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Y Pwyllgor Plant, Pobl Ifanc ac Addysg

Children, Young People and Education Committee

08/01/2020

Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol

Committee Members in Attendance

Dawn Bowden AM
Hefin David AM
Janet Finch-Saunders AM
Lynne Neagle AM Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor
Committee Chair
Sian Gwenllian AM
Suzy Davies AM

Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol

Others in Attendance

Albert Heaney Cyfarwyddwr Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol ac Integreiddio, Llywodraeth Cymru
Director of Social Services and Integration, Welsh Government
Huw Morris Cyfarwyddwr, Sgiliau, Addysg Uwch a Dysgu Gydol Oes, Llywodraeth Cymru
Director Skills, Higher Education and Lifelong Learning, Welsh Government
Jo-Anne Daniels Cyfarwyddwr Iechyd Meddwl, Grwpiau Agored i Niwed a Llywodraethu'r GIG, Llywodraeth Cymru
Director of Mental Health, Vulnerable Groups and NHS Governance, Welsh Government
Julie Morgan AM Y Dirprwy Weinidog Iechyd a Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol
Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services
Kirsty Williams AM Y Gweinidog Addysg
Minister for Education
Professor Jean White Prif Swyddog Nyrsio, Llywodraeth Cymru
Chief Nursing Officer, Welsh Government
Steve Davies Cyfarwyddwr Addysg, Llywodraeth Cymru
Director of Education, Welsh Government
Vaughan Gething AM Y Gweinidog Iechyd a Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol
Minister for Health and Social Services

Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol

Senedd Officials in Attendance

Llinos Madeley Clerc
Clerk
Michael Dauncey Ymchwilydd
Researcher
Sarah Bartlett Dirprwy Glerc
Deputy Clerk
Sarah Hatherley Ymchwilydd
Researcher

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 09:46.

The meeting began at 09:46.

1. Cyflwyniad, Ymddiheuriadau, Dirprwyon a Datgan Buddiannau
1. Introductions, Apologies, Substitutions and Declarations of Interest

Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the Children, Young People and Education Committee this morning. We've received no apologies for absence. Can I ask Members if there are any declarations of interest, please? No. Okay. Thank you.  

2. Craffu ar Gyllideb Ddrafft Llywodraeth Cymru ar gyfer 2020-1
2. Scrutiny of the Welsh Government Draft Budget 2020-1

Item 2 this morning is scrutiny of the Welsh Government's draft budget. I'm very pleased to welcome Kirsty Williams AM, Minister for Education, Huw Morris, who is group director skills, higher education and lifelong learning, and Steve Davies, who is the director of the education directorate. Thank you all for attending, and thank you for the detailed paper that you provided in advance of the meeting. We've got lots of ground to cover, so we'll go straight into questions, and the first questions are from Suzy Davies.

Thank you, Chair, and happy new year to you all.

I'm just going to start off with questions on schools funding, so I hope you'll forgive me with that, because that's obviously not in the education main expenditure group. But, as you know, it's been of very significant concern to this committee. Can you tell us a little bit about how confident you are that the local authorities not only have enough resources within their budget to meet schools' needs—their core budget—but also how you, and perhaps the local government Minister, are going to ensure that schools get the money that has been ostensibly allocated to them through the indicator-based assessments?

Okay. Well, first of all, happy to new year to you, Suzy, and to everybody on the committee. In preparation for the budget, I and Julie James have worked very closely together, as part of an overall Cabinet approach, to look to identify the best methods of supporting school funding. And, as you say, the vast majority of school funding actually doesn't come from the education MEG, which is somewhat counterintuitive to most people, and is funded through the revenue support grant. Therefore, it has been a priority for the Government to be able to give colleagues in local government the best settlement possible to enable them to invest in education. You will be aware that all local authorities will receive a real terms increase in their budget, with increases ranging from some 3 per cent to over 5 per cent. 

I and Julie James met with representatives of the Welsh Local Government Association, and I attended the distribution sub-group, where we had some very robust discussions with council colleagues, and they were very, very clear to me and to Julie James and to the Finance Minister that, if local government were given the resources, they would prioritise school and social services funding. And they gave that commitment. They continue to give that commitment, and you will be aware that WLGA has welcomed the settlement that has been made available to them. And we will continue to have those discussions with WLGA leadership around ensuring that that money that has been available to them finds its way into school budgets. And I was very pleased, and I'm sure the Chair will be particularly pleased, to hear that I had an unsolicited phone call from the leader of Torfaen council to give me assurances that now that the settlement had been made available he would be doing just that. He took the time and trouble to say, 'I gave you a commitment in that meeting, Kirsty, that I would prioritise school funding, and I want to say, now that the settlement had been made available to me, that is exactly what I'm going to do.'

I'm sure you'll be very pleased to hear that, Chair.

09:50

I think we're all encouraged to hear that as well. I suppose what we may want to be asking you in—I don't know, six months', or maybe a year's time, is to try and establish how you, and perhaps Julie James again, have been able to monitor the adherence to those promises. Have you got any plans for ongoing—?

Well, of course. This isn't just a one-off conversation that I or Julie James have with our colleagues in local government. And there has to be, doesn't there, a level of professional trust between colleagues. We've set out very clearly our expectations; the WLGA have made very clear what their intentions are. There has to be that level of maturity and trust between colleagues at various levels of local government. But those conversations will continue to happen as local authorities now begin their processes, and I'm setting their budgets, and I meet regularly with the WLGA. Of course, we'll have a new education spokesperson now, following the elevation of Baroness Wilcox to the House of Lords. But those are regular, planned meetings that I have with the WLGA to discuss, amongst other things, education funding, and I will be, I can assure you, looking to demonstrate, as we have had already from Torfaen, a follow-through of that commitment that was given to me and Julie James.

That's great. I'm glad to hear that. Obviously, there has been what looks like a very generous uplift, actually, within the schools element—the IBA element—of the RSG. Some of that, I'm guessing, will be to cover the cost of teachers' pay rises and the pensions, because there's no separate one-off grant for it this year. Can you give us some sort of idea of the distinction between the money that's obviously going to be necessary to meet that and then what's left over for councils to apply to schools, should they choose to do that?

Yes. So, again, it's quite a complex issue, teachers' pay and conditions, because the process of setting that, and when those pay rises come in, doesn't mirror the financial years that we're working to. So, let me be absolutely clear: for the academic year we currently find ourselves in, a special grant is being made available to local government to cover some of the costs of the teachers' pay rise for the year we're currently in. Because the pay rise starts in September, and local government would not have been anticipating, potentially, the size of that increase in teachers' pay, having already set their budget. So, there is a special grant for this financial year of £12 million that will be made available to local government to partly offset the cost of teachers' pay and pensions.

