and the regional collaborative committees?
The new housing support grant will have a working group, a steering group—I think it's actually called a working group—which involves the housing sector—representatives of the housing sector plus local authorities plus ourselves, and I think there may be some from RCCs on it, I'm not sure—
Two from there. So, their role will be to inform the grant programme, to look at the recommendations from the Wales audit report and, indeed, from yourselves here—the PAC recommendations on Supporting People. And also, to help plan a programme of engagement. So, that'll be a new structure. Clearly, we were talking a little bit earlier about the complexity of the wider structures—the regional collaborative committees, the regional partnership boards, et cetera. So, I think, as part of our work now going forward, we will look to see how we can clarify those roles and bodies. Everything came about for a reason, it's just that we need to look now to see is there duplication or things that we could be doing better or differently there.
You made the point earlier, Mr Asghar, about the pressures arising from the growing incidence of homelessness across Wales; and there will be a different ask of local authorities emerging from the new grant, even though the housing support grant is not dramatically different from the existing Supporting People arrangement, the inclusion of homeless prevention will underscore the role that Supporting People has played for some time in preventing homelessness. And we will be anxious to make sure that there's a link drawn between the role that this programme funding can play and the increasingly important role that local authorities are playing with regard to their responsibility, their duties, to prevent homelessness, which is an important challenge that they've been responding to since the Housing (Wales) Act 2014. So, the bringing together of these two agendas underneath the housing support grant will be a new ask of local authority colleagues, and we'll have to think about how that's going to happen in practice.
Rhianon, on this.
Thanks, Chair. So, in that regard, bearing in mind what you've just said, there is no additional funding around that, is there? So, I would presume—or is there?
The funding for the housing support grant is clear and published, and—
And that includes funding for homelessness prevention.
And includes an element of homeless prevention.
So, it does; there is an additionality there. So, that wouldn't come out of the original pot, then.
It was part of the original pot; it was one of the 10 grants.
We've moved existing support for homeless prevention into the housing support grant, but it was previously part of the wider plans.
Chair, would it be helpful if we, as to our note, added just a list of the grants; the amounts of the grants and then this current year and then proposed for next year, just so that Members can really assure themselves that everything is as it was?
Yes. That would be very helpful. Thank you. Oscar, would you like to continue with this line of questioning?
Please. Mr Howells, you mentioned clearly that RCCs are not clear in the Government paper on page 52:
'RCCs are not clear whether a regional dimension for delivery under EIPS would remain; they note that some of the strategic work they have been involved in has led to the development of regional strategies for Homelessness Prevention work or reviews of supporting housing.'
So, that's the Government's stand. But my question is, which is finally: how is the Welsh Government addressing what is described in the interim evaluation as the regional collaborative committees' thirst for more information about what flexible funding means?
Yes. I read in the evaluation the comments from the regional collaborative committees. I think that they'd, from my memory, welcomed the information that they'd had, but that they felt that the local authorities were better informed, they were more informed than them. And I suppose that isn't a huge surprise because the local authorities are the delivery bodies and I suppose our primary relationship is with the local authorities, that is, with whom we pass the funding to deliver. So, it's not a surprise, I suppose, that they are more aware. But I think we have really stepped up engagement with the RCCs since the evaluation report, and I think, actually, they're attending the meeting that John is not at today.
The not-quite-so-important meeting. [Laughter.]
Yes. And they are attending other events as well. So, I think it was a point very well taken by us in the evaluation report.
All right. Thank you very much, Chair.
Can I just ask a question?
Just with the RCCs, there's an opportunity for them to help police the new arrangements, isn't there, if they are better informed?
So, shouldn't we be smarter about the opportunities that that presents because it's a wider, more representative body?
So, rather than just communicating with these local authorities about the changes, emphasising direct communication with the wider membership of the RCC is absolutely critical, isn't it, to the success of this?
It is. I was struck by a very similar point, actually, because you'll appreciate that my colleagues are more familiar with the day-to-day work of this, and to prepare for a committee like this, there's quite a lot of reading for me to do and understanding, and I was quite struck by the potential of the role of the RCCs when I looked at their objectives and tasks and how much they could do to support that work. That's definitely something we'll be looking at going forward. John.
