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Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) by fdjerue7eeu


Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA)

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									Association of Greater Manchester
Authorities (AGMA)
Pathfinder Case Study
September 2003

1.    Introduction

This case study has been prepared jointly by Sheela Vara, AGMA Project
Manager and Alan Kirkham, an associate member of the Strategic Partnering

The Association of Greater Manchester Authorities (AGMA) identified a range of
areas where joint service delivery across member authorities could achieve
savings or improve performance. One of these areas or initiatives is the Out of
Area Placements Project, bringing together Local Education Authorities, Social
Services departments, Health and the independent and voluntary sector providers
across the region.

AGMA was formed after the abolition of the Greater Manchester Council in 1986,
and comprises the 10 local authorities in the Greater Manchester region:

             Bolton               Salford
             Bury                 Stockport
             Manchester           Tameside
             Oldham               Trafford
             Rochdale             Wigan

The AGMA partnership also includes two further unitary authorities; Blackburn
with Darwen, and Blackpool.

2.    Project Overview

The aim of the project is described as:

      “To develop efficiencies and service improvements through joint or
      collaborative commissioning and provision of services for the placement of
      children with special care or special educational needs.”

The project links education and social service departments of participating
authorities and actively seeks the involvement of the health sector plus
representatives of the private and voluntary sector providers.

Concern about the use of out of area placements is not a new issue. It is
recognised that placing looked-after children in expensive placements distant from
their home and community may not represent either the best quality service or the
best outcomes for the children and young people concerned. Nor does it provide
best value for the local authorities that have to fund these placements.
The limited availability of local placements has resulted in an increasing number of
children being placed out of area, incurring problems related to social exclusion
and an ever increasing cost to local councils. There is potential to improve
services for children and, at the same time, councils may achieve improved
control of expenditure with consequential reinvestment in service improvements in
line with councils’ priorities.

The primary objectives for the project are:

     •   The development of services and procedures to reduce the number of
         children and young people placed “Out of Area”.
     •   Improved processes to reduce the cost of Out of Area placements.
     •   The development of alternative services and provision for children in care
         that will:
             o result in improved life-chances and opportunities
             o promote inclusion
             o improve educational attainment levels
             o identify the most appropriate placements, preferably via fostering or
                 within the local community
     •   Increased local capacity in terms of both new facilities and improved
         provision of foster care
     •   Development of preventative strategies to reduce the need for placements

3.       Drivers for the project

The project originally developed from a concern over the escalating cost of Out of
Area Placements, resulting in a desire to harmonise contracting across the
member of authorities in an effort to control prices. The scope of the project soon
expanded to embrace a more holistic approach to meeting the needs of children in
care, the drivers being:

     a) The move towards inclusion is currently being undermined by placement of
        children and young people being made outside their own local

     b) The cost of Out of Area Placements can be considerable (some in excess
        of £200,000 per annum).

     c) There appears to be differential charges for similar placements.

     d) The quality of provision can be varied and there is little available
        assessment of the quality of care provided, nor of the longer-term

     e) For children and young people who are in family placements within other
        authorities, there are additional demands on the education services of
        those authorities to meet the needs of those placements.

     f) Young people may be placed far from their local community, resulting in
        losing contact with friends and relatives.

AGMA Case Study                    September 2003                          Page 2
     g) Distant placements result on other authorities having to provide resources
        (often under reciprocal agreements), or incur significant resource costs
        (financial and time) for social workers visiting distant placements.

     h) Placements that are unplanned (emergency placements) are often provided
        on availability in a limited market, rather than being based on the optimum
        solution for the individual’s needs.

     i) Government policy requires significant improvement in services for looked
        after children that can be realised only through partnership or collaborative

From research undertaken in 2002, it was estimated that the total cost of Out of
Area Placements across the Partnership amounted to £62.8million a year. If
levels of savings could be achieved in line with those experienced by other
collaborative placement initiatives, the potential savings could be in the region of
£3.6million a year across the member authorities. This was supported by the
development of an outline business case in the latter half of 2002.

4.       Governance

The project is governed by the AGMA (Joint Service Delivery) Steering Group.
The Steering Group is chaired by the Chief Executive of Rochdale, Roger Ellis
who has responsibility for development of all Joint Service Delivery projects. He
reports back to the AGMA Chief Executive’s Co-ordinating Working Group, which
has the ultimate responsibility for monitoring and evaluating the success of the
project. Progress is than reported to the AGMA Executive, which comprises the
Leaders of the twelve AGMA authorities. The Out of Area Placement project has a
Steering Group with representatives from member authorities’ Social Services and
Education departments. This group functions as a consultative forum and
disseminates information.

A new management group has been established, made up of Assistant Directors
from Education and Social Services and including representation from the Health
Services (Greater Manchester Strategic Health Authority) and the voluntary and
community sector. The terms of reference for this group are being developed.

