Agenda and minutes

Adults and Safer City Scrutiny Panel - Tuesday, 17th November, 2020 6.00 pm

Venue: Microsoft Teams Meeting

Contact: Earl Piggott Smith  01902 551251 email:


No. Item


Welcome and Introductions

[The Chair to welcome everyone to the meeting. The Scrutiny Officer will then read out a list of those invited to the meeting to confirm who is in attendance.]




Cllr Val Evans, Chair, welcomed everyone to the virtual meeting and advised it was being live streamed to the press and public. Cllr Evans advised that she was not expecting any exempt or restricted items on the agenda. A recording of the meeting would be available for viewing on the Council’s website at a future date.


Meeting procedures to be followed

[The Chair will explain how the meeting will proceed, how questions are to be asked and any matters of meeting etiquette.]



Cllr Evans explained the protocol to be followed during the meeting for asking questions and reminded everyone that microphones should be muted and cameras off, unless they have been invited to speak. Earl Piggott-Smith, Scrutiny Officer, invited all attendees to introduce themselves to confirm they were present at the meeting.


Please note that the following offices were also in attendance at the meeting


James Barlow

Linda Stone and Ian Darch Wolverhampton Voluntary Sector Council

Sandra Ashton-Jones

Jin Takhar

David Pattison

Emma Bennett

Cllr Linda Leach - Cabinet Member for Adults

Martin Stevens

Earl Piggott Smith

Julia Cleary





Apologies were received from the following member of the panel:


·         Cllr John Rowley




Declarations of Interest


There were no declarations of interest recorded.


Minutes of previous meeting (15.9.2020) pdf icon PDF 491 KB

[To approve the minutes of the previous meeting as a correct record]



The minutes to be corrected to show Cllr Simon Bennett as being in attendance.


The panel members voted and approved the minutes of the meeting held on 3 February 2020, subject to the amendment, as being a correct record.


Matters arising


There were no matters arising from the minutes.


Draft Budget and Medium-Term Financial Strategy ( report to follow) pdf icon PDF 436 KB

[James Barlow, Finance Business Partner, to present report]

Additional documents:


James Barlow, Finance Business Partner, presented the report and referred the panel to recommendations asking for comments on the draft budget medium term financial strategy and also the budget issues relevant to the remit of the panel. The comments will be included in a report to Scrutiny Board for their consideration after they have been approved by the Chair and Vice Chair as part of the response to the annual budget scrutiny.

The Finance Business Partner commented on the changes made to the layout of the budget report made in response to feedback from scrutiny panel members. The report is now more focused on the overall budget of areas within the remit of this panel and the extent to which they are aligned to the priorities of the Council.  The feedback from the panel included in a report to Scrutiny Board for consideration before it is presented to Cabinet for approval in either January or February 2021.

The Finance Business Partner outlined the key parts of the draft budget medium term financial strategy report budget 2021-2022 to 2023-2024 and stated the Council has a legal requirement to set a balanced budget each year. The panel were advised that when the budget for this financial year was presented to Council on 4 March 2020 it was forecast that the Council would be facing a budget gap of around £15.5 million in 2021-2022 and rising to £20 million over the medium term. There is work ongoing to address the gap in funding. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the Council finances and the operating environment.

The Finance Business Partner commented on strategy to address financial pressures in the medium term. The Finance Business Partner commented on the list of Government grants awarded to the Council to deal with financial pressures in the short term and the projected financial implications of Covid-19 in 2020-2021. A potential cost pressure of £324,000 has been estimated based on current predictions for 2020-2021.

The Finance Business Partner commented on the main assumptions underpinning this report and advised the panel that the Council is expecting an announcement in December 2020 about if it will provide sufficient funding to deal with any financial pressure related to Covid-19. If the Government awards a grant to cover these costs then the forecast deficit for next financial year in setting a balanced budget is £4.5 million, which is considered to be achievable. However, in the event that the Government does not provide sufficient funding, the Council would be faced with a budget deficit for 2021-2022 in the region of £23.2 million, rising to over £40 million over the medium term. This would result in the need to do a fundamental review of Council services to identify budget reduction measures needed to balance the budget.