I'm not sure if I would use the word 'police', but inform the development of the new grant—. The tension, I think, is the emergence of regional partnership boards as important drivers of another, but related, agenda. And that's where, if we're not careful, we've got the same people turning up to different boards, but having the same discussion. I think, encouragingly, regional partnership boards are beginning to appreciate the important role that Supporting People can play in support of their agenda. The housing support services, which Jo-Anne mentioned are located in half of the social services departments, can play an important role as part of that wider health and social care integration agenda.
One of the things that we will be doing with the RCCs is getting their assistance in looking at the variation of costs across the various areas, so this is something that the committee raised with us last time and was a WAO recommendation as well. So, we think the RCCs are very well placed to work with us if we provide them with a breakdown of the average cost per type of service, and then the differentials that are in the local authorities. They are very well placed and well informed to help us to perhaps provide, yes, variation in cost, but there'll always be some variations because there are hidden things that we don't really know, but, to your point, I think that's a very strong role that the RCCs could play.
If you really get stuck, you could always reconvene the Williams commission, I should be very grateful for that.
Rhianon. Thank you.
Thank you, Chair. I think I'll leave the recalibration of all of those boards for another day. In regard to the key activities of the housing support grant, what is now being planned between now and April, as you mentioned earlier, in regard to preparing for the new housing support grant? I was thinking in particular around some of the recommendations—timeliness, guidance documentation, obviously, the outcomes framework and the training up as we move forward.
Okay. I can understand why the committee would be asking us about guidance, because the guidance was late last year, and those delays—I think I explained in my letter to the Chair—were because we had prioritised other areas. So, I want to give assurance that we will be much more timely with the guidance for this year, so there will be some supplementary guidance, I think, by the end of January, but I think a substantive rewrite won't be until later in the year.
The main thing keeping us busy at the moment, which is on both grants, is the production of the award letters. These are the grant letters that go out to local authorities, so they will be, in the next couple of weeks—that's why they're uppermost in my mind—going out. The outcomes framework we've discussed, we're hoping to—. We've got an outcomes workshop—I'm not sure that that's the exact title of it—in January, and will have produced a draft outcomes framework shortly after that, but then we'll need to consult on that. We're working to quite tight timetables, but it's a well-trodden path, so I feel confident that we will have everything in place in time, really.
In regard to previous criticisms around co-construction and collaboration and local authorities, and bearing in mind where we're at now in terms of this single grant and, obviously, the listening and learning process to date, where we're at, do you feel that there's not going to be another similar, parallel issue, because it's not far away, is it?
No, it's not. So, the housing support grant working group has already met and discussed a lot of these issues. I think the area that could remain up for debate, I suppose, quite a bit, and might need to be quite an iterative process, is the outcomes framework. You'd probably agree with that, Jo-Anne, would you?
Yes, I think so. Wavehill, the evaluators, are convening a workshop with all local authorities who want to attend—and we hope very much that they all will—in January, to flesh out the outcomes framework. They did set out in the evaluation report a very early draft based on workshops that took place in June/July of this year. How quickly we can move towards or how easy it is to develop the perfect outcomes framework, I think, again, the evaluation report references the importance that they've drawn from some of the examples in the literature review from England around authorities using results-based accountability, outcome-based approaches, et cetera. So, we will have an outcomes framework in place to guide authorities' decision making and actions for 2019-20, but that's not—
And when will that be ready by?
Well, the workshop is in early January, so we'd hope for it to be ready soon after that, but I would expect us then to make refinements to it during 2019-20. I wouldn't expect it necessarily to be set in stone. I think we have to reflect on how it operates and how well it does what it's supposed to do.
Fine. And in regard to the preparations for our local authorities, who are obviously very much looking with a keen eye as to where this is all going, and bearing in mind the very difficult pressures and tensions that they have in all these regards due to the so-called austerity agenda, what preparations are you expecting of local authorities? Because if it's not clearly articulated, then if they're just going to wait until January—.
We've been very clear that we've already written out to local authorities, setting out what they should be doing and what we would expect them to be doing—so, what we'd be expecting them to do on both of the two grants, and then some more general principles that we would expect them to be moving on with and that Jo-Anne has been following up in the meetings that we've already discussed this afternoon.
In a theme as well, in regard to those that may not be in the same position as other local authorities—those local authorities that, for whatever reason, are not at the front of this in terms of their ability to carry out what's needed—how are you working with them to support them so that they're all on an equal footing?