Can I say that we have been able to negotiate that with the Minister for Finance? We received no consequential from the Westminster Government for teachers' pay this year. In England, teachers' pay has come out of the Department for Education budget. No resources were made available from the Treasury, and, as a consequence of that, there were no Barnett consequentials for the Welsh Government. And I've had to have a negotiation with the Minister for Finance to be able to find additional resources. For the new financial year, that is added to the RSG baseline—to the local government baseline, into their budget, to be able to assist them with additional costs of the current teachers' pay round and pensions. And again, I have to say, we've had to have very difficult discussions within the Government, because, with regard to pensions, only 85 per cent of the pension costs Barnett consequentials have come. We've had to then use central finance resources there to make that assistance available. So, that's been baselined into the RSG. I don't want to prejudge or anticipate anything that the teachers' pay review body may or may not do with the processes that they are currently in, but we believe that we have put into the RSG resources that will allow local government to respond to the costs of teachers' pay and pensions, as they currently stand.

Can I just press you a bit further on that? Because, even if we use the current figures for pay increase and pension—and I appreciate you say that they might go up—at least that's a figure on which your budgeting decisions will have been made. So, you'll have a figure X for that, and then a figure for Y for the much-needed additional funding that schools have been calling for. I think it would be quite helpful for us to know where the gap between those two lies. 

09:55

How much is left for schools, basically, is what I'm asking?

Well, the special grant, in this financial year, is just over £12 million. And then that has been baselined, as have the additional resources that were made available for teachers' pensions last year, into the RSG. I'm quite happy for officials to write with some of the further details—

Yes, just some of the maths on it, really. I think that would be really helpful. Thank you for that.

Then, I think, finally from me, obviously I appreciate the point that the Finance Minister was making yesterday, in as much as the UK budget is going to be in March, and you're having to make decisions now with the draft budget, but there have been some indicative figures coming out from the spending review this year, from the UK Government, of what is effectively a consequential of £135 million from the education budget in the UK, and I think it was about £35 million for additional learning needs. Those figures are considerably more than what we can see in the education MEG, but I appreciate that some of that may have gone into the local government MEG as well. Can you give us some indication of the relationship between the money that we know was due under the spending review and what's actually been allocated to education, or elements of education, in the Welsh draft budget?

So, first of all, can I just say that we are having to sculpt and create a budget in quite challenging circumstances, given timescales and a moving picture within Westminster, and it is a natural process of a new Government that you would expect a budget, but it certainly does make things complicated from our perspective? What also makes the issue particularly complicated is that, in Westminster, certainly with regard to education spend, there is a mixture of that money that's being made available in-year, and then there are significant figures being bandied around that relate to spending supposedly over the next three, four—you know, longer term. So, we're not in a position to respond to that, because we only have the budget we do for one year. 

With regard to the consequential, as you say, because local government remains the funding mechanism by which we support education, as opposed to the variety of ways in which education is funded in England because of the disparate nature of schools—everything from academies, grammar schools, local education authority schools, free schools—it's more difficult. So, a significant amount of money that you would regard as being badged for education has gone into the RSG, as the appropriate route to get that money into schools. With regard to—

Yes. With regard to—. So, if we look at the Barnett consequentials, the other thing to realise is, although a bunch of money can be badged for one specific area, there are also negative consequentials. So, the overall picture is really, really quite complicated. So, the Government gives with one hand, but actually takes away with the other. So, we identified, with the colleagues in local government, that the settlement that they were anticipating that would see a like-for-like move into their responsibilities is around £220 million. And we have been able to use the money going into local government—that's for social care and education—and we've been able to approximately match that going in.

Okay. So, I accept that Welsh Government has complete control about how it spends on its priorities, but it does seem to me that some of the money that came from the UK, then, just in-year, has gone to other priorities. I'm not criticising that; I just want to make it plain that that's what's happened.

Well, I think what we've been able to achieve here, and let's be absolutely clear, is a significant increase in funding for local government, which is the main mechanism by which our schools have funding. And, on top of that, we have been able to increase the education budget as well, which I'm sure we'll come on to later. Not insignificant amounts of that money will also find their way into schools' budgets. I am under no illusions that this continues to be a challenging time for our public sector—of course it is—but I believe that we have worked really, really hard, both in the local government budget and the education budget, to be able to give our education colleagues, in the widest sense, an opportunity to see some real-term increases. Crucially for me, we await with interest what might come out of the budget in Westminster in March, and also crucially for me, I will want to use the evidence that will come from Luke Sibieta's review to be able to continue to make the case across the Government for expenditure in education, and to identify the best ways in which we can get that to the front line, which continues to be my priority.

10:00

Can I just finish on this one then? The National Association of Head Teachers were here yesterday. They were complaining that the £8 million or maybe £9 million for additional leaning needs doesn't cover what they think schools need to help their children with additional learning needs. The figure that came out from the UK Government towards the Welsh block for ALN was £35 million. There's quite a discrepancy between those two figures. Do you have an explanation as to why ALN isn't getting more money?

Those conversations I've not had with the NAHT, but let me be absolutely clear, whilst we continue with the £20 million that we have pledged over the period of this Government to invest in ALN reform, we have been able to identify additional resources for ALN for the current system. We recognise that there are pressures in the current system ahead of any reform, and we have been able to identify new additional resources that, this time last year, I was not in a position to identify. And I am glad that we have been able to find additional resource for this particular cohort within our education system. That's new money that we didn't have last year, and it will be made available.

Okay, but there was £35 million for it—that was the point I was trying to make. But, thank you. I'll let somebody else in now. Thank you, Chair.

Okay, thank you, Suzy. We've got some questions now from Dawn Bowden.

Thank you, Chair. Good morning. I wanted to ask a few questions around the pupil development grant and the link between deprivation and attainment. But, my first question is about the grant that now stands at over £100 million a year. Now, that's about 7 per cent of the education resource budget, so how confident are you that that represents good value for money and optimal use of the resources? And I'm saying that particularly in light of the committee's inquiry in 2018 on targeted funding, when it was argued that the money could be used in a more effective way. It welcomed the use of the fund, but was suggesting it could be used in a more targeted way. What's your view now in how confident you'd say you are that this is going to be used in the way that the original grant was intended for?

Dawn, I am absolutely, and will always remain, committed to the principle that a child's economic circumstances shouldn't predestine their academic circumstances. And I have, throughout my time outside of Government and now inside of Government, looked to prioritise additional support for children from our poorest backgrounds to support their education, and I'm very pleased that we've been able to make increases to PDG this year. I don't know whether you want me to outline what those new additional resources are, but we, throughout the period of the PDG, have had periodical reviews of the effectiveness of that spend. Those reviews have been positive, although there are always lessons to learn about how that money can be more usefully used. But, I do believe we are able to see some of the effects of this funding.

If we look at our most recent PISA results, what it showed in those PISA results is that a child's economic background—in Wales, you're more likely to overcome that disadvantage than the OECD average. We're able to make improvements, and we can have a discussion about how significant those improvements are, but we have made improvements. But, we have not done that at the expense of our poorer children; we have not done that. And that's just one indication that I think that this money is worth while.

The reviews that we have had of this money demonstrate that, for schools, they regard this money as really, really important. However, one of the reviews did identify, especially for early years PDG, that actually the amount of money that was available actually might not be effective, in the sense it was too small to make a difference. That's why I am really pleased that we have been able to double the amount of early years PDG in this budget. This is responding to what we know: if we can intervene earlier in a child's educational journey, then we can get them off to the best start possible, and we will reap the rewards of that not only in the time of now but we will reap the rewards of that later on. So, bringing up early years PDG to the figure of the general PDG demonstrates our commitment, as a Government, to the cross-cutting theme of early years as well as to the cross-cutting theme of poverty and being able to reduce the impact of poverty on a child's educational chances.

