Agenda item

Pre-decision Scrutiny of the Draft Public Service Board Annual Report


The Head of Performance and Improvement presented the PSB’s second draft Annual Report which provided an overview of the performance of the board during April 2019-March 2020 on the objectives set in its wellbeing plan, in line with the requirements of the WFG Act legislation and statutory guidance.  He explained that the report covered the steps the PSB had chosen to deliver its objectives and the reasons why those were set and also how the board had applied the 5 ways of working outlined in the WFG act in its working throughout the year. The officer explained that the report also provided an overview of progress on all 19 steps against the four wellbeing objectives the board had chosen and it included an in-depth case study of work undertaken by the Children and Young People’s Strategic Partnership to provide young people with the best possible start in life.  It also summarised the scrutiny that has been undertaken throughout the year and provided and overview of the regional working that has taken place and also the evidence and information that is used to measure progress such as national indicators outlined in the act.


The officer commented that public services have been at the forefront of efforts in responding to the covid 19 pandemic and some mention of the emerging evidence is provided in this report, however, more detailed evidence on well-being impacts will be provided in further reports. Members were advised that the report had been contributed to by all partners and would be approved by the Public Service Board at their next meeting prior to publication on their website.


The Partnerships Manager joined in the presentation of the report and explained that whilst the report is a light touch document, given how involved all partners are in responding to the covid 19 pandemic, hopefully it has still captured the headline information on behalf of the PSB and efforts can now be focussed on how the board can respond to the challenges collectively.  


Key points to highlight are:


·         The report only provides a snapshot of the work undertaken by town council partners and there is much more work which sits behind it, if members are interested in a more in depth understanding. 


·         One area of good practice is that over the last 12 months, the town councils that fall under the duties of the legislation have been included into the PSB structure, so representatives now sit on the programme board and are involved in early discussions on developing activities to responding to the challenges collectively.


·         There has been extensive work being undertaken in town councils over a number of years which has come the forefront and this is their financial contribution and recognition of the work of the open access and fully inclusive play provision in the county.  This is something that the PSB has invested in over a number of years, through grant monies and also officer time and town councils have contributed towards that work, recognising that value of the free open access play provision for some of the young people would not have the financial means to access summer play provision. We have grown the model and have 500-600 children attending included those with disabilities. During this year, we have also been able to provide free food during the summer to children who may not have had a meal if they weren’t able to afford the summer play provision, so we are also addressing food poverty.


·         Another area of practice is evidenced in the case study provided by the Children and Young People’s Strategic Partnership. This work has reduced silo thinking by agencies and there is greater correlation between the strands of work. For example, the work on Adverse Childhood Effects which underpins the need for every child to have a trusted adult needs to also take into account the importance of mental health and emotional well-being for young people as they grow older. This involves thinking about what models of care need to look like and how schools can become more outward looking to the heart of the community. The case study demonstrates the complexity involved, recognising that all partners have a role to play. Through The case study, we have tried to work though the systems in public sector agencies to see how well the systems work in terms of preventing children falling between the gaps.


·         The Active Citizenship work referred to in the report has involved trying to bring communities closer to the work of the PSB, embracing them in the challenges we have faced and during the pandemic, they have demonstrated their strength and resilience, so we want to respect them by involving them and working together rather than ‘doing to them’. 




·         Accepting that the PSB’s 6 key priorities were drafted pre-pandemic, do you think that Post-covid, these will need to change?

I think the priorities will still be relevant, but what the pandemic has done is to amplify some of the things we knew we needed to address. Covid has negatively impacted on many people and for many people who needed to access support prior to covid, their need is now greater.  The challenges previously identified are still there, but there will be further challenges in addressing poverty, loneliness and mental health.


·         Recognising there are likely to be new challenges, will previous commitments to carbon emission reduction by moving to electric vehicles still be priorities? Have we delivered on this so far?