We've been using a variety of different mechanisms. We mentioned, perhaps, the buddying up, and the various meetings that have been had. I think that we will continue to provide guidance. I think we will need to think about those that are the furthest away and whether or not we need to provide any more bespoke interventions or not. But I think we'll take that view in the new year.
Okay. Thank you.
We're now beyond the time that was allocated for this evidence session. Thank you for the comprehensive answers. I just want to check, as we have a few more questions, whether you would be okay to wait, to indulge us for about 10 minutes more.
Yes, of course, Chair.
I'm very grateful. Could I just appeal to Members as well to be as succinct as possible? If ground has already been covered, then you can omit those questions. Neil Hamilton.
With the new grant structure and the new strategic objectives being set, that gives further impetus to the need for a new funding formula. But before I come on to that, can I just ask about the next two financial years? Can you confirm that it's still the Welsh Government's intention to distribute funding based on the legacy funding levels of the previous grants?
Yes, it is.
It is. Fine. Well, then on to the question of a funding formula. It's now eight years since the Aylward review, and, in response to the auditor general report, you set a date of April 2020 for updating the formula. That's now slipped. Can you confirm that work is still ongoing to produce this new funding formula, and can you give us any further details about what your end date now is?
So, I think it's a stretch to say work is still ongoing. I think it's better to say work is restarting. Would that be a better way of describing it?
Work is restarting on the funding formula. So, essentially it was Professor Aylward's view that we should have the funding based on need, which is a completely reasonable and sensible thing to do. It is, actually, though, quite hard to then take money away from local authorities who are spending money on services. So, I think it's fair to say that colleagues previously had been waiting for a rising budget, really, because then it would be easier to take some money away, to redistribute, if you get me, because the loss of funding wouldn't feel as acute for some local authorities. But, of course, that rising budget has never come. So, I think—
It's a receding horizon.
Yes, indeed. So, I'm very pleased that the sector have agreed that, actually, we do really need to do this now. So, as part of a work stream for the housing support grant, we will be restarting the work on the funding formula, but it will be quite consultative because it needs to operate on a principle of fairness. So, it is restarting.
So, how long is this going to take?
John, you might be better able to judge that than me.
I think we've said that we're not aiming to do it by April 2020. We haven't yet announced a revised deadline. We are really anxious to take stakeholders with us, and we've just started this work again.
And, of course, the longer time goes on, the more out of kilter everything is. It's the same as with the Barnett formula, isn't it?
I think we are committed, though I do appreciate the time that's passed, as I say, but I think that's because the work was, in a sense, paused. It was just very difficult to do, but we are committed to seeing it through, and particularly now as budgets are getting tighter, I think it just has been to be done.
With a new First Minister, maybe other priorities will change, too, so we'll see.
I couldn't comment on that.
Okay. Jenny Rathbone.
Thank you. Some 15 months since the auditor general reported on this matter, I wonder if you can tell us what local authority reviews of the Supporting People programme the Government has undertaken and what it's telling you about the way programmes are being managed. You'll be aware that there is variability in the procurement process, services costs and quality highlighted in the auditor general's report.
I'm not sure what reviews have been done. John, do you know if we've done any local authority reviews since the last report?
We haven't done any more reviews that used to involve officials visiting authority by authority. That work was put on hold whilst we awaited a decision on grant structures moving forward. But what we have been discussing with the national committee is the need to provide better data on which local authorities can take commissioning decisions. And so we are working with regional collaborative committees to make sure they've all got an up-to-date summary of the wider information we have on costs of service provision, so that they can compare how they're doing locally with a wider basket of information on costs, which is all designed to improve local delivery of the programme. So, that's currently one of our important focuses of work on improving the programme moving forward.
So, whose job is it to inspect? Is it Care Inspectorate Wales? A lot of the Supporting People programmes are working with very vulnerable people.
The reviews that we undertook previously were conducted by Welsh Government officials visiting Supporting People teams within each of the local authorities. We've got all kinds of engagement with those teams through the Supporting People governance. We've got separate engagement with local authority homelessness teams. We're going to be bringing that work together over the next year.
Is there no inspectorate involved in inspecting Women's Aid or organisations that support people with mental health problems?
