Y Pwyllgor Cyfrifon Cyhoeddus - Y Bumed Senedd
Public Accounts Committee - Fifth Senedd22/01/2018
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Adam Price AM|
|Lee Waters AM|
|Mohammad Asghar AM|
|Neil Hamilton AM|
|Nick Ramsay AM||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Vikki Howells AM|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Anthony Barrett||Swyddfa Archwilio Cymru|
|Wales Audit Office|
|Emma Williams||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Jo-Anne Daniels||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|John Howells||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Matthew Mortlock||Swyddfa Archwilio Cymru|
|Wales Audit Office|
|Mike Usher||Swyddfa Archwilio Cymru|
|Wales Audit Office|
|Tracey Burke||Llywodraeth Cymru|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Claire Griffiths||Dirprwy Glerc|
|Katie Wyatt||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
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 15:00.
The meeting began at 15:00.
I welcome members of the committee to this afternoon's meeting of the Public Accounts Committee. Headsets are available for translation and for sound amplification. Please make sure that any electronic devices are on silent. In the event of an emergency, follow directions from the ushers.
We've received one apology today, from Rhianon Passmore. No substitutions.
Do Members have any declarations of interest they'd like to make at this point? No. Good.
Okay, item 2, and we need to note the minutes from the last meeting, held on 15 January.
It's unprecedented, but I have an issue with the minutes of the last meeting. It's just a point of correction on paragraph 4.2, pack page 3 about the further information we were expecting from the Welsh Government on coding. As I recall, it wasn't coding just specific to the Hwb programme but their activities on teaching coding in schools more generally, so it's a broader point than the minute expresses. Thank you.
Okay, yes, we can record that.
Okay, item 3 is the Welsh Government's Supporting People programme and our fifth evidence session. Can I welcome our witnesses to today's meeting? Thanks for being with us. Would you like to give your name and positions for our Record of Proceedings?
Okay, I'll start. First and foremost, I'm Tracey Burke and I'm the director general for education and public services. If I may just say for a moment, Chair, that I know from previous hearings that the committee don't like too many witnesses to appear in the same session. So, I have two colleagues with me who are able to assist with the questions on the Supporting People programme, because I'm only seven weeks into my tenure, but as the Supporting People programme will become part of a pathfinder on wider funding flexibilities, I also asked my colleague Jo-Anne Daniels to attend, and she's sat behind, and I may need to call her to the table if that's okay with the committee.
Yes. We try to keep the witnesses down to a manageable level, but that will be fine if, at a certain point, you think that's helpful.
Thank you. I spoke to the clerk before the meeting.
No problem at all.
John Howells, director of housing and regeneration.
Emma Williams, deputy director, housing policy.
Great. We've got a fair number of questions for you. I'll kick off to begin with. Why didn't the Welsh Government consult formally on its proposals for a new early intervention, prevention and support grant rather than simply announcing the proposals through the draft budget?
I can start on that and I might need to call my colleague immediately to the table. I think the first thing to say really is that the early intervention and prevention support grant is literally a pathfinder. So, no formal decision has been taken as to whether or not we will proceed with that. So, in a sense, there's no formal decision in place. Ministers are certainly in listening mode during this phase of the development. And I think that when I say 'this development', this development's been taking place for a number of years—I think as far back as 2015, and Jo-Anne will hopefully confirm that in just a moment. But this work's been in development since about 2015, starting with a small number of grants, and has been work in progress since that time. So, during that period, there's been quite a lot of engagement with stakeholders, both at ministerial level and at official level, as I say. So, this is a pathway, and no formal decision has yet been taken. In fact, this next year is part of continuing to explore the possibility of that.
Jo-Anne, is there anything you'd like to add about the decision to consult?
Can I just ask at that point what sort of interaction you had with local government officials? There have been some concerns that they haven't received full sight of this before the budget proposals.
My understanding, going back, is that, right from the early days—back in 2015—local government officials had been quite closely involved in that. I think even the initial idea to look at the initial flexibilities came from local authorities themselves, and I know that they've been involved in developing the pathfinders and through various different groups right through the process. Would that be about right, Jo-Anne?
If it's helpful to the committee, I can outline some of the background to this. Back in 2015, the then Minister for Communities and Tackling Poverty, Lesley Griffiths, responded to some overtures made by a number of local authorities who made representations advocating greater flexibility between the four primary tackling poverty programmes within her portfolio. Those programmes were Families First, Flying Start, Communities First and Supporting People, and the local authorities argued that they could make much more effective impacts on outcomes in tackling poverty if there were greater alignment. We responded to that by establishing a project board and set up a number of working groups, and those working groups involved local authority representatives. That led to the decision that the Minister then made in early 2016 to allow a number of flexibilities to help align the grants. These were flexibilities to vire funds of up to 5 per cent between these programmes, subject to Welsh Government approval. There were also a number of changes made to reporting arrangements, to the monitoring arrangements and the like.
We held a number of workshops across Wales; I think over 130 people from local authorities attended those workshops to discuss those flexibilities, and how they might operate in practice. In 2016-17 and 2017-18, we've now been operating those flexibilities, but as part of those discussions local authorities have made representations for further and greater flexibilities, which led us to issue a letter to all local authorities asking them to submit expressions of interest if they wished to explore other arrangements. Seven local authorities did so, and that's the pathfinder programme that we're now taking forward.
Can I ask you about the workshops? Was the third sector represented, or was it just local authorities?
In those particular workshops, I believe it was just local authorities, but I can check for you to verify. There have, of course, been separate discussions with third sector organisations.
Why did you think—? The committee's heard evidence from the third sector suggesting that they really didn't feel involved—Community Housing Cymru said they had no inclination this was coming; Cymorth Cymru said it felt like it’s all gone on behind closed doors. How do you account for that feeling?
I'm not sure and, of course, if there are lessons for us to learn about how we are to be more effective in our engagement and communications, then we're keen to do that. Back in October 2016, the then Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Children, when he indicated that he was considering the future of Communities First, made public at that point his interest in looking at greater financial freedoms and flexibilities for local authorities. So, it's been part of the discussions for some time.
Do you think lessons could be learnt from the level of stakeholder engagement because, as Lee just said, we have had evidence from outside organisations that they didn't feel that they were fully versed in what was happening at that point to make their opinions known?
Chair, I've obviously done quite a bit of reading to come to this committee today, including looking back at the transcripts from previous meetings and the written evidence. And it is disappointing to see that people, in a sense, felt left out. I think one phrase I read was 'behind closed doors' or something along those lines. Yes, if there are lessons to be learnt, we will most certainly learn those.
What I would say just to add to that, though, is that looking as I have done, coming in afresh, there does seem to have been quite a clear timeline of engagement over quite a long period, and even, I think as recently as September of the year just gone, September 2017, the then Cabinet Secretary for Children and Communities met with the Supporting People national advisory board—I think Cymorth Cymru are members of that—and set out the funding pressures, the need for greater flexibilities and his thoughts on a wider grant. So, it certainly looks to me like we were signalling intent, but maybe not in a clear enough way that, perhaps, people were really understanding what we were saying.
Because Cymorth Cymru, particularly in the evidence they gave to us, were very concerned—and used the expression 'behind closed doors'—that they were out of the loop. They certainly were concerned.
I know that Cymorth are now part of the pathfinder working group. So, obviously, they'll be completely engaged. I think that's planning to meet on a monthly basis. So, they will be involved in that way. Again, as I say, maybe there are lessons for us to learn when we think we're signalling intent. It's not always how people necessarily receive that.