The Finance Business Partner commented in more detail on the budget breakdown relating to the remit of Adult Services and Safer City.  Emma Bennett, Director of Children's and Adult Services commented on the statutory  ...  view the full minutes text for item 7.


WVSC Social Prescribing Support to Connect project pdf icon PDF 829 KB

[Linda Stone and Ian Darch, Wolverhampton Voluntary Sector Council, to present report]


Ian Darch, Wolverhampton Voluntary Sector Council, introduced Linda Stone and explained that this would be joint presentation on the work of the Social Prescribing Support to Connect project. Ian Darch explained the background to the project and that the main aim was to support customers referred to the service and develop an action plan that will help them to tackle issues of isolation and loneliness.  Ian Darch advised that the project was not a substitute for medical interventions but was intended to reduce demand for them and there was national evidence that people will go to the hospital and their GP much less if they get support.

Ian Darch explained the other social activities provided by WVSC aimed at bringing people together that are isolated and lonely together, such as book and breakfast clubs. Linda Stone explained the different reasons that could lead someone feeling lonely or isolated, such as health or debt issues. The service can refer people to specialist organisations that can offer more support if needed.  Ian Darch commented on the link between the work of the project with other NHS services locally and also across the region.

Ian Darch explained that referrals are received from Health and Social care workers and also workers linked to GPs. The service started in in 2017 as a pilot project funded by CCG and then later funding from Department of Health and NHS enabled the service to expand and work in partnership with all of the Primary Care Networks. Funding from the National Lottery Building Connections fund has provided money to run their own groups where gaps have been identified.

Ian Darch commented on how the service responded to challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic and the effect on the number of referrals received, estimated to be about 150 a month (before Covid-19). However, there is concern that the number of community services is not enough to meetthe level of need for such services. In addition, the service has also set up a volunteer phone befriending service to increase the link workers capacity so they could keep taking on new people and where possible face-to-face meetings for groups have been arranged.

Ian Darch commented that it was estimated that 35,000 people in Wolverhampton do not have access to digital technology and the impact that this has had on accessing a range of benefits, support and education services available online. The issues range from not having Wi-Fi connectivity or the laptops or phones or not being able to use the technology.

Ian Darch commented on the challenge of getting people connected who also have additional needs, such as sensory challenges or where English is the second language which presents a further barrier. The current focus of the project is helping people who already own equipment to become confident in using it so that they can access groups support and information and also encouraging them to join existing online discussion groups.

The service has received 72 referrals since May 2020. Ian  ...  view the full minutes text for item 8.


Community and digital solutions to tackle issues of loneliness and social isolation pdf icon PDF 419 KB

[Sandra Ashton Jones, Head of Service – Mental Health, to present briefing paper]


Sandra Ashton Jones, Head of Service – Mental Health, introduced Tom Denham, Head of Service, and explained that this would be joint presentation to the panel about some of the work being done across the City by the Council and partner agencies to reduce social isolation and loneliness amongst adults using both community and digital initiatives. The Head of Service advised the panel the issues of loneliness and social isolation is not a phenomenon specific to Wolverhampton and there is growing awareness of the problem across the UK. Recent studies have suggested that around 1.2 million older people in the UK are believed to be struggling with severe loneliness and chronic isolation.

The Head of Service listed examples of ordinary life events that could be triggers for loneliness such as being an informal carer, becoming new parents or relationship breakdown. The Head of Service (Mental Health) outlined the preparation work done at a multi-agency level to map levels of social isolation and loneliness in the city. The initial plan was to focus on Low Hill/Bushbury areas initially then roll out to other parts of the city. However, the start of the project was delayed due to Covid-19 outbreak. However, agencies have continued to develop ways to respond to and reduce loneliness and social isolation in Wolverhampton.

The Head of Service (Mental Health) added that during the period the service completed over a thousand carers conversations. The support was offered either online or in person, with appropriate safety measures and wearing PPE.