We also are able, within this budget, not only to double the early years PDG but to look at this thorny issue of PDG allocations. The committee will be aware that we pegged those allocations for two years using 2016 pupil level annual school census data. We did that for very genuine reasons, because, at that stage, FSM figures were actually, potentially, dropping and we didn't want to see that money lost from the education system. It also gave schools the ability to plan over a two-year period the amount of money that they would receive.

But, we do know from the latest census data that, actually, free-school-meal entitlement is beginning to climb again, and that there will be children in the system who are entitled to free school meals whose schools may not be receiving PDG for those children's education. The latest figures show us that we will need an allocation of around £2 million to correct that, and that's why we see an additional £2 million in the budget to update PDG figures from the PLASC data.

10:05

So, is it the number of eligible FSMs that is the reason for the increase in the budget?

As opposed to just the number and the increase in the rolls?

Yes, we have more children in the system at the moment who would not be caught by the historic PLASC data that we've used for the last two years. This has been a concern to schools, it's been a concern to me and therefore we've been able to allocate the £2 million.

The early years PDG doubling figure is my response to the cross-cutting theme that we have on early years. All the evidence shows that, rather than trying to fix something in year 10 and year 11 for a child, actually improving investment in the earliest years of that child's education is the best way to support that child. Therefore, this is an opportunity to do that.

Again, this is money that will go direct to schools. It will be passported by local authorities in its entirety into schools' budgets. 

You'll be aware, because you speak to headteachers across the country—. I only speak to them in my constituency, but what they tell me—and I think you mentioned this in answer to some of the questions from Suzy about the overall increases in school budgets—is that will enable schools to use the pupil development grant more specifically for what it's intended to do. The concern that I've had, speaking to some of the headteachers in my constituency, is that they are almost mainstreaming the PDG to plug the gaps of other funding shortfalls. Are you confident now that, with the additional money that is in the overall budget available to schools now, the PDG should be used specifically and wholly for the purpose for which it was intended? 

The terms of the grants to local education authorities and to schools are very clear about what PDG resources should be used for. The appropriate use of the PDG is something that individual schools challenge advisers via our regional consortia have to report on, and those regional consortia report to me. In our accountability measures, even as we change our accountability measures, there will still be a very strong focus on monitoring the performance of our free-school-meal pupils.

I am absolutely clear—. I understand the pressures that individual headteachers feel are upon them, but we are absolutely clear that these resources are to be used specifically to support the educational attainment of our FSM children. I don't know whether there's anything else you want to add, Steve.

The other thing to add from the evaluation was that the great majority of schools now have a very strong tracking system in place that allows both challenge advisers, but also Estyn as they look at schools, to look at how do they identify the spend in this area and how do they evaluate the impact of that as part of the delivery of the programme. So, the transparency of that is significant.

Consortia also have a PDG strategic adviser, so we're able to give best advice to schools. If a school is concerned about, 'Actually, what are the best approaches? What is the evidence that shows that these particular interventions will work?', there is advice available at our school improvement services to be able to assist schools in ensuring that they are using that money on approaches that we know work and that we know will make a difference to those children. And, we will continue to reflect that best practice. There is educational research going on all of the time and we will want to be able to use our strategic advisers in regional consortia to work with schools around, 'What is the latest evidence telling us? What is the latest research telling us about how best we can support children to overcome disadvantage?' But, as I said, we've still got a way to go in closing the attainment gap, but this is a crucial tool in our ability to do that.

10:10

On the access scheme, moving on to that—the PDG access scheme—how much exactly are you going to be spending on that as a result of the additional, I think it's £3.2 million?

So, last year, we increased funding for PDG access to £5 million. We are able to, in the new financial year, add an additional £3.2 million into the PDG access. The scheme that we've been able to devise for this current academic year allows parents to apply for support for uniform and kit for school for years 3, 7 and 10. That reflects on where we were at the beginning of this Government where there was only support available for year 7, when children transitioned from primary into secondary.

We are currently analysing pupil numbers and we'll be working with our PDG advisers and local authorities to identify what is the optimum use of that additional £3.2 million, and I'll be making an announcement shortly about what will be available in the new financial year, recognising that there are a number of schemes that are supported by PDG access. So, everybody is very familiar with the school uniform element of it, but those resources are also available to be able to purchase equipment to allow children to participate in out-of-school activities, sporting activities, cultural activities, and we're also working within local education authorities to create a sustainable element of it in terms of kit stores.

So, for those of us who are familiar with the education system, quite often, children are required to have a piece of equipment to participate in a school trip. I don't know how many times I've bought an item that has only ever been used for that school trip, and then never to be used, and is clogging up the cupboard under my stairs for years to come. So, actually creating a sustainable element where there are kit stores where schools are able to—

Exchanges—and it makes better value for money, it's more sustainable for the environment, and it adds an element of sustainability into the use of this funding. But I'll be making an announcement shortly on how we will use the additional £3.2 million that will be available.

Okay, that's helpful, thank you. My final question, Chair, is just around the new free breakfast pilot for secondary schools. You're putting in £450,000, I understand, for that, but you're only going to be using that and targeting free-school-meals pupils. Is there any particular rationale for that? Is it just around funding? Is it just the cost of making that universally accessible? Because I am a little bit concerned about pupils being identified as 'free school meals' and, clearly, if they're having to come into school earlier to access a free school breakfast and so on—you understand the point I'm making.

Yes, I absolutely understand the point you're making. In terms of our whole-school approach to well-being, stigma associated with FSM is something that we would want to avoid at all costs. As we develop our thinking on this, what we will be looking to do is to respond positively to a problem that has been identified by many headteachers and campaigners around hunger in our secondary school cohort. One of the ways in which we can ensure that we do not create a stigma—. An approach that we are proactively looking at is whether we could add an allowance—a financial allowance—to free-school-meal pupils. So, many systems now operate a cardless system, and actually being able to increase the allowance for that child, therefore allowing them to maybe purchase an item at mid-morning break. So, what we do know—again, for many children, they're purchasing an item at the mid-morning break—if you're an FSM pupil, you're making a choice between purchasing an item at mid-morning break or using the allowance that you're entitled to at the lunch-time break, and we know that that then causes problems for that cohort of children. Therefore, increasing their allowance so they do not have to make that choice at mid-morning break and at lunchtime, 'When do I eat today? Because I can only eat once', is one of the ways in which we could ensure that there is no stigma. With regard to why free school meals—we do only have a limited resource available to us. We do have to target that resource at the children that need it most, and that's why the resource, I believe, is rightly targeted at those children on free school meals who, it is reported to us, often find themselves making that invidious choice about when they eat in the school day. We will look to see how that goes. We will have to monitor how that goes, and it's a pilot in the sense of, if it proves to be successful, if this approach proves to be answering those concerns that have been raised with us, then we will look at the financial resource that's available to see whether we could extend that.