We've had at least three meetings of that pathfinder working group so far, which I chair. Cymorth have attended all of those meetings, as have the Wales Council for Voluntary Action, and obviously the representatives from the seven pathfinder local authorities, along with the Welsh Local Government Association, because, of course, there's important learning that's important for the local authorities that aren't part of these pathfinders to share in as well.
Right. Before I bring Vikki Howells in—Lee Waters, a final question on this.
Yes, just to follow that up. You cite the principles of co-production. Last week, Tracey Burke, you told us about your commitment to the principles of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015. So, signalling intent doesn't quite cut it, does it, with those principles? I think that implies a much more profound engagement, not least with the third sector in this part, because what's clear from both your evidence is that you seem to think you've done it reasonably well. You're a little surprised that the third sector feels this way. So, given the importance of delivery partners in this sector—in particular from the third sector—a signal of intent seems to me to be deeply inadequate.
I really understand what you're saying but I'll just reiterate the point that no decision has been made and, in fact, actually, the engagement that we're having now with the sector is actually about hearing their views—that sort of stakeholder engagement—
But after a decision of principle has been made.
Well, the decision in principle is to have some pathfinders to explore whether or not this is a better way of working, likely to achieve more outcomes and being a more efficient and effective way of working. So, that's the only decision that's been taken is to have the pathfinders—
But don't you think they might have had a useful perspective on that discussion?
I didn't catch that—
Don't you think they might have had a useful perspective on that discussion?
Well, I'll look to colleagues here about what discussions there were prior to that but, as I say, from what I've seen, there was the Supporting People national advisory board. Looking back at the published minutes of that, that was something that the then Cabinet Secretary did say. Then there was a discussion at that board, which would have had some stakeholders in. I don't want to sound defensive about it because I think you're making a very good point, but as I say, no decision has been taken on that grant. This is part of the decision-making process we're going through right now, and we are engaging stakeholders in that process. But I certainly take the point that if there are lessons to be learned on that, we will certainly take those on board.
I've heard that formula from both of you now, but it's not entirely clear from hearing your responses that you actually think there are any lessons to be learned.
I've read the evidence and I can see that people did feel excluded from what they perceive to be a decision on which they weren't communicated with, but I haven't met the organisations myself personally to understand that—but that's from what I've read. As I say, I think—. I don't really know what more I can say. I will take it away, we'll look to see what the lessons are that we can learn on that, but, as I say, I think there was engagement but it probably could have been better from what I'm hearing.
That's fine. I think you've made that quite clear. We've got a fair number of supplementaries on this point before we move on, so if Members can be brief. First of all, Mohammad Asghar, and then Adam Price.
Thank you very much, and thank you to the panel here. Considering the director of Cymorth Cymru has stated that the organisation usually works, in his words, 'really well collaboratively with officials'—those are his words—why were they not consulted regarding this particular proposal?
Some of that answer I think I've tried to give already in the previous question, in that no decision has been taken yet about whether or not to go into this wider grant. All we're doing at the moment is, in a sense, trialling, testing, exploring whether greater funding flexibilities can lead to better outcomes, a more efficient and a more effective way of working. So, we will be engaging with stakeholders and, in fact, we are. We've set up a pathfinder working group, and a number of stakeholders are on that, including Cymorth Cymru. Their feedback will be important to us throughout this exploration period. But as I said in a previous answer, if there are lessons for us to learn about better engagement, we will certainly learn those.
Yes, we heard that. Thank you very much indeed. But what measures have the Welsh Government undertaken to ensure that the lack of transparency, in this case in the development of the budget, does not become a recurring issue in future?
We certainly wouldn't want to be in a position where people thought there was a lack of transparency about this. As I say, I feel from reading back through this that there was a good signalling of intent. This is a two-year process that is now looking at funding flexibilities, and there have been a number of statements made that we were looking for increased funding flexibilities. But, again, as I say, we're happy to look further at that to see whether there's something we can do better next time. But there's certainly no intention from anybody to lack transparency on this.
Okay, thank you.
Just on this question of who was told what when, there are two decisions that are sort of interrelated. One is the decision or proposal to create a combined, flexible fund of funds; the other one is to get rid of the separate budget line so that there will be a new budget line—that's the proposal—going forward from the financial year after next under the heading Supporting Communities, and there won't be a dedicated or distinct Supporting People budget line, which people in the sector say is significant because it's quite difficult then to track how much money is going into that particular area et cetera.
The first time I heard of it was when the draft budget was published. It came as a surprise to me and I'd just been negotiating the budget agreement with the Welsh Government. So, when were other people—. When were local authorities told about the decision to get rid—the proposal to get rid of the Supporting People budget line? And when were people in the sector told that as well?
Right, okay. I'm not sure I'm going to be able to genuinely answer your question in full. I will say, first and foremost, that, as you'll be aware, the Supporting People budget line has been protected and will be maintained for the next two financial years as part of the budget process. So, I just want to make that absolutely clear from the outset.
In terms of who knew what when, I'm not sure if any colleagues would be able to—
We do appreciate that you're relatively new in post so you can't know all the details.
Well, I know; I don't want to keep using that as a reason. I've tried to get up to speed as much as I can on this. I'm just not sure I can technically answer that at the moment.
Can I make it a little bit easier, then? On 28 June 2017, the local authorities were formally informed of the intention to establish the flexible fund. Were they also told at the same time, 'And we're going to create a single combined budget line in the Welsh Government's budget', at that time?
I don't know if they were told that specifically. I don't know if any colleagues—Jo-Anne would know.
So, just again by way of a little bit of background, in financial year 2017-18, we reviewed the presentation of our budget lines and at that point the decision was taken to combine a number of budget lines. So, we combined the budget lines for Communities First, Families First and Flying Start. So, that was in 2017-18, the current financial year. As part of the budget-setting process again this year, we reviewed the presentation of our budget lines and the decision was made that, in 2018-19 and subsequently 2019-20, we would revise the presentation of budget lines and that in particular in 2019-20 we would put the budgets that might form part of a single grant into one budget expenditure line, the early intervention, prevention and support BEL. As Tracey has said, that presentation of budgets does not imply any decision; just as in 2017-18 we have presented Families First, Flying Start and Communities First as one BEL, they have remained distinct and separate budget lines issued to local authorities as separate grants. So, there is no presumption that presentation in a BEL necessarily means that grants will be merged. So, again, no decision has been made yet on 2019-20. In terms of who knew what when, the decisions about the presentation of the budget were just that: decisions about presentation, and I’m not aware that anyone was informed in advance of the publication of those budget tables in October.
Okay. Thank you for the correction. It’s the new budget from 2019-20 that proposes the EIPS combined budget line. 'Supporting communities' is the one that's happening this year. But thank you for putting on the record that nobody outside of Government was told of that decision—to your knowledge—before it was published.
Thank you. I think it’s fair to say that there's widespread agreement across all levels of government, and also in the third sector as well that, in times of austerity when there are pressures on the public purse, integrating grants is one way to save on bureaucratic costs. But from what we’ve heard, questions are arising around the different grants that have been integrated here. So, my question is: how did the Welsh Government identify the grants that it's proposing to make up the early intervention, prevention and support grant, and what’s the rationale behind integrating grants with such a wide range of objectives?