The support ranged from online library services, virtually coffee and chat meetings via Zoom, yoga sessions, quizzes and online computer training. In addition, videos have been updated to the Council YouTube channel specifically for adults with a learning disability who would have previously attended a day centre, which are currently closed during to Covid 19 restrictions.

The change to online provision has helped people to remain connected through the zoom sessions, in some situations people have been able to use direct payments to meet their connection costs. In other examples, people have used their direct payments to employ a personal assistant to go on walks or in some cases to enable them to get out of the house.  The Council’s social media platforms are updated daily with information for carers and in addition newsletters and regular briefings are emailed and posted in recognition that not everyone has access information via the internet.

The Head of Service (Mental Health) commented on the positive impact that the different activities have had on the lives of people who have taken part. Tom Denham, Head of Adult Service – Service Provision, presented a PowerPoint presentation. The Head of Service commented that when the Council had to close all of its day services in response to the pandemic it affected over a 120 people. The main priority at the time was to support the NHS. The Head of Service commented on the challenge of delivering the service by workers some of whom were  ...  view the full minutes text for item 9.


Corporate Guidance on Equalities Monitoring of Public Services pdf icon PDF 428 KB

[Jin Takhar, Equality, Diversion and Inclusion Manager, and David Pattison, Director of Governance, to present briefing]

Additional documents:


Jin Takhar, Equality, Diversion and Inclusion Manager, presented the briefing paper which details the actions taken to date to embed equality's monitoring arrangements in Adult Services. The Equality, Diversion and Inclusion Manager explained the review of equality data within Adult Services was part of a wider review of monitoring arrangements being conducted across the Council. The Equality, Diversion and Inclusion Manager, reassured members that there is a strong commitment to move the work forward.

The Equality, Diversion and Inclusion Manager, advised the panel that since her appointment in January 2020 there has been agreement of the importance to collecting good quality data on all our service users across all protected characteristics and using this information to design and evaluate the delivery of services. The Equality, Diversion and Inclusion Manager commented on the progress made to date and the new guidance for managers setting out the importance of why they should be collecting equalities monitoring data and acting upon the information that they have.  In addition, managers are asked to analyse and to look at service outcomes and delivery and the impact this is are having on our service users. The guidance has been widely circulated and discussed at various leadership team meetings. In July 2020, a detailed desktop assessment was done across all 52 areas of the business across the Council with a focus on understanding of whether data is collected across all the protected characteristics.

The Equality, Diversion and Inclusion Manager, commented that the Council collects a lot of equality data which is recorded in 24 different systems and there was concern about the quality of the data and how it is used. The Equality, Diversion and Inclusion Manager, advised that the service is reviewing systems in terms of their capacity and functionality to record data across all protected characteristics and this includes looking at the adult care system. There is a plan to support each of the directorates over the next 12 months to review their data systems.

The Equality, Diversion and Inclusion Manager commented on plans to develop an understanding of what service user data is being collected and to better understand any gaps in information across all protected characteristics.  There is an expectation that an action plan would have been agreed in the next three months which will set out exactly how any missing data will be collected.

The quality of the data collected will be reviewed in March 2021 to assess if there is enough robust data available to determine that all sections of our communities are being supported. A series of workshops are planned which will target staff in adult social care about respecting people's identity. This will cover asking appropriate questions when inviting our service users due to disclose information about their protected characteristics and hopefully this will go some way towards building confidence in our colleagues and moving forward also help to improve our disclosure rates.

Emma Bennett, Director of Children’s Services, commented that she supports the aims of the report  ...  view the full minutes text for item 10.


Adults and Safer City Scrutiny Panel 2019 20 - Draft Work Programme pdf icon PDF 639 KB

[Julia Cleary, Scrutiny and Systems Manager, to present report]


Earl Piggott-Smith, Scrutiny Officer, presented the draft work programme and

invited to comment on the draft work programme and to suggest ideas, following the guidance, of topics that could be added.




The panel agreed to note the report.