10:15

So, can I be clear, then, that you're offering potentially two options here: an Early Start breakfast provided by the school, or an allowance that they can put on their card? Because it's the early access to a breakfast club, I think, that's the issue.

I think, Dawn, as we—. I think, Dawn, we were probably looking—. The simplest and the easiest way of avoiding that stigma is to look to include an allowance, an additional allowance to that child.

Thank you. We've got some other questions now on pre-16 education from Siân Gwenllian.

Jest holi ychydig bach mwy ynglŷn ag anghenion dysgu ychwanegol, ydy'r £7.75 miliwn ychwanegol yn y llinell wariant ar gyfer anghenion dysgu ychwanegol a'r £1.4 miliwn ar gyfer lleoliadau arbenigol ôl-16 yn ychwanegol at yr arian yn y llinell wariant gwella safonau ar gyfer anghenion dysgu ychwanegol? Ac wedyn, fedrwch chi hefyd gadarnhau'r cyfanswm sy'n cael ei ddyrannu ar gyfer trawsnewid anghenion dysgu ychwanegol a gweithredu Deddf 2018, a beth ydy'r cynnydd cyffredinol yn y flwyddyn ariannol? Hynny yw, rydym ni'n trio gweithio allan y berthynas rhwng y ddwy set o wariant anghenion dysgu ychwanegol.

Just to ask a bit more about additional learning needs, is the additional £7.75 million in the budget expenditure line for additional learning needs and the £1.4 million for post-16 specialist placements on top of the funding within the BEL for raising standards for ALN? And then could you also confirm how much in total is allocated for ALN transformation and implementation of the 2018 Act, and what is the overall increase in the financial year? That is, we're trying to work out the relationship between the two sets of expenditure for ALN.

Okay, I think I caught that. There's some really horrible feedback on the system—it's really difficult to hear you, sorry. But I think I got what you're asking. Can I start with—? The ALN transformation programme remains unchanged, so allocations to support and prepare the system for readiness for the new legislation. There's £20 million over this Assembly, and that remains unchanged. What we are making additional available are two strands, as Siân rightly identified. The first is specialist placements, so these are children who have very specific needs looking to move into further education, usually for a period of a two-year placement—sometimes it's longer, it's three years—and that facility, those opportunities, are not available to them locally within their local provider. Those children are assessed via Careers Wales and an application is made to Welsh Government to fund those specialist placements. What we are finding is that there is increasing pressure on that budget. It is demand-led, and we are legally responsible for facilitating those places. 

So, what we're seeing is relatively stable numbers of applications coming forward, but the costs associated with those placements are potentially growing. And so, the £1.4 million increase in that particular pot will allow us to ensure that we can continue to respond positively to the applications that come before us. Just to give Members some idea: we are currently supporting 242 students, and the average cost per placement, per year, is £56,000. But the costs associated with these programmes are growing, and therefore we're putting additional resources into that particular line to meet the expectations for those children to continue to be able to be placed in specialist placements.

I continue to have dialogue with the WLGA around whether we can begin to look at developing placements closer to home, because many of these placements are not only out of county, they're out of country. And I'm sure all of us would agree that we would want to be able to provide those specialist placements, where at all possible, closer to children's homes. It's certainly what families want, and individuals want. So, we continue to look at how can reprovide, potentially, those services, and how we can develop our ability within country to meet the needs of those students. But, in the meantime, we need to be able to put money into that budget to meet the needs. 

We are then making available an additional £8 million to recognise some of the pressure in the current system ahead of transformation. So, the £8 million and £1.4 million is above and beyond what we had initially anticipated to spend in ALN, and that's the additional money that we're bringing forward in this budget. So, it's separate from ALN transformation, and the ALN transformation money continues to be profiled as we'd originally anticipated it would be.

10:20

Well, the difference between the two categories, as I say, is that we have a programme and a work stream that is around the ALN transformation. So, that is looking at transition support, workforce development, awareness raising of the system and supporting policy implementation. So, that's a discrete work stream that is being led by our transformational leads that are appointed on a regional basis, and there is one for further education as well. The additional money—the £1.4 million for specialist placements will sit within Welsh Government, and the £8 million will be made available to local authorities to help support the day-to-day running of the current system. 

Ocê. Diolch yn fawr. O ran diwygio'r cwricwlwm, rydych chi wedi parhau i roi arian tuag at y diwygiad cwricwlwm a diwygio'r hyfforddiant a'r cymwysterau proffesiynol. Oes yna ddigon o arian yn mynd i fewn i'r maes yma? 

Okay. Thank you. In terms of curriculum reform, you have continued to provide funding towards curriculum reform and the learning and qualifications reform. Is there sufficient funding going into this area? 

So, £15 miliwn, dwi'n meddwl, ie, ar gyfer paratoadau athrawon ar gyfer y cwricwlwm newydd, ac wedyn £750,000 yn ychwanegol i'r BEL adolygu'r cwricwlwm, a £1 miliwn i Cymwysterau Cymru. Ydy hynny'n ddigon?

So, £15 million, I think, for preparation for teachers towards the new curriculum, and then £750,000 in addition to the curriculum review BEL, as well as £1 million to Qualifications Wales. Is that sufficient?

So, there's just under £1 million for Qualifications Wales to recognise the additional work above and beyond what could normally be expected of them as they begin to—. As you know, they're out to consultation at the moment with regard to qualifications reform to reflect curriculum changes. So, that amount of money allows them to have that additional resource, which I think is fair and meets the needs of Qualifications Wales.

I am really pleased—and I hope the committee will be pleased—that we have been able to secure, on an ongoing basis, the £15 million for professional learning. As you are aware, initially, that money was a one-off, and we have been able to demonstrate to the finance Minister the necessity of that remaining within the education budget to continue to support the professional learning of teachers in preparation for the implementation of the new curriculum. 

But when that's distributed across the local authorities, it's not that much money—you know, £15 million sounds a lot, but in the—

It works out—. My understanding—[Interruption.] Yes. My understanding is that it works out about £1,000 for each full-time equivalent. It's the single biggest investment in professional learning that we have ever seen, and rightly so—and rightly so, given what is being asked of the profession on learning. 

Absolutely. What's been very clear to me, from speaking to headteachers, is that money has been transformational for them in their schools, being able to create that time and space for professional learning. They were extremely concerned. They said it's been a game changer for them in terms of being able to prepare for the new curriculum. They were really concerned that it wouldn't be available in this financial year. I was really concerned it wouldn't be available in this financial year. And this allows them to continue to build on that work. What's important to me is to make sure that that money is being used effectively, Siân, and that all schools are engaging positively in professional learning preparation for the new curriculum. And I can give you information, if you want it, about how we will monitor that spend around the £15 million. 

10:25

Yes, I can do a note on that; I can do that. We're also—. It's not just professional learning money in the sense of for individual schools; we are creating and reforming our new networks. So, you will be aware that we have a series of networks to support specific subjects. We will be reforming our networks to reflect each of the individual AoLEs to support pedagogical improvements to the teaching of the new curriculum, and we've made £3 million available to support the implementation of our new AoLE pedagogical networks as well.