The initial work, as I've already said, started in about 2015, and I think—and Jo-Anne will correct me if I'm wrong here—that that started with four grants initially. Then, over a period of time, that work was expanded, and it was the decision of the then Cabinet Secretary for children and communities to look at flexibility within the 10 grants that he was responsible for in his portfolio, the rationale being that they were all about early intervention and prevention. I think there were probably three drivers, really, in that. One was that local players—local actors—understand the local context the best, and therefore giving them flexibility in terms of the support that is needed in their locality was a good thing. The second was they need to examine the increased demand that there is for services, balanced against very real budget pressures. The third was a recognition that individuals who are coming for this type of support often have quite complex needs, and therefore being able to offer a more flexible sort of response to those, not constrained by the bureaucracy of individual grants, would be a more responsive way to deal with the complex needs of individuals. Was that about right, Jo-Anne? Is that it, more or less?
Yes. Just to add that, as I mentioned before, we invited all local authorities to submit expressions of interest for where we might go next with funding flexibilities, following the initial alignment work. We worked together with those seven local authorities through July, August and September, and as part of those discussions, they put forward the proposal that we should actually look to include a wider number of grants, which they felt would complement the four that were at the centre of the initial proposals. So, for example, in particular, they were keen that the new employability grant, Communities for Work Plus, might be considered. They also wanted to see the successor to Communities First—the legacy fund—potentially incorporated. So, it was, in part, a response to that dialogue with local authorities, where they felt that there were a number of other grants, particularly a number of very small grants, that might benefit from being included within a more strategic approach to supporting vulnerable people.
We’ve taken evidence, and I’ve certainly spoken to groups locally who feel that, within that integrated pot, there's a general fit but that Supporting People would have been better placed with similar housing and homelessness grants. I wonder what your view is on that.
I think there are always decisions to be made to be balanced in this process, but I think our belief is that people who are at risk of becoming homeless, or who have become homeless, often have much more complex needs than simply needing support for housing, and therefore having that wider array, I suppose, of support in a more flexible way would provide them with a better response.
But surely their primary need is housing and the other needs come on top of that. If you were to ask a homeless person what their primary need was then I'm most certain that housing would be at the top of their list.
And Supporting People, which is predominantly about that, is the largest grant within the wider grant pathfinder proposals by some degree. So, that really is the major grant within that proposal. Emma, did you want to—?
If I could just add that when we're thinking about prevention, it's important to note that quite a lot of the causes for people presenting as at risk of homelessness are actually more closely linked to family circumstances or debt management or domestic violence and so forth. So, when we're thinking in the prevention arena, actually, there's a great synergy across a number of these grants if we want to move our efforts upstream and prevent people from becoming actually homeless.
It might help if I could just add that all of these grants operate in a very complicated policy space. The Wales Audit Office report on Supporting People highlights one of those areas, which was the emphasis we placed within Supporting People on preparing people for employment. So, immediately, then, there's a link between the employability strand within the EIPS proposal and the ability of Supporting People providers to get people back on track for being ready for employment or training or employment opportunities. So, all of these grants do link in with each other in all sorts of complicated ways.
Okay, thank you. My final question, then, is: funding for supported accommodation in Wales is being devolved, so does the Welsh Government think it might be more sensible to postpone the integrated grant proposals until the implications of that have been worked out?
I am aware of the supported accommodation review and the proposals to devolve to Wales, I think, as you say, from 2020. Our view of that—and colleagues might comment—is that there is really no point in waiting until 2020 before we try to bring about improvements to the programmes and grants that we run. And if there are opportunities to increase efficiencies or to deliver better outcomes and more value-for-money outcomes, we should continue to pursue those. There may be lessons learnt, good and bad, from that process, and therefore we shouldn't just wait for one big event; we should continue to learn lessons, and also, do things to our timetable. I might not be quite right here, but I think the supported accommodation review—the timetable hasn't always been completely clear. Would that be right?
Well, it's being driven by the Department for Work and Pensions in London. The proposals for people in supported accommodation are now quite different to the proposals we thought we were preparing for about six months ago. This is an important consideration. We've got a project under way designed to identify the nature of the changes being proposed by DWP, but those changes are now quite different in nature to the ones we originally expected. We're not in control of that timetable, so whilst we are monitoring very carefully and preparing our response, we thought that we could do that in parallel with the development of the new integrated grant.
Thanks, Vikki. Adam Price.
I was just wondering if you could clarify—. I've got a note from Community Housing Cymru that seems to indicate that, beyond the five core funding streams, some additional grants are also now included, it's proposed: out-of-school childcare, promoting positive engagement for young people and so on. The homelessness prevention grant—is that going to be part of this combined flexible funding proposal?
Yes, there is an element of funding within the proposal for homelessness prevention. I think it's important to separate out, though, that that's not a continuation of funding that has been provided to date for local authorities for transition to new statutory arrangements. It is, in effect, a grant to enable them to deliver specific projects around additionality that go beyond the statutory duties in the housing Act.
Just to be clear, then—and I think the sector has been asking for clarity on this—homelessness prevention as an issue is one thing, but the actual homelessness prevention grant, a specific nationally administered grant—is that going to be part of the combined funding?
There is a grant within the combined funding. I think the separation—I'm sorry, it is a little bit complicated—is about funding for what are now statutory duties post the three-year implementation phase, where there has been additional money that's gone into the RSG that we would expect local authorities to use to fund statutory services, and grant funding, where we would be looking for specific feedback from local authorities on the additional projects—tackling things like how they address rough sleeping specifically, supporting housing first-type proposals, and looking at groups that perhaps don't fall within priority need.
And these other things that are bullet points here—independent living, the St David's Day fund—they're also now part of this flexible fund.
If it's helpful, I can very briefly run you through the 10 grants that form part of this proposal. Obviously—
Well, maybe we can have a note on that. That's been announced through ministerial statement, the additional number of grants that have been added to it. Will there be any further additions? This seems to be becoming a very, very ever-enlarging combined fund.
So, the inclusion of the 10 has been indicated since October of last year, and has been the basis on which the working group has met and discussed the pathfinder proposals. Clearly, as part of that pathfinder, if proposals were brought forward that were compelling to include additional funds, then we would consider that. But, at the moment, the proposal is that those 10 grants should be included.
Okay, thank you.
Thank you very much, Chair. I would like to ask you one very short question. Considering the director of Cymorth Cymru has stated that
'no-one in the sector can make any sense'
of integrating the Supporting People programme grant with the other proposed grants, and Newport City Council found only 15 per cent linkage between Supporting People, Flying Start households and Community First households, my question is: are you confident that the evidence supports the Welsh Government proposals?
We feel confident that bringing together a range of grants, as we've said, that are able to meet people's complex needs is the right thing to do; it's certainly the right thing to explore, which is what we're doing now. In terms of the households figure that you said, I wasn't aware of that 15 per cent from Newport, but I don't think we'd want 100 per cent crossover because that would mean that the grants were all, I suppose, trying to do the same thing—possible duplication of resources. I don't know whether colleagues have got anything further to add on that point. I think I'd need to look at that 15 per cent crossover figure in a little more detail.
Okay. And given the reservations of stakeholders, will the Welsh Government be postponing the planned grant integration in order to investigate their concerns?
We have not taken any decision to go ahead with this proposal. This is, as I say, a pathfinder. It's trying a different and, you could say, innovative approach to see whether we are able to work with partners to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of these various grants programmes. And certainly, the Wales Audit Office report gave us some pointers in terms of the Supporting People programme in terms of cost variations and issues that we could address. So, there are clearly improvements that we can make. So, we will continue to explore what improvements we can make, but during this process we will be engaging with stakeholders. We have a working group, which has been set up. It's already met three times, with Cymorth Cymru as members of it, and we will be listening to their feedback. Ministers are absolutely clear they are in listening mode, and no decision has been taken.