5.       Progress 2002 - 2003


Considerable quantitative and qualitative research and benchmarking work was
undertaken early in the project including:

     •   data collection (costs, numbers of placements, etc.)
     •   identification of the potential scope of the project
     •   consideration of options including exploring good practice from elsewhere
     •   a review of local procedures and issues in member authorities.

AGMA Case Study                   September 2003                          Page 3
Following the above phase of work, progress on the project faltered due to the
project manager leaving early in the year. A new project manager was seconded
from within AGMA to support the project on a part time basis, but for only six
months, finishing towards the end of the year. This resulted in extensive
preparatory work being undertaken but with no project manager to drive the
project forward.


In December 2002 AGMA appointed a project manager to take responsibility for
all the joint service delivery projects. Early in 2003 the member authorities of
AGMA each contributed a sum of money to fund external consultancy work to
develop the projects further, managed by the recently appointed project manager.
A consultancy firm was appointed specifically to the Out of Area Placements
project, and from April to August undertook further research and analysis. This
resulted in a report to AGMA confirming the potential benefits of the project and
recommending how the project could be delivered.

The report was formally presented to AGMA in September and then to a large
workshop in October, with participants from member authorities, the health sector
and representatives from the private and voluntary sector. The workshop identified
how to deliver the benefits set out in the report and determined further actions that
would improve services to looked after children. The workshop also provided the
catalyst to expand stakeholder involvement in the project (during the first year of
the project it proved difficult to engage the health sector, partly due to the
pressures of reorganisation in respect of Primary Care Trusts).

It was recognised that the existing project steering group was too large with too
varying attendance levels to effectively manage the project, especially without a
dedicated project manager. Concurrent with the development of the consultant’s
report, a “Champion” for the project was identified, and a smaller management
group convened to take ownership for delivery of the project.

6.     Where next?

At the time of preparation of this case study, AGMA has obtained greater clarity in
respect of the potential benefits of the project, and options for delivering those
benefits. There is high level ownership of the project, and a determination to
succeed. Importantly, the project objectives are aligned to emerging Government
policy for children’s services and partnership working.

The potential scope for the project remains vast. It is likely that AGMA will
commence implementation of a common contracting and accreditation process
during the latter part of 2003. The mechanism for delivering this may need refining
in the light of experience and as further possibilities for improvements emerge.
The development of preventative strategies and improved planning may reduce
the demand for placements, and the development of improved local capacity (both
residential and fostering) can deliver improved care with reduced costs.

AGMA Case Study                  September 2003                           Page 4
7.    Key Learning Points

Project Management: a dedicated project manager working full-time, with
additional support where required, is critical to the success of a major project
involving such a diverse range of stakeholders. Adoption of a formal project
management model is also important, and greater use of project management
principles may have reduced the impact of the change in project managers,
resulting in greater continuity and reducing the time taken to develop and
implement the project.

Ownership and guidance: Decision-making during the first year of the project
was slow, and frequently the project manager, whilst excellent at project
management, was not always able to make decisions relating to the specific
services. It was recognised that there needed to be a “champion” at a senior level
with experience and understanding of the service issues. This was recognised and
in the second year of the project a “Project Champion” was identified, being an
Assistant Director for children’s services who understood both the project and the
service delivery issues, and was able to provide advice on policy and practice.

Clarification of Objectives: the potential scope is vast. Project plans were
produced in the first year, but were not successfully implemented for two main
reasons: lack of continuity of a project manager, and lack of clarity and
prioritisation of objectives. A workshop held in September 2002 provided a clearer
set of short and long term objectives, but progress was hampered by lack of a
project manager. The work undertaken by consultants has provided further clarity
in respect of objectives, and additional resources are being put into the project
(including development of a full project plan) to implement the objectives.

Multi-authority partnerships are difficult. Each authority has its own structure,
decision-making processes and ways of working. The AGMA project is fortunate in
being driven by the Chief Executives of the member authorities, but irrespective of
this a great deal of work needs to be undertaken to ensure officer buy-in and to
agree to common solutions.

The Project Steering Group included representatives from social care and
education from all member authorities. It was a valuable forum for disseminating
information about the project and for consultation, but was too large a body to
drive the project forward. Whilst there was an enthusiasm to support and help
deliver the project, the pressures of everyday work limited what individuals could
contribute. The need for a smaller and more influential management group was
recognised, to drive the project forward whilst consulting with the larger Steering

8.    Review

At the time of preparation, the project was at a key stage in its development. It is
recommended that the case study be reviewed and updated in March 2004, and
at that stage determine whether a further review is required and, if so, agree a
review date.

AGMA Case Study                 September 2003                           Page 5
9.    Contacts

For further information on this project, contact:
Sheela Vara, Partnerships Policy Officer, AGMA
Tel: 01942 705725

AGMA Case Study                 September 2003      Page 6

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