And any new resources that would be required for delivering the new curriculum—where do they come from?

Well, you will be aware, or perhaps not, that we continue to look to see what we can do to support schools in that sense. So, late last year, we were able to make available, I believe, just over £300,000, which will be administered by the Welsh Books Council, to make available physical resources for schools, with a particular emphasis on Welsh-medium resources, bilingual resources, Welsh history resources and the Welsh dimension. So, that's money that's being spent at the moment.

Although the budget deal with Plaid Cymru has come to an end, and there were resources in that deal, we will look to continue within the existing within our BELs to be able to continue to make those resources available. But I was able to, just before Christmas, come to a deal with the Welsh Books Council to be able to replicate a scheme that was available a number of years ago that was particularly successful in getting resources out to schools, and that's happening now as we speak.

Okay. Now, Suzy has a supplementary. Before she asks it, can I just remind Members we've got a lot of ground left to cover, so can I appeal for brief questions and brief answers?

It's a short question. It's just about this £15 million for professional development. The previous £24 million, as you said in your own document, went directly to schools. You're not able to say this time that the whole of the £15 million will go to schools, presumably because there is a pedagogical network that is coming into it. Can you give us any steer at all on how much the schools will get and how much—

The £15 million is for schools. There's an additional £3 million for the networks is my understanding.

Well, it says here

'the exact levels of funding going directly to schools'

—from that £15 million—'is to be determined.'

Okay, thank you. We've got some questions from Janet Finch-Saunders now.

Thank you, Chair. Is the £2 million for the new whole-school approach to well-being BEL likely to be a one-off in 2020-21, or is the intention for it to be recurrent funding, and how does it relate to the £3 million in the health and social services MEG, and what type of services are supported by each respectively?

Okay. Is it a one-off? I've only got a one-year budget. It's only fair that I say that out loud. I can't plan any further than that, Janet, but the focus on mental health and well-being in education continues to be an important one for me.

The relationship between my money and the health money is our ability to create a single pot of £5 million to support this work. So, they are not separate; it is demonstrating the cross-cutting nature of this work and a commitment across Government to work together to be able to create that fund. So, I'm very grateful to Vaughan Gething for being able to identify that £3 million, and we will decide collectively together, being advised by the task and finish group's work on the whole-school approach to mental health and well-being, how that £5 million will be spent.

We do know that some of that will be spent, for instance, on increasing the run-through of our child and adolescent mental health service in-reach pilot, taking it through to its evaluation. We're having some early discussions about how that money can be used to support primary schools. We know that the school counselling service is available from year 6 into secondary, but, from the work that we're doing with the task and finish group, we know and we have identified that, again, early years and primary continue to be an area where we need more support. How best we do that in the primary setting we are continuing to discuss, and I would anticipate that some of this £5 million we'll use to do that.

Can I give you an example? It might seem logical that we would simply extend counselling earlier on into a school career. But when you think about what counselling entails, whether counselling is appropriate for a younger child, we have to question—traditional counselling. Because, if you go to a traditional counselling session, it assumes that you are able to reflect internally and be able to change circumstances around you. Well, that's really difficult to do if you're six years old—it's very difficult to do if you're six years old. So, maybe traditional one-to-one counselling isn't necessarily appropriate, but support within the primary school sector is something that I anticipate that money will be used for. And we're looking to the services' development in Gwent—which the Chair will be very familiar with, and I'm sure members of the committee are very familiar with—as a different approach to traditional counselling to support primary-aged schoolchildren.

We've been able, in this financial year, to put money into traditional school counselling services to address waiting times, and we would want to make sure that waiting times remain as good as they can be within the traditional service. So, that £5 million will be used as a single pot to support the work of the whole-school approach. And can I just say, it's not just a whole-school approach, it's a whole-systems approach? In this budget, we're able to re-provide the £2 million that we made available to HEFCW and higher education for mental health, and we're able to respond positively to calls from the FE sector. So there is £5 million in here for the whole-school approach, there is £2 million in here for higher education mental health and well-being support, and £2 million for FE well-being and mental health support.

10:30

Janet, because of the time, we are going to have to jump to question 14 from Siân, if that's okay. Siân.

Cwestiwn ynglŷn â'r cynlluniau strategol Cymraeg mewn addysg a'r targed miliwn o siaradwyr. I ba raddau ydych chi'n hyderus bod darpariaeth y gyllideb yn ddigonol i gefnogi'r gwaith o gyflawni'r gofynion newydd ar gyfer awdurdodau lleol?

A question on the Welsh in education strategic plans and the target of a million Welsh speakers by 2050. To what extent are you confident that there is sufficient budget provision to support delivery of the new requirements for local authorities?

The cost of implementing WESPs, developed under the new regulations, will have to be met under the local authorities' revenue support settlement to them, because they are responsible for planning and providing those Welsh-medium places.

We will continue to use resources within our budget to be able to support, where possible, capital—whether that be childcare or actual new provision within the schools sector. We're currently supporting around 46 projects across Wales with regards to that. We will also look to continue to support the sabbatical scheme. As I said earlier, we're able to reinstate money for Welsh-medium resources to support Welsh-medium education. But in terms of the actual WESP, that falls under local government's responsibilities for the planning of and the delivery of Welsh-medium places. But we will look to support that through a variety of ways.

Okay, thank you. We'll move on now then to talk about post-16. I've got some questions on HE from Hefin David.

And FE. How did you decide the balance between resourcing FE and HE?

The resources that have been made available for HE and FE are allocated to align to ministerial priorities. I've ensured that the higher education action has enough resources to deliver on mine and the Government's commitment to respond to the Diamond review, and then look to support FE in a way that is, again, consistent with my priorities, especially with regard to parity of FE pay.

So, from a strategic sense, how do you satisfy yourself that the balance between the two is optimal?

Well, as I said, we have a policy intent with regard to HE. We were very clear at the beginning of this Government that our priority would be to implement the Diamond reforms, and ensure that, in doing so, the HE budget would not be negatively affected. And I'm very pleased to say that the figures that we're able to make available to HEFCW are in line with our expectations, and the expectations we would have shared with the sector. So, the budget aligns to the direction of travel that we set out at the beginning of this Assembly term, in agreement—not in agreement with, but in dialogue with the sector, and it shows that our reforms are on track. We're not overperforming, we're not underperforming; we're able to do what we said we were going to do.

10:35

Okay. How does the budget do justice to the development of skills, given that the detail shows many of the funding increases are about meeting demand, pay and pensions pressures?

First of all, I think we shouldn’t just dismiss them as, 'Well, you're just meeting the demands of pay pressures.'

No. I am absolutely clear, and we talk a lot, don’t we, about parity of esteem between the school sector and the further education sector and post-16 provision. One of the ways in which we can demonstrate that parity of esteem is by ensuring that FE lecturers working in that sector are paid and receive pay increases similar to that if they we're teaching, for instance, in a sixth-form centre. So, we continue to be able to do that.