Thank you. Now I come to my question. If the £13 million savings figure that the Welsh Government has set out is not predicated on a clear cost analysis of the administrative costs of the various programmes, how can the Welsh Government guarantee that there won't ultimately be a cut to Supporting People provision, or services supported by the other grants affected?
Okay. So, I think, in terms of the context, it's a challenging budget settlement. It's a challenging budget for the Welsh Government. I've seen our budget decrease by 5 per cent in real terms since 2010. So, there are some significant budget challenges. I'd also like to say that the Supporting People programme budget is being maintained at its 2017-18 levels for the next two years as part of the budget agreement.
As for the £13 million that was referenced in the budget, that was identified as efficiency savings, I think. They are efficiency savings that we are currently exploring that are not based on a bottom-up analysis of what can be achieved. This is a budget challenge, which we will be working hard to meet. So, there aren't detailed cost calculations or analyses, as you've asked, for the basis of that figure. That is the figure that we will be working to achieve with our stakeholders and partners.
Thanks for saying you had efficiency savings, where you guarantee there are no redundancies or anything, but what exactly is the basis for the £13 million savings figure? How have you come up with this £13 million magic figure?
Well, the £13 million was part of the budget settlement. That is efficiencies that we need to find, and that is the work that we will be undertaking to find those savings. We'll be doing that through various means, working with local authority partners to drive through efficiencies in this process. We expect there, obviously, to be efficiencies from reduced bureaucracy, but reduced bureaucracy and admin alone would not drive those savings. It's a £260 million budget expenditure line and £13 million, I think, is about 5 per cent. So, that's what we're trying to get to.
So, I see you guarantee that there are no redundancies or anything like that involved.
I personally couldn't guarantee that there would be no redundancy. I don't think that's a statement that I could put on the record here. What I could say, on the record, is that we will be—and are already—working with partners to find savings. That's the whole kind of reason that we'll want to work with, for example, the Society of Welsh Treasurers. So, we are looking for efficiency savings both in admin, cost bureaucracy, in service delivery and in the outcomes that we'll achieve trying to achieve the same or greater level of outcomes for less money. So, we're looking for value-for-money improvements here, and we'll be doing that through a number of ways: through the pathfinders themselves, through working with the pathfinder working group, working with the Society of Welsh Treasurers—they're the local government treasurers who will be tasked with looking at where these efficiencies can be achieved—and various other means. So, that's what we will be doing. That's the work we'll be undertaking.
Okay. Thanks. What is the Welsh Government’s response to those who say that, in placing Supporting People funding into an early intervention, prevention and support grant, the focus on homelessness, which Adam said earlier, will be lost, or that politically unpopular groups will not be receiving any support?
Okay. So, I don't believe that there will be a reduction in homelessness. That is not why we are doing this. In fact, we're trying to achieve more to protect more people, and we will be very clear about the outcomes and the client groups with which we expect local authorities to work.
It might be helpful if I just supplement. The working group that's been referred to has been looking at developing guidance for the pathfinder authorities, and as part of that, we've been looking to identify a set of outcomes that this single grant—or potential single grant—would be working to achieve. To give you an illustration, the outcomes that have been identified by the working group include homeless people, people with mental health conditions with housing-related needs, people with learning disabilities with housing-related needs, children who have experience of or are at risk of experiencing multiple adverse childhood experiences, users of substance misuse, and older people struggling to retain their independence. So, they are some of the outcomes that are absolutely central to the pathfinder proposal. Obviously, we'll be looking to ensure that the plans that the pathfinder local authorities submit to us present credible proposals to achieve those outcomes.
If I could just build on that further, just to reassure the committee, to a large extent, the information that we gather both before we approve spend plans for the pathfinders and the data that we gather to look at what's been delivered will remain more or less the same. So, we will be able to look back and ensure that we have impacted on the same groups in a similar pattern and in a similar way and actually demonstrate that one way or another. It may also be worth reflecting that the indicative grant offer letters that have just gone to pathfinders include a reference to the fact that, for the Supporting People programme, it's our expectation that authorities should allocate funding to the Supporting People programme at least at the level of the Supporting People allocation—that will be shown in an annex in the grant offer letters—unless they can demonstrate that they can be sure of delivering the same or improved services for less money as a result of efficiencies. That's been added in, reflecting the concerns that we've had fed back, and reflecting our collective concern and Ministers' concerns that we do deliver as much, if not more, in terms of preventative and supportive arrangements for our vulnerable groups.
All right. How would you respond to clear concerns in the sector that the proposed early intervention, prevention and support grant is a first step towards the Supporting People funding moving into the revenue support grant?
Right, well, I don't think that should be a concern. Certainly, Welsh Ministers have not taken a decision even to have an early intervention and preventative support grant as yet. So, I don't think that concerns—
So, there is no concern.
I don't think they should have concerns about that.
Okay. If the Welsh Government decides to proceed with an integrated grant, how will it ensure that the accountability and monitoring of the Supporting People element will not be lost?
That's something that we will be working very hard on. As Emma has just said, we have made it clear to local authorities that we expect them to allocate the Supporting People funding in accordance with the Supporting People allocation, and a number of things will remain the same. So, the terms and conditions of the Supporting People programme will remain the same, the local authorities will be held to account in the same way on the Supporting People programme, and they will be asked to deliver the same or better outcomes from the Supporting People programme. So, we'll have a pretty clear line of sight on the Supporting People programme and what it's going to achieve. Emma will say more.
Thank you, the only thing that I would add there is that of course we have representation from Cymorth in particular, as well as others, on the pathfinder working group, and one of the things that that group or its successor group will be working very closely with us on is actually co-designing a future evaluation and monitoring framework. So, the very good relationships that we enjoy with Cymorth now will be used to great benefit by having their expertise at the table to help us design something that is appropriate. Obviously, we need to try and reduce bureaucracy if we're going to move forward and help local authorities to do more with less, but we need to do that in a way that makes sure that we've got the right safeguards for everybody concerned, and our partners and our stakeholders will be key to delivering that.
If I may just also add a further assurance, which is that all of the pathfinders will be asked to prepare delivery plans. In fact, they're working on that now. So, we will see those delivery plans next month—about the middle of next month. So, we'll be able to look at exactly what their expenditure plans are and will be able to challenge those robustly, I think, if we see those in any way—
What is the Welsh Government doing to monitor the suggestion that the providers are actually withdrawing from bidding for services as a result of funding uncertainties? I'll repeat again. What is the Welsh Government doing to monitor the suggestion that providers are actually withdrawing from bidding for services as a result of funding uncertainties?
Thank you. I hadn't picked up that providers were hesitating in providing for services. That's not something that I've heard directly myself. I'll ask colleagues if they're aware of that.
I think there may be a number of issues here. I think there has been a little bit of, shall we say, noise. I've not heard any specific cases. We have had a bit of feedback with some providers being concerned about the value of contracts being offered, but I think that's slightly different to funding uncertainties as such. I think that it's something that we'll certainly pick up with local authorities, and Cymorth and other providers, to take a closer look at that.
If that's something that came through from Cymorth's evidence, we can definitely pick that up, if that's the case.
Okay. Just the last one: is the Welsh Government confident that enough time has been set aside to properly evaluate the pilot scheme in the pilot areas prior to the super grant roll-out?