Not in the same way as there would be CIW, say, or Healthcare Inspectorate Wales. There isn't a similar inspectorate.
All right. So, the specific question I think that is raised here is whether local authorities are recommissioning contracts or rolling them over, and I wondered if you could tell us what the situation is.
I think it depends on the nature of the contract. I'm guessing that, where there's a reason to extend a contract and it's within the guidelines, they would extend.
The usual model is that Supporting People contracts last three years, and our guidance deals with the process that we expect local authorities to go through. Smart authorities have got a rolling programme of recommissioning. So, they will have a plan for which contracts will be reviewed next, because they're conscious that the issues facing young people unable to support a tenancy are quite different to the issues facing older persons, and so there's a rolling programme of recommissioning going on within each authority under the current arrangements.
Okay. So, what's happened in authorities that aren't smart, because the auditor general's advice said that there was a potential for misinterpretation about when local authorities should retender for services. So, I wonder if you can tell us why the revised Supporting People guidance doesn't make it clearer to local authorities about what they're expected to do.
We did revise the guidance. We accepted the auditor general's recommendation in this area, and we did revise the guidance. But, I think if you or—
Well, the man from Mars—you know, what is the rule? You've already told us that smart authorities have got a rolling programme of understanding which area of delivery needs to be retendered well in advance of when it's going to happen.
I think my comments were intended to reflect that there is a spectrum of understanding within authorities about how best to structure that rolling programme. Some have become expert at it over the years, and other authorities, I think, find that—. It involves staff effort and time, and so, understandably, different authorities have got different degrees of expertise in that area.
This is something that I would expect the auditor general to be looking into.
I was going to say that perhaps what we could do is identify that part—I've got the guidance here, actually; it's part of my supporting papers. Perhaps we could liaise with the auditor general's team on this to make sure that we've fully reflected the auditor general's recommendation in our guidance. I know that we accepted the recommendation and I know we revised the guidance, but maybe, from what you're saying, it's missing the mark in some way.
Okay. Well, I'm just flagging up my concern that Mr Jones in authority X may not be getting the same quality of care as in authority Y.
We'll certainly follow that up.
Diolch, Jenny. Ac i gwblhau y cwestiynau y prynhawn 'ma, Darren.
Thanks, Jenny. And to conclude, Darren.
Just on the guidance, actually, it's very clear and explicit in your guidance that retendering should only take place following a strategic service review, which is quite different from what you've described just now, Mr Howells, which seems to suggest that it ought to be more regular and periodic than certainly is set out in the guidance. So, I think it does fall short of what is expected, frankly, in terms of any value for money that the public would expect to achieve.
I think the rolling programme I had in mind is one where local authorities would be considering the nature of the service before—. They don't simply roll on to the next one. There's a process they go through in deciding whether or not—
Would that be a strategic service review, though? It wouldn't, would it, necessarily? Which is what—
The smart authorities have got a programme of strategic service reviews that then result in decisions on who's going to be receiving the next round of funding.
But it's not that clear, is it? That's the point.
In any case, can I just move on to this issue of learning disability? So, you'll know that the auditor general, in his first report on this, was very clear that it appeared that there were some learning disability services that were being funded via these resources through the Supporting People programme, which ought not to have been eligible, strictly speaking, for such financial support. Is that something that is now being addressed through the new two-grant programme or not?
I think that there is still a lot of progress to make on that. I think it's a little bit like the previous question from Mr Hamilton on the funding formula. It's a very, very tricky area, and there are a number of grey areas between statutory functions and some of the Supporting People activities. And I think that there needs to be a considerable amount more done on mapping there, John. And I think I'm right—I might be wrong here—that the housing support working group is going to take that forward. Is that right?
It's been agreed that that's going to be an important work programme moving forward, including the generation of better data in that area.
Obviously, no-one wants to withdraw valuable services that individuals might be receiving, but in terms of the work that's been done to date on this, have there been services that you've been able to identify through the work that has been undertaken so far that ought not to be receiving funding via the Supporting People grant?
We have drawn the attention of certain local authorities to examples that have resulted in them changing the pattern of service delivery.
Okay, thank you.
A oes unrhyw gwestiynau ychwanegol? Yn fyr iawn, felly, Oscar.
Are there any additional questions? Very briefly, then, Oscar.