With regard to meeting demand, you'll be aware that there has been the ability to identify, with our regional skills partnership, proactively, provision. So, there's a mixture between how we're able to fund FE with some of the traditional approaches to FE, but also—is it £10 million, Huw? Yes, £10 million is specifically designed to respond to the needs of the regional skills partnership in identifying provision to meet the local economic needs, and then being able to support FE colleges to respond positively to that, if that was not, maybe, what was in their curriculum previously, or they weren't doing a lot of that.

Thank you, Hefin. I've got some questions now on HE from Suzy.

I'll keep them as short as I can. You've got £20 million over three years committed to degree apprenticeships. The Higher Education Funding Council for Wales has had £8 million so far, and you're giving them up to about £7 million, I think, this time round. Does that mean that HEFCW is going to have to meet the shortfall somewhere, or have you got plans to give further money to HEFCW for degree apprenticeships?

No. Huw will be able to explain the budget transfers a bit better than I will be able to, but, no, we will make good on our commitment to that £20 million. It will involve a transfer in from the economic development division at some point in a supplementary budget, but we will fulfil our commitment to £20 million. The computer science degree apprenticeships are up and running, our engineering degree apprenticeships are up and running, we continue to have a positive dialogue with Universities Wales around the degree apprenticeship programme, and our thinking is now beginning to move to which next subject areas—

—and frameworks will now be available. We think—not 'we think', we know that we will now be looking to look to move to degree apprenticeship provision in professions allied to health.

Good. I'll be asking you questions about that next year, then. I'm just trying to do this quickly. The student support budget allocation—obviously, you said that the loans will increase in line with inflation, what's going to happen with the grant element? I know you've made much about students getting the equivalent of the national living wage. Is there a distinction between the grants and the loans in this?

Loans will increase along with inflation. I have previously made a statement that it is not our intention to increase grants in line with inflation for the period of this Government.

Because it's a question around affordability and sustainability. So, students will, in total, be able to receive support equivalent to the living wage, but we will not, in this term, be increasing the grant element in line with inflation. But I have to say, Suzy, we continue to provide the most generous system of student support for upfront living costs anywhere in the United Kingdom, and I hope that even across—

—the political divide, we can recognise the impact of our Diamond reforms, especially with regard to part-time students.

Okay. I'm glad to see those are on track, anyway.

The capital allocation to the HE sector is 10 per cent of what universities invested a couple of years ago. They've been borrowing up to 50 per cent as well in order to meet some fairly spectacular investment commitments. Are you content that that balance is sustainable? Obviously, we're under the future generations Act requirements now. Does that worry you at all, then?

10:40

Well, I have to say, first of all, borrowing decisions are a matter for universities—

—and their governing bodies, although HEFCW, of course, as the regulator, would have a role to play in ensuring that new borrowing is prudent. In itself, borrowing isn't an issue, provided it's to support investment and that it is aligned to an institution's strategic priorities and is affordable to them. Indeed, I heard the Chancellor of the Exchequer extolling the virtues of borrowing at the moment just this week, given that interest rates are at a historic low. So, in itself, borrowing is not a problem. I don't know—

So, effectively, it's a matter for HEFCW and you're content to leave it there because you're not worried.

That's great. Just finally from me, we notice that, again, within the HEFCW budget, the teaching funding is being focused on these higher-cost subjects, for reasons you've explained before. Have you done any impact assessments on those universities that aren't offering these higher-cost courses?

Our investment in higher-cost subjects is in line with Diamond recommendations and in line with dialogue with Universities Wales and HEFCW about the need to prioritise those subjects. It also demonstrates how universities have to be alive to, and alert to, where demand for subjects is. This is a strategic challenge to some of our universities. Students are voting with their feet, and there is a growth in demand for these higher-cost subjects and a move away from, perhaps, some of the lower-cost subjects. Individual universities and their governing bodies need to be alert in ensuring that their curriculum is one that is meeting the needs and the demands of students.

But, our investment profiling of the Diamond money around expensive subjects and quality-related research and innovation is entirely in line with the recommendations of the Diamond report, and has been done in agreement with Universities Wales and advice from HEFCW.

Okay, that's fine. I just want to check that those universities that aren't offering these kinds of subjects—have they had enough to meet their ordinary inflationary costs, or is that a matter for them anyway?

Well, it is a matter for those institutions to decide what curriculum they offer to students. Obviously, we're not funding them directly; we're funding HEFCW and then they make allocations.

Okay, thank you. HEFCW have told us, though, that volatile and increasing pension costs and deficits are causing considerable uncertainty and high levels of financial risk for the HE sector. How do you feel that the budget mitigates this?

Lynne, we are not in a position, on a Wales-alone basis, to tackle the issue of higher education pensions. This is a matter that has to be dealt with on a UK level. We continue to push the UK Government and Treasury with regard to this matter, but I'm sure that even HEFCW and Universities Wales would be the first to recognise that this is not an issue that Wales can tackle on its own. Given that we have to make priorities around how public resources and education resources are spent, this is really a matter that has to be dealt with at a UK level.

Thank you, Chair. Just on post-16 education, the sixth-form grant is falling by almost £1 million for 2020-21. Can you explain why that is happening when post-16 education in general is growing—the budget is growing?

Most crudely, it is simply because we're following the students. So, there is a drop in the number of students who are staying within traditional sixth forms. There is a growth in the number of students who are choosing to pursue ongoing education in an FE setting. The budget is aligned to, and the formula is aligned to reflect, actually, where the students are in the system.

So, the money's following the pupils—interesting. So, how does the budget support FE colleges in delivering more flexible and responsive courses in line with your previously stated ambition for more vocational training, employer demands and so on?

That's why we will continue with the skills development fund that I referred to earlier of some £10 million, which allows colleges to respond to the training and priorities identified by the regional skills partnerships, and that money will continue this year.

Okay, that's fine. My final question, Chair, is: how can the Welsh Government ensure that those FE providers that are more reliant on funding uplifts, such as the sparsity uplift, are not disadvantaged by the way that the additional £14 million funding is being distributed amongst providers?

10:45

Okay, well, as always, when it comes to funding formulas there will be people who feel that the funding formula absolutely adequately reflects the needs of their particular institution, and there will be others who will disagree. What we do within the department, and officials do, is have a close working relationship with the FE sector and their representatives to try and ensure that the funding formula that is used is as fair and equitable as possible to reflect the very diverse FE sectors that we have. But, as you will know, we are never going to arrive at a funding formula I think that everybody will feel absolutely meets their needs. But we continue to reflect on that and make changes appropriately, with agreements—

The uplifts are not being increased, are they? The value of the uplifts is not being increased—is that right?

The funding formula has changed in recent years, as the Minister said, to ensure that the money follows the pupil. Those changes in the formula were brought about as a consequence of issues raised by the Wales Audit Office and the subsequent discussion with the Public Accounts Committee, and also recommendations made by ColegauCymru. So, what we've done is seek to implement that, and we've sought to smooth the impact over a number of years so it's not too detrimental to any one institution. But I think the feeling at the time those reviews took place was that several institutions were being held back by the absence of money, and that it needed to be reallocated.

But if we go back to the conversation we were having earlier about the pupil development grant, we wouldn't want to be seeing FE colleges and FE providers in areas of deprivation feeling that—or not just feeling that, but actually knowing that somehow, their funding was less than it had previously been.