Our approach to evaluation is going to be one that is an ongoing evaluation. I think, traditionally, when we think about evaluation we think of it just being at the end, so ex-post evaluation, whereas actually what we're going to do is have an ongoing or what they call an 'in itinere'—sort of 'during the process of'—evaluation. So, we will have a process evaluation that we hope to be in a position to award in March, I think.
That's right. So, at the next meeting with the pathfinder working group, one of the items on the agenda is the specification for the evaluation, which, as Tracey has said, we're looking to award before the start of the next financial year. So, again, we'll be looking to stakeholders and colleagues to input into that. Obviously, we'll keep the pathfinder working group going over the coming year. That will also ensure that we're getting feedback directly from local authorities and from stakeholders throughout the process. Again, we intend to take an action research-based approach as opposed to waiting for a terminal evaluation, which, as Tracey says, has often been our approach. So, this will be more of a process evaluation with ongoing feedback from the appointed contractors.
Okay. Neil Hamilton.
Obviously, the pathfinders will need to operate within the general policy framework of the Welsh Government, so it'll be important for them to know quite what your objectives are and what you hope to achieve through introducing a rate of flexibility. Can you say whether the Welsh Government will be issuing guidance to pathfinders about what it wants them to achieve and how it expects them to make decisions on allocation of funding?
We will be providing very detailed guidance on the early intervention and preventative support pathfinder arrangements. I will ask a colleague to talk about that in a bit more detail. If you can, please.
That guidance document I think I referred to is the one that we've been developing in collaboration with the local authority pathfinders and with Cymorth and WCVA. They've seen a number of drafts of it, and contributed to it, and it'll be issued formally to them very shortly. I'm very happy to share that with the committee once it's been published. As Emma mentioned, within the context of these new pathfinder arrangements the current requirements for each of the individual grant programmes continue to be requirements on the local authorities.
Welsh Government has said that there will be an external evaluation of the process. What criteria will the Welsh Government be using to determine the success or otherwise of these pathfinders, and when are you expecting to have completed the evaluation I've just referred to?
I suppose our objectives, really, are twofold. We want to both see gains in terms of efficiency and effectiveness, but we also want to see more innovative ways of working with the various client groups. So, I suppose those are our two primary criteria. Jo-Anne, that would be right, wouldn't it?
So, as part of the plans that local authority pathfinders have to submit, we've asked them to identify how they hope to use the opportunities provided by being the pathfinder to improve administration, reduce bureaucracy, and drive improvements and efficiencies within their own organisations, but, most importantly, how they think these arrangements will enable them to innovate in terms of service delivery, with the aim of improving outcomes for the target vulnerable groups that have been identified as the priority for this grant. So, that's ultimately what we want to drive towards. I think the Cabinet Secretary previously referred to using this as an opportunity to unleash creativity and promote innovation in local authorities.
And will you be maintaining close contact during this period, even before the evaluation process begins, just so that you're fully informed as to what changes are being made to the grant funding decisions that are going to be taken? Because, clearly, it's a disconcerting process for those who hitherto have had perhaps greater certainty about the manner in which these grants are going to be distributed, and the criteria upon which those decisions are made.
We'll be keeping a very close contact on that, because we're actually—. I think you chair the pathfinder working group, Jo-Anne, don't you? And I know that you've had bilaterals with various pathfinder local authorities. So, yes. It's our intention to stay very close. This is a learning exercise. It's also a listening exercise. So, we will be working very closely with them.
And for those authorities that will have 100 per cent flexibility in their decision making, what mechanism are you going to set up to ensure that it remains clear what outcomes have been delivered and on the basis of need—because this is clearly what, ultimately, this is all about—to ensure that the money is spent in the areas where the greatest perceived needs exist.
Thank you. You're right to bring us back to the most important point, which is: is this a more effective and efficient way of delivering against the need in a local area? So, we will be developing an outcomes framework. In fact, I think—I might be slightly wrong here—that initial outcomes framework has been developed, and—. Could somebody say a little more about that?
Yes, sure. Just to come back to one of the points you made about need, we have, in the guidance, set an expectation that we expect local authorities to demonstrate, as part of these new pathfinder arrangements, how they're aligning with the public services boards, and in particular the well-being assessments and the need assessments that the public services boards have developed. So, it's important for them to be able to demonstrate that this grant is aligning with the priorities for the area.
We have, with the pathfinder working group, established a range of outcomes—some of which I referred to earlier—that we feel these new arrangements are contributing towards: so, for example, tackling homelessness, children living in poverty, tackling mental health conditions, learning disabilities, supporting care leavers more effectively, families with disabled children and economically inactive adults living in poverty. That's just some of them—I won't go through all of them. Then, to support those outcomes, we'll be looking at a range of monitoring, reporting, data collection arrangements. But, as Emma mentioned, while this work is in train—and we recognise that this is very much a learning journey that we are on—the current reporting arrangements for the individual constituent grants remain in place.
So, we will not have, during 2018-19, any less information than we have had in the past. So, to some extent, there will be some dual running during 2018-19, where we're testing the new outcomes framework, but, at the same time, we have, as a safety-net backstop, all the existing information and reporting that we've had, which—if we feel that the new arrangements are workable, obviously, in due course, there could be a transition across.
It might be worth adding that this is building on good practice that's already in existence within the SP programme, in that, although we've been working hard over recent years to protect Supporting People—the total spend on that programme—within that total, local authorities, with varying degrees of success, have been looking very carefully at individual SP projects and reviewing over time the targeting of their funding, the way that they've been targeting that grant, making linkages with other policy areas. So, this is not entirely new. This is difficult business for local authorities, but it's not entirely new, the challenge of recommissioning and specifying in slightly different ways the combination of vulnerable groups that they're anxious to target through specific grant funding.
Thanks. Adam Price.
Yes. Just staying on this question of evaluating the pilot, is it true that the majority of contracts under the different programmes—including Supporting People, but also the others that are part of that new combined fund—have already been awarded? They predate the decision, effectively, to create the combined fund.
Some of those contracts will be, yes.
I'd have to ask a colleague. Would you say the majority or—?
I couldn't honestly quantify it, but you're right to point out that some local authorities choose to enter into multi-year commissioning arrangements; others choose, on the basis that their funding is allocated on an annual basis, to only enter into annual contracts, and we're very much aware that that, in itself, is an area of concern for some organisations.
Yes. Do you see what I—? What I'm getting at, though, is it's very difficult for you to evaluate the decision to combine the funds when many of the contracts under those different programmes have been running at a time when there wasn't a combined fund.
Yes, I completely understand what you're saying. We don't know the quantum of pre-contracting, and there will be—. That's something that we'll be looking at during the evaluation process. But you're right to say that if contracts are pre-committed then the room for manoeuvre, I suppose—the chance to explore flexibilities—will be more limited and, therefore, we will learn less from that process.
Can I just give you a second problem, which has been touched upon already, but—? The pilot ends and then, a day later, the new rolled-out combined EIPS is launched throughout Wales. So, realistically, for you to be able to learn the lessons of the pilot, you've got to make a decision six months into the existence of a combined fund. I'm all in favour of accelerated decision making by the Welsh Government, believe you me; I'd like to see more of it—
—but that would be record breaking, wouldn't it, to learn the policy lessons of six months, when, by your own admission just now, many of the constituent parts of it actually have no relevance for that decision, because they predated the combination.