One of the discussions taking place with communities is how we transition from the pandemic to longer term priorities. So whilst we’ve reopened town centres and provided enhanced pedestrianisation and we have had a positive response from our communities, this also aligns to longer term priorities to achieve a carbon neutral future by 2030. The money has been secured and 11 out of the 15 electric vehicle charge points are in now in situ, but there have been additional benefits, such as Gwent Energy using some of their resources to install a defibrillator next to the charge points, so yes, the ‘sustainable futures’ work remains a priority.


·         The report reads a little disjointed. Recognising there are different inputs and it is difficult to write a report of many partners, it needs some editing to ensure flow. 

It’s a collaborative effort and has many contributions, so there was no sole author Ordinarily and in future, an editorial board would collate the report into its final draft, but the circumstances have been difficult and time did not allow for this.


·         I’m unclear what actions the regional board have taken that have made a discernible impact. I’m unsure whether we are simply recording things we were doing previously. If so, what is the added value of the board? What are the key differences made by having the board?   For example, how would we account for the impact by the board in reducing carbon emissions as opposed to the actions people as a result of environmental changes as a result of lockdown? 

The point you make is fair.  We will be able to measure the Monmouthshire contribution on carbon emission reduction by comparing the Monmouthshire data with UK trends, but I recognise that it’s difficult to unravel the impact.  The kind of issues that the board has prioritised are complex societal issue that need multi-agency approaches to resolve them, but I accept your point. Coronavirus may mean that the priorities need to change.


·         Some areas of this report need updating. For example, the Business Network and the GovTech positions, because we are nearly 1 year on from the implementation and there is no sense of whether it’s delivering as there are no key indicators. Has there been a delay?

The work on GovTech was funded by UK Cabinet Office and a decision was taken in March to pause that work during the pandemic, so whilst officially paused, some of the research around transport and loneliness has continued, but it is a fair point and could be referred to in the report.


·         The ‘Thriving Places’ data is for 2020, but there is no comparator for 2018 or 2019. Also the data headings themselves have changed, for example, measuring ‘well-being equality’ data in 2018/19 but in 2020 that has changed to ‘employment equality’ data, so I’m unsure what these mean and can’t draw comparisons. I appreciate this is work in progress, but I can’t see any consistency.

The ‘Thriving Places’ data derived from a piece of work undertaken by the 5 Gwent authorities on ‘Happy Places’ between 2018 to 2019/20. Each of the headline scores are based on a Local Authority indicator that sits beneath it, so it is important in understanding these scores, what the indicator is and to recognise that the issues are complex and there is far more evidence and data needed to fully understand the picture.  We will need to understand how wellbeing will be impacted upon going forward as a result of covid, so the report only starts to address it and this will be something the PSB will need to continue to measure. In term of measuring the economic well-being, there’s some remodelling required on these and this will need updating.


·         Members need to be kept abreast of updates on matters such as GovTech, as many weren’t aware the work had been paused and would have been expecting further progress.

This point is accepted and we will do this from hereon.  


·         In terms of measuring progress, if there is no data for the previous year and also this year, when we have data next year, will the data be meaningful?  

Some of our conventional performance measuring will no longer apply.  We will need to look at this in a new way, which provides many challenges, but also opportunities. So for example, sports activities will be difficult to measure but the Active Citizenship work has shown how many people have volunteered and contributed to help others during the pandemic, so the growth in people wanting to make a difference is activity we can capture. We wouldn’t have had such data in the past to draw comparisons on, but you are right, we need a conversation as to how we move forward when we can’t measure in the same way. We will need to reflect and think differently.


Chair’s Conclusion:


We have discussed issues about the flow of the report and the disparity of the various inputs, also the need for elements to be updated.  We highlighted issues around updating members on matters such as GovTech. We have raised concerns around performance measurement post-covid and we recognise some of the measures will need to change. Members of this committee have concern for those who may have been on the brink of managing until now and the pandemic may have pushed them over the edge. We cannot underestimate the enormous pressure on families in poverty, on households with reduced income, who have had to cope with the burden of home-schooling and on the other end of the spectrum, on those who live on their own and suffer loneliness and isolation exacerbated by the pandemic.  We recognise the work being undertaken and we appreciate the drafting of this report was not an easy task and thank you for your efforts and ask that our feedback be noted.

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