Some of what has happened—and it's a different story in different parts of Wales—is that students who may have been in one of those areas may have chosen to go to another place. So we're seeing particularly people coming in from the Valleys into central Cardiff, for example. So, I don't think it's a question of the need not being met; it's a question of where the need is met.

And, of course, we do have mechanisms in place that will be continued in this budget to support the ability of students from a poorer socioeconomic background to continue to access FE. So the education maintenance allowance remains in this budget and there are other forms of student support within the FE sector to help ensure that those students continue to be able to participate in FE, otherwise they may feel unable to do so, and we've been able to maintain those provisions within this budget.

Okay, thank you. We've got some questions now from Hefin.

Why haven't you fully funded the Reid review recommendations?

Okay. I think we accepted the Reid review recommendations in principle, and I do believe that we are making progress on their implementation. So, recommendation 1 was about creating the support function in London, and that has been achieved.

Recommendation 2 was about new funding commitments. I think, in initial response to that, we provided HEFCW with some £6.5 million. This year, I'm providing a further £15 million to HEFCW by reinstating the Wales innovation fund. That was scrapped and got rid of because of financial pressures back in 2014. It was recommended by both Diamond and Reid, and we're able to make that money available.

I think what the Government is doing with regard to research and innovation is recognising that, across the piece, both within the education department and in the economic development department, there are significant amounts of resources that are going into research and innovation, so it's not a recommendation I can address on my own; it's got to be done across Government, and that work continues. Huw could give more details if there was enough time.

Just before you do, Huw, the very clear recommendation in Reid was £30 million a year to incentivise researchers, and you're falling, as far as I can see, about £15 million short on that. Is that fair or—?

But that's not the only money that's available, is it? There's £15 million that we've made available for the research and innovation fund, we're reinstituting quality-related research funding for HEFCW as well, as a result of the Diamond reform, so there's additional money for QR.

Hefin, that is part of the problem, because there are so many disparate funds in which Welsh Government is spending research and innovation money and supporting research and innovation, it is quite difficult actually to tot up exactly what the total quantum is.

10:50

That's what being done at the moment. Because this idea—it is simply not true to say we're not funding this money, because, actually, the Welsh Government, in a variety of different ways, almost Byzantine in their complexity, which is another issue that needs to be addressed, are funding this research. 

So, what you're saying is that the historical issues of how research funding was allocated means that that simple Reid recommendation is harder to follow. 

I think we're saying that it's not wholly clear at the moment how much Government funding is going into research and innovation, and that was part of the third recommendation from Reid. Work is ongoing. My colleague the chief scientific adviser and the finance director are working on pulling those numbers together. A key part of the Reid recommendations was that the money that's there to support the infrastructure should enable money to come from competitive bidding, and that there's a notional ratio there. I'm reasonably confident that that ratio is being achieved, and we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that the UK Government has—

So, what we'd say is that we need to make our sector more competitive to be able to bring competitive funds into Wales, rather than just funding it all ourselves. So, the UK Government talks about spending £8 million on R&I; we're using the reintroduction, with the £15 million, around our QR money, to be able to place our universities in a better place to be able to compete competitively for those resources. So, it's not just a question of rebadging money we're already spending. As I just said, we are investing in QR—

No, that's not what I said. I was just trying to trace it, really. 

Yes, but there is new money going in as well as time to track existing spend. 

Maybe when Huw and the chief scientific officer have completed that piece of work, the committee could have a note about it, setting out your findings. 

And I think one of the key bits of that will be understanding the amount of private funding that you're expected to leverage. You've mentioned it.

There's a range of ratios that happen in practice, but a ratio of 1:1 is not an unrealistic ambition. 

In terms of the amount that comes from Welsh Government, I can't give you a date here, but we can go and find out afterwards. And as soon as it's available, I'm sure that we will be able to provide that to you.

Okay. And what is your view of the optimum balance between basic research and translational research and innovation investment, and how are you going to bring about that balance? Linking basic research into translational research is the holy grail, isn't it? How are you going to achieve that?

Look, I can't comment on—. As I said, because there is money being spent from my department, Ken Skates's department, Vaughan Gething's department, as well as other parts of the Government, I can only comment on the specific funding streams that I have. 'Prosperity for All' and the economic action plan highlight research and innovation and the right levels of skills as the engine that will drive the economy forward, so this has to be taken as a whole-governmental approach, which explains some of the complexity, when we're working across a number of portfolios. It's not something in my portfolio where these discussions are happening, is it?

Just as a final point, does it seem that the complexity of funding beyond the £15 million actually makes it more difficult to achieve the objectives of the Reid review to the extent that they may not actually be achieved?

No, I don't believe so. It's proving challenging, as it always does when responsibility and budgets are stretched across a number of ministerial portfolios. But there is a cross-Government commitment to implementing Reid. I believe that we are doing what we can within our department, as I said, with the research and innovation fund and the QR money, to be able to make good on the bits that we have got control over, and we continue to have those discussions, and officials do, across portfolio to make sure that Reid can be implemented. 

Okay, thank you. Just to close, then, we're going to jump back to the issue of school standards funding with a question from Janet Finch-Saunders. 

Thank you. You'll be aware that the committee had previously expressed some concerns that the £100 million committed for raising school standards in this Assembly—there were concerns about whether it risked becoming a miscellaneous budget line. Now, during the budget scrutiny last year you said you had asked your officials to review the way the £100 million that has been committed was being spent. What were the main outcomes of this work, and how has it impacted on budget allocations for 2019-20 and 2020-1?

10:55

Okay. You're quite right—officials completed an internal exercise to ensure that the £100 million funding continues to support the delivery of 'Our national mission'. More than half of that funding has been focused on three priorities around professional learning and supporting the best resource for improving education in Wales, which is professional development. So, for instance, we've been able to support 778 candidates to undertake the National Professional Qualification for Headship qualification. That resource has been able to train in excess of 648 higher level teaching assistants to support improvements in education. We're using that money to be able to fund a rural schools improvement scheme. We're using some of that fund to cut class sizes. So, that fund absolutely isn't a miscellaneous. All the money used within that particular budget line is there to support the aspirations of 'Our national mission', but it does it in a variety of ways. But half of that money is focused on personnel.

Okay. Given the previous concerns raised by this committee, is it possible we could have a paper on the review?

Just finally from me, then, on the capital funding, the £208 million education infrastructure BEL, can you tell the committee how much of that is for twenty-first century schools, how much is for reducing class sizes, increasing Welsh-medium capacity and delivering the childcare offer, recognising that some of the money is being spent on the same programmes, if you know what I mean?

So, the £208 million covers capital funding right across education. So, that includes the twenty-first century schools programme, Welsh-medium capital—so, Welsh medium is just under the £20 million. The childcare offer is about £44.5 million. Reducing infant class sizes would be £6.5 million for the capital element of building new space for schools. There is £10 million for HE to support an estate rationalisation programme, and there are some specific projects—for instance, the Coleg y Cymoedd carbon neutral project. But the vast majority of that money is going to the twenty-first century schools and colleges programme.