So, I think we'll learn quite a lot through the process evaluation. I genuinely think that we will learn real-time information that will help us to compile information for Ministers to take a decision. You're right: if we were to go for a full big bang early intervention and preventative support grant for all local authorities for the next financial year, that decision would need to be taken well in advance of that, certainly probably by December of next year, when we'd have had probably nine months of running with this. I think what we need to do is we need to assess what information we have, how confident we feel about that information, what those proxy indicators are showing us, and, as I say, it may not be a big bang sort of decision; there may be complete variation on that. For example—and I am sort of freelancing a bit here, but there's probably a variation of things that could happen, from deciding to run the pathfinders for longer, into the following financial year, or maybe feeling confident on the basis of those and saying, 'Right, they can have 100 per cent flexibility going forward' and then maybe taking a new cohort of pathfinders. So, I don't think it's necessarily a complete, 'We don't do it', or 'We do do it in absolute full—'. I think we will have to collate all the information, including stakeholder feedback, and provide that advice to Ministers to take a decision.
I'm very grateful for that very comprehensive answer. I'd like just to turn to a new subject area.
Rydw i'n mynd i ofyn am agwedd Llywodraeth Cymru tuag at y pwyllgorau cydweithredol rhanbarthol. Mae'n debyg bod yna benderfyniad wedi cael ei wneud i ganslo, yn ôl ein tystiolaeth ni, y rhwydwaith gydgysylltwyr datblygu rhanbarthol ar gyfer y cynllun, a hefyd mae yna gonsyrn wedi'i fynegi o ran presenoldeb cynrychiolwyr Llywodraeth Cymru yn y pwyllgorau cydweithredol rhanbarthol.
I'm going to ask about the Welsh Government's attitude towards the regional collaborative committees. It seems that a decision has been made to cancel, according to the evidence we've received, the regional development co-ordinators network for the scheme, and there's also been a concern expressed about the presence of Welsh Government representatives in the regional collaborative committees.
Can I just—? Hang on, Adam. Did you get the translation there, or did you only get—?
No. I'm sorry—I was a bit slow putting my headphones on and the translation came through quite late.
Yes, I think it did. Sorry about that, Adam. Can you—?
Os ydw i'n ailadrodd, dim problem o gwbl. Ie—gofyn, a dweud y gwir, ynglŷn â beth yw ymrwymiad Llywodraeth Cymru at rwydwaith y pwyllgorau—wel, y pwyllgorau cydweithredol rhanbarthol o dan y cynllun, o ystyried yr argymhelliad a phenderfyniad i ganslo'r rhwydwaith cydgysylltwyr rhanbarthol a hefyd y diffyg presenoldeb cynrychiolwyr Llywodraeth Cymru, fel y mae wedi cael ei fynegi i fi, yng nghyfarfodydd y pwyllgorau rhanbarthol.
I'll repeat the question. I was just asking about what the Welsh Government's commitment is to the regional collaborative committees under this scheme, considering the recommendation or the decision to cancel the regional collaborative network, and the lack of a presence by Welsh Government representatives, as has been expressed to us, in the meetings of the regional collaboratives.
Efallai y dylwn i ateb. Mi oedd yna issue ynglŷn â phresenoldeb Llywodraeth Cymru mewn rhai cyfarfodydd. Mae yna wastad penderfyniad i'w wneud ynglŷn â pha gyfarfodydd yr ŷm ni'n eu mynychu. O'n safbwynt ni, a'r polisi yn symud ymlaen, mae'r pwyllgorau rhanbarthol yn parhau i chwarae rôl allweddol. Maen nhw wedi bod yng nghanol y datblygiadau ym myd Cefnogi Pobl dros y pum mlynedd diwethaf, ac er bod y dystiolaeth yn dangos bod yna wahaniaeth yn yr effeithlonrwydd ar draws Cymru, rŷm ni'n dal i feddwl bod yna fodel yna i adeiladu arno fe. Mae'r perthynas rhwng y pwyllgorau rhanbarthol Cefnogi Pobl a'r gwaith sydd yn digwydd ar lefel rhanbarthol i geisio dod â gwasanaethau cymdeithasol yn agosach at y gwasanaeth iechyd yn berthynas yr ŷm ni'n moyn adeiladau arni hi, o safbwynt nid jest Cefnogi Pobl, ond, buaswn i'n meddwl, y gwahanol grantiau sydd yn rhan o'r grant newydd. Fel y gwnaeth Jo-Anne sôn yn gynharach, mae'r her o adnabod y galw ym mhob awdurdod, a'r gwaith mae'r PSBs wedi bod yn ei wneud yn y maes yna, yn rhan annatod o ddatblygu cynllun grant newydd, hefyd. So, rŷm ni'n teimlo bod y pwyllgorau rhanbarthol yn dal i fod yn bwysig iawn.
Perhaps I should answer. There was an issue with regard to the Welsh Government's presence in some meetings. There's always a decision to be made about what meetings to attend, but, from our point of view, of the policy moving forward, the regional committees continue to play a vital role. They have been at the heart of developments in the field of Supporting People over the past five years, and even though the evidence does show that there is a difference in the effectiveness across Wales, we do still believe that there is a model there that we can build upon. The relationship between the regional committees and Supporting People and the work that's happening on a regional basis to try to bring social services closer to the health service, that's a relationship that we want to build upon from the point of view not just of Supporting People, but, I would think, the different grants that are part of this new grant. As Jo-Anne mentioned earlier, the challenge of recognising the demand in each authority, the work that the PSBs have been doing in this particular field, is a vital part of the work of developing a new grant scheme. So, we feel that the regional committees are still important.
A allech chi jest taflu bach o oleuni ar y hysbysiad yma, yn ôl pwyllgor cydweithredol rhanbarthol Gwent, fod y rhwydwaith cydgysylltwyr datblygu rhanbarthol sydd wedi bodoli tan nawr yn cael ei ddirwyn i ben? A ydy hynny'n gywir?
Could you just shed some light on this announcement, according to the Gwent regional collaborative committee, that the regional development co-ordinators network that has been in existence is being brought to an end? Is that right to say?
Na. Nid oeddwn ar gael i fynychu'r cyfarfod yna yn ystod ail hanner 2017. Rwy'n meddwl bod yna le i ddefnyddio'r cydgysylltwyr wrth adeiladu'r system newydd.
No. I wasn't available to attend that meeting during the second half of 2017. I think there is a place to use those co-ordinators as we build the new system.
Iawn, ocê. Felly, camgymeriad—
Okay. So, that was a mistake—
Rhywbeth dros dro oedd hwnnw.
That was a temporary issue.
Rwy'n gweld. O ran y cynlluniau braenaru, beth ŷch chi'n ei ragweld bydd rôl y pwyllgorau cydweithredol rhanbarthol yn y cyswllt yna, gan, wrth gwrs, fod rhai awdurdodau lleol yn y rhanbarth yn rhan o'r cynlluniau braenaru, a rhai ddim? Felly, beth yw eu perthnasedd nhw yn y cyswllt hwnnw?
Okay, I see. So, in terms of the pathfinder schemes, what do you foresee the role of the regional collaborative committees being with regard to that, because, of course, there are some authorities that are part of the pathfinder scheme, and there are some that are not. So, what is the implication of that?
Mae hynny'n rhan o'r drafodaeth rydym ni'n gorfod ei chael gyda'r pwyllgorau. Mae cynrychiolwyr o'r pwyllgorau yna wedi bod yn rhan o'r trafodaethau hyd yn hyn, ar lefel eithaf cyffredinol, ond, wrth symud ymlaen, nawr bod telerau y cynnig lot yn gliriach a'r guidance ar gael i bobl ddechrau trafod manylion y cynllun newydd, rwy'n meddwl y bydd hi'n hanfodol ein bod ni'n denu aelodau'r pwyllgorau yna i mewn i'r trafodaethau polisi a fydd yn digwydd reit ar draws Cymru.
I think that that is part of the discussion that we need to have with the committees themselves. There are representatives from those committees who have been part of the discussions so far, on quite a general level. However, going forward, now that the conditions of the proposals are much clearer and that guidance is available for people to be able to discuss the details of the new scheme, I think it will be essential that we bring in or attract the members of the committees to the policy discussions that will be taking place throughout Wales.
Rydych chi wedi cyfeirio, wrth gwrs, at rôl y byrddau gwasanaethau cyhoeddus yn y cyswllt yma, ond a allwch chi jest ddweud tipyn bach mwy ynglŷn â hynny, mewn perthynas â'r pwyllgorau cydweithredol rhanbarthol? Oherwydd mae'r byrddau gwasanaethau cyhoeddus—y rhan fwyaf ohonyn nhw—wrth gwrs, ar hyn o bryd yn gweithredu ar sail awdurdod lleol yn unig. Felly, a oes yna dipyn bach o groesddywediad yn y fan yna?
You have referred, of course, to the role of the public services boards in this context, but can you just tell us a little bit more about that, with regard to the regional collaborative committees? Because the PSBs—the majority of them—of course, do operate on a local authority-only basis. So, are they at cross-purposes there?
Rwy'n meddwl bod yna issue i'w weithio mas. Achos y berthynas arall y gwnes i sôn amdani hi yw'r berthynas â'r byrddau partneriaeth rhanbarthol, sydd yn edrych ar y cwestiynau ehangach o safbwynt uno gwasanaethau cymdeithasol a'r gwasanaeth iechyd, sydd o safbwynt Cefnogi Pobl yn drafodaeth sydd yn debyg iawn i'r drafodaeth sydd yn digwydd o gwmpas y byrddau partneriaeth rhanbarthol. Ac mae yna enghreifftiau, fel y mae adroddiad y swyddfa archwilio wedi ei ddangos, o rai byrddau yn gwneud y cysylltiad, ond rŷm ni'n meddwl bod yna le i wneud lot mwy o waith ar draws y byrddau hynny.
I think that is something that we'll need to work out. Because the other relationship that I was talking about was the relationship between the local partnership boards on a regional level, which look at broader questions in terms of bringing together social care and healthcare, which, in terms of Supporting People, is a discussion that is similar to the discussion taking place about the regional partnership boards. And there are examples, as the report of the Wales Audit Office has shown, of some boards that are making those linkages, or connections, but we think that there is room for further collaboration across those boards.
Ac a gaf i jest, yn olaf, Gadeirydd, ychwanegu un issue ychwanegol at y rhestr yma, sef y rhaglen—nid wyf yn gwybod beth y gallwn ni ei galw hi—ad-drefnu llywodraeth ranbarthol neu'r llywodraeth, a'r Papur Gwyn—wrth gwrs mae gyda ni Weinidog newydd erbyn hyn—ond ai'r pen draw ar gyfer trefniadau rhanbarthol yn y cyswllt yma fydd, yn y diwedd, dilyn pa bynnag batrwm o gydweithio rhanbarthol ehangach a ddaw mas o'r broses ehangach hynny?
And just finally, Chair, may I add one additional issue to this list of issues, which is—I don't know what I could call it—the reorganisation of regional government or Government, and the White Paper—of course there's a new Minister now—but, ultimately, with regard to the regional arrangements in this context, will it be following whatever pattern of collaboration on a regional basis, a wider pattern, as part of this wider process as a whole?
Byddwn ni'n sicr yn awyddus i ymateb i beth bynnag sydd yn dod mas o'r broses hynny. Ond roeddem ni'n teimlo bod y pwynt a wnaethpwyd yn adroddiad y swyddfa archwilio yn un pwysig, sef bod pawb yn dysgu o brofiad y byrddau rhanbarthol ym myd Cefnogi Pobl, achos rŷm ni wedi cael profiad o'r issues ymarferol sydd yn codi wrth geisio gweithio ar sail ranbarthol ers 2012. Ac, o ganlyniad, rwy'n cytuno ag argymhelliad y swyddfa archwilio, ei bod hi'n bwysig bod pawb yn edrych i weld pa wersi sydd yna i'w cymryd o'n profiadau ni ers 2012.
We will certainly be eager to respond to whatever comes out of that process. But we felt that the point that was made in the WAO report was important, namely that everyone learns from the experience of the regional boards in terms of Supporting People, because we have gained experience of the practical issues that arise in seeking to work on a regional footprint since 2012. And, as a result, I would agree with the recommendation of the audit office that it's important that everyone should look to see what lessons can be taken forward from our experiences since 2012.
Iawn, diolch yn fawr.
Okay, thank you.
Diolch. Lee Waters.
Thank you. I'd just like to touch on monitoring and evaluation. We've heard some evidence of deep scepticism from within the sector about the usefulness of the current monitoring framework. And I think the auditor general's report reported some of the difficulties around that. There's a feeling that it's very bureaucratic, labour intensive, doesn't produce particularly meaningful information, and that the revised framework is not much better. What can you say to the concerns of the sector in this regard?
Well, we certainly listen to the concerns of the sector. We want to make sure we're monitoring the right things in the most streamlined and effective way. I know that, certainly, conversations that have been had with the sector and both as part of the Supporting People programme, but also part of the wider grant, which we are having the pathfinders for at the moment—. I think in terms of the process going forward, it'll probably be in two stages. Emma—so monitoring for 2018-19, and—.
I think there are a number of issues here. We've chosen not to make any change to the way that we monitor SP as part of the pathfinders because it seemed unhelpful to move to the revised framework that we consulted on and then potentially to be working with the same people to try and look at how, in the context of an early intervention and prevention grant, we might be looking to collate data on outcomes across the piece. So, it seemed more sensible to take a measured approach in that way.
I think in terms of what we currently know about outcomes and the impact of SP, you, undoubtedly, and stakeholders have a point that the things that are easier to gather data on aren't always the most useful things to know. We have a large amount of information, but we also know an incredible amount about the positive impact that SP has. But the way the data is collected and the individual nature of the stories that sit behind SP interventions mean that it's not always easy to translate that into an overarching set of easily publishable figures. But, certainly, the feedback from service users, whether that be through Cymorth and their engagement direct with service users and gathering service user voice, or through the data that's collected through other means asking about impact, demonstrates that we are having a very positive impact on a considerable number of individual lives out there.
Well, we would hope so, with the amount of money we're spending on it.
Given that you acknowledge that you want to listen to the sector, and given that they've very clearly said that they don't think the framework is right, what changes have you made since that engagement to reflect their concerns?
At the moment, as I say, we have paused on implementing the new framework that we consulted on in the summer pending decisions around any integrated grant. We will feed that work into the work that we do with those same stakeholders, so they will be part of that process, to feed it into any new overarching evaluation and outcomes framework.
Right. So, you haven't made any changes in reflection of their feedback so far because you think it might affect your ability to track change over time. Is that right?
Yes—[Inaudible.]—at the moment.
But as we've just discussed earlier with the questions with Adam Price, that principle's already gone out the window with the evaluation framework because you've started on a four-year framework and you're now making significant changes halfway through the evaluation framework, aren't you?
So, this is the evaluation—. Is this the—? Which evaluation is that, sorry?
So, the principle you're trying to apply—. The reason you've given for not changing the monitoring framework is consistency over time so you can make comparable judgments. But by the same measure, if I understand your evidence to Adam Price correctly, in the evaluation framework, which started off as a four-year programme, you've now said that halfway through that programme you are going to be making changes to that programme. It doesn't seem to me you're applying the same principles consistently.
Okay. I'm not sure that I, maybe—. We have—. I've been speaking at cross-purposes; I'm not sure about the four-year evaluation framework.
So, there's a four-year evaluation that you've commissioned on data-linking research, as I understand it.
Okay, sorry. Yes.
Yes? So, that's a four-year programme that is now going to be disrupted halfway through because of the changes to—.
We would hope not. There's been some delay in getting the right kind of data through, but we think the initial data through the secure anonymised information linkage work is very interesting and we want to continue working hard with the authorities to make sure we can build on that so we're not changing that data-collection exercise, and at the moment, that's still going to come through the integrated grant arrangements.
So, those programmes covered by that four-year evaluation will not be subject to the integration. Is that what you're saying?
No. There's no reason why we shouldn't be able to continue collecting that data. That will be the aim.
Right. Well, in the evidence we've had from Cymorth Cymru, they're not sure that's going to make any sense. They say to us:
'It makes little sense that the Welsh Government is considering removing the ring fence just two years into this evaluation of the Programme’s impact. In addition, merging SP with other programmes may make it harder to track impact and continue the research.'
If there was going to be a wholesale change to the nature of the Supporting People programme overnight, then there might be a technical issue arising. I think our view would be that if there's going to be a change, it will be over time. As Mr Price said earlier, there are a number of contracts already in place in the world of Supporting People. There will not be a complete transformation overnight. So, certainly, our hope is—there's no reason why we shouldn't continue to generate data through the SAIL study, because that's quite an important bit of work that has been under way for some time now.
Right. So, their concerns are misplaced, are they?
Well, that's one of the questions we'll need to work through with them. We've not had an opportunity to do that with them yet.
Right. There do seem to be some significant doubts over the reliability, efficacy and usefulness of this data that you're going to be basing all of these decisions on.
Why—? What is making you say that?
Well, you've just conceded that you're not measuring the most useful thing—you're just measuring things that are easy to measure. The sector has said to us—
I don't think that's the case. I think we are measuring very useful—
Well, Emma Williams said that in her evidence.
Sorry—Lee, you're going very fast. Slow down and give the witnesses time to answer the question. So, your point is—
Thank you for patronising me, Chair. The evidence I think is very clear. You've said—
No, no—hang on, hang on. I'm not patronising you—I'm trying to control to this meeting. You've just asked questions—
You've just asked questions in quick succession and didn't give them time to answer. I'm just pointing that out and slowing it down so they've got time to answer, which is why they're here.
I think I was reflecting on data that's been collected around the SP environment, and the consultation that we took part in last summer about how we might make that more effective and deliver a better outcomes focus rather than an impact focus.
I think the issue about the SAIL database is a slightly different issue. To be absolutely clear, we're very committed to the value of the SAIL project, and we'd be very keen to retain data that enables us to continue that relationship. But it's a complex project, and one where we'll need to discuss what data is needed on an ongoing basis and make sure that we can get the right data to get the right outcomes. So, I think they're slightly different things. I think we ended up—my apologies—talking at slightly cross-purposes. There are a number of evaluations.
My broader question is about how valid this data we're basing very important decisions on is. The evidence we've had clearly, which you haven't disputed, from the sector is that the current monitoring and evaluation approach—monitoring in particular—is cumbersome, bureaucratic, labour intensive and does not produce data that they feel is particularly useful to measure the outcomes they think they're achieving. Is that a point that's contested by the Government?
I would argue, from my reading into this, that it is providing good data for us. In fact, we know more about Supporting People, I think, than, perhaps, some other programmes. We've got information about individuals and the journeys that they have gone on. We have information on every unit of support, and that is certainly information that we have found useful.
Okay, well, you obviously have a job of work to do to persuade the sector of that—that is my point. That's not the first thing that you've got a job of work to do to persuade the sector on, given the evidence we've had this afternoon.
Then they have further scepticism about whether the revised outcomes will sufficiently address the shortcomings that they've addressed, and the auditor general has addressed, in the previous framework. From what you said to me earlier, if I understand it, just in the spirit of trying to slow things down, you understand their points, but you're not going to change anything about the monitoring of outcomes at the moment because of the changes taking place in the programme.
We would rather make one set of changes that enables us to reflect the entirety of outcomes in relation to a wider grant, if that's the decision that's made, rather than make a change now and then make a second change later, which we perceive to be more challenging for the sector.
I understand that. The point I was trying to make, but I may have been misunderstanding this, is that I understand from your answer to Adam Price, and your answer to me specifically about the data-linking research, that from an evaluation point of view you've taken a four-year approach, but, as we've discussed, there are going to be significant changes taking place within that programme halfway through the four-year programme. So, the principles you've applied to monitoring of wanting consistency over time to make good decisions are not principles that you can apply to the evaluation approach. So, I'm raising a question about how meaningful the judgments are that we are able to draw from quite a complex set of pictures.
I think there are at least two issues there. One is the ongoing effectiveness of the programme and our ability to monitor effectively. I understand why the organisations required to provide monitoring arrangements will occasionally challenge the degree of bureaucracy that that entails. There's a balance to be struck. Separately, the SAIL database exercise is a longitudinal study aimed at attempting to measure the overall impact of the programme where—. The point the Wales Audit Office makes is that you require a longitudinal investigation to truly examine the effectiveness of that programme. Because we are not proposing to revolutionise our approach to Supporting People within the proposed early intervention grant, we are hopeful that we won't cut across our ability to measure. But the sector is right to say that there'll be issues arising as a result of any change. But hopefully we will still generate good enough data, because that's a tricky exercise and we would be frustrated to say the least if we weren't able to build on the work that's been done to date.
Okay. And then just on the final point the sector makes about the need for training in this new framework to be consistently rolled out across Wales, they're saying that's not in place. Can you respond to those concerns? This is for the revised outcome framework.
Well, we'll be going through the revised outcome framework with stakeholders. Emma, is there any more you can add on that?
We're more than happy to work with stakeholders. It's in all of our interests to make sure that we have consistent approaches to providing data and outcomes information. So, we're very happy to work with data providers in the sector.
Some of the evidence we had specifically was asking for training and comprehensive guidance to be applied. Is that something that you'd consider?
Great. Okay, thank you.
A good final answer. Can I thank our witnesses for being with us today? I'm sorry we ran over slightly, but it was—
Sorry, Chair, I wanted to touch on homelessness as well. Is there time to do that?
I'm afraid we're out of time now. We're five minutes over, and we've got other issues to discuss as well. But we could probably follow that up with correspondence, if that's possible.
Thank you. Can I thank our witnesses for being with us this afternoon?
And can I thank the committee? As I say, we are on a path and the findings from the WAO report and also the findings from your inquiry will be really helpful for us in shaping the programme going forward. So, thank you very much and we look forward to further observations. Thank you.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
I propose, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42, that we meet in private for items 5 and 6 of today's meeting. Are Members content? Okay.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 16:22.
The public part of the meeting ended at 16:22.