Okay, thank you very much. If there are no more other questions from Members, can I thank the Minister and the officials for attending? We will probably have to write to you about a few issues, because we've tried to cover a phenomenal amount in a relatively short period. But thank you again for attending. You will receive a transcript to check for accuracy, as usual. Thank you.

The committee will break until 11.10 a.m. Thank you. 

Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:58 ac 11:09.

The meeting adjourned between 10:58 and 11:09.

11:05
3. Craffu ar Gyllideb Llywodraeth Cymru ar gyfer 2020-1
3. Scrutiny of the Welsh Government Draft budget 2020-1

Okay. Can I welcome Members back, then, for our second scrutiny session on the Welsh Government's draft budget? I'm very pleased to welcome Vaughan Gething AM, Minister for Health and Social Services; Julie Morgan AM, Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services; Jo-Anne Daniels, who is director of mental health, vulnerable groups and NHS governance; Albert Heaney, director of social services and integration; and Professor Jean White, chief nursing officer. Thank you all for attending and thank you, Ministers, for the paper that you provided in advance of the meeting.

We've got lots to cover, so we'll go straight into questions, starting with some questions on perinatal mental health from Suzy Davies. 

11:10

Thank you, and thank you, everybody. Can I just also say thank you for engaging so well with the committee on the follow-up to the 'Perinatal mental health in Wales' report? With that in mind, obviously, health boards are responsible for setting their budgets for mental health services in line with their own local needs, but can you give us an indication of what changes there have been to the draft budget 2019-20—so, not the one that's coming up—in terms of the level of investment in health services?

Well, in terms of our service improvement funding, we've made perinatal mental health part of that. So, that was the additional £0.5 million that went in in this year that we're still in. And within the additional £7 million for service improvement, that will include perinatal mental health as one of the priorities, and it's then to look at what practical change is made.

There's always a challenge in budget scrutiny, and I've been around the table and in other positions as well about, 'What about the money?', and then, 'What about the policy and the delivery?' The choice we've made to put more money into mental health was a choice that I made after we published the draft budget to make sure that there is additional money to go into service improvement. And the other point, I think, in terms of the policy side is that, of course, I'm going to—well, I expect to be able to, because I haven't done, so far—agree the new 'Together for Mental Health' delivery plan, which will set out a range of those practical challenges and priorities we expect to have, and you'll then get to see our expectation for the service and then how health boards respond to that in making choices for the next financial year. 

So, in the 2020-21 draft budget, the changes that are in that from the 2019-20 budget, with additional money going in, what are the things that you would like that money to achieve that wasn't achieved by the additional moneys last year?

Well, we've said that we expect health boards to meet the all-Wales perinatal mental health standards by the end of this financial year, so, by the end of March, and we want them to meet the relevant Royal College of Psychiatrists standards by the end of the next financial year.

And then, the other part—without pre-announcing, because I haven't made the decision yet on 'Together for Mental Health'—is that there'll be more in the delivery plan about our expectations on achievement and delivery, and that's why it's 'What about the money?' and then linking that up to the policy priorities, of which there will be more detail, like I said, when I do that. And so, that will obviously come to all Members, and I'm expecting to have questions in the Chamber about the delivery plan when I've determined and decided—. 

Well, if I could just tease one thing out of you, and that's about how much money or additional money is going to be specifically targeted at perinatal—sorry, community perinatal mental health, which, of course, plays into the bigger picture, but has been a concern for this committee. 

I haven't set within the budget a specific allocation for community perinatal mental health. This is the balance and the sum of the choices. So, on the one hand, we want health boards to work with each other, because some of this requires them to work with each other. When we talk about a mother and baby unit, that requires people working together. We then also want to look at their local populations and to be responsible for understanding the level of need with other partners and responding to it.

And that's on the one hand, then, on the other, I understand, being in your position, you want to say, 'Well, what's the specific sum of money for this area that you're requiring health boards to spend?' It's quite difficult to then, therefore, say, 'Actually, I've allocated a separate amount that must be spent on a community perinatal mental health service', rather than the policy priorities that will be about improvement in community perinatal mental health, and they'll need to demonstrate that in terms of outputs and outcomes. And I'll want to see that money is being invested to actually deliver that. Now, it's not all about money and that's again part of the challenge of budget scrutiny, but I want to see improvement, and I'm sure that when you give me an opportunity to return over the coming year, as I'm sure you will do, you'll want to know not just about the money; you'll want to know what difference it's made. 

Thank you. You're going to be getting some questions from others about children's rights impact assessments later on, I'm sure, but in terms of setting the budget as you have done, can you give me some indication about what thought was given, in terms of perinatal services, to the impact on children of not carving out a space for community perinatal services specifically? 

11:15

Because in setting the budget and in me determining that more money is going to go into the mental health ring fence—and I'm being clear that there is money for service improvement—perinatal mental health will be one of the priorities where I expect to see improvement delivered. 

Well, that's about us understanding whether health boards have not just met the standards by the end of March, but whether they continue to meet them. Because that then gives us a basis to understand objectively: well, are health boards delivering the improvements required? We've got a range of improvement work that's ongoing and there's not just the work that's done by professionals but actually the relationship to us and to Government, to Jo-Anne and to Jean in particular in their respective roles, about whether that improvement is there and is real.

As I say, I know you'll get more opportunities to ask me that in the coming year about whether I've actually delivered against that as well. So, it's not just about the end of March; it's actually about whether that gets sustained then through the next year as well as the achievement of the next set of standards from the college of psychiatry. 

Okay, thank you. And just finally from me, are you able to give us, shall we say, an updated estimate of any funding required to establish the specialist inpatient mother and baby unit in Wales that we've been hoping we'll see?

'No' is the straight answer. I'm not going to invent a figure because—. This is frustrating for me as well as for Members in this room and outside, but when I wrote to the committee setting out where we were—. I don't yet have an estimate for that because the work isn't fully complete and I need to have the business case for that to be able to do that. But we do expect there to be an interim solution within the same health board area, but the permanent answer will be that I want to see a service that is up and running whilst the business case on a permanent mother and baby unit is provided. As soon as there is progress on that, I'm happy to undertake to write to the committee to set out that we are there and what that means, because I know, again, this is not something that's just going to end at the end of today's session.

Well, thank you, because this isn't going to go away. 

If you have it by next year's budget, that would be very interesting to know. Thank you. 

Obviously, it's been two years since the committee recommended there should be mother-and-baby provision in south Wales and in north Wales. In terms of the interim solution you've referred to, is there money in the budget for that? 

I expect that money—. You see, the money for the interim solution—we've given health boards a fair chunk of additional money and I haven't held back a sum of money in Welsh Government reserves to simply go into that. The normal process for allocating capital that goes above and beyond discretionary capital, I expect that to come in and for me to make a decision in the normal way. 

Okay. And as you know, the committee's going to be following up that work very shortly.

So, we'll move on then, now, to talk about the emotional well-being and mental health of children and young people. Hefin.  

Can I ask the level of investment in children and young people's mental health services in the draft budget and how you're going to track that expenditure to ensure that the investment is having an impact on improved outcomes for young people? 

Okay, thank you. There are a couple of specific things—and I know you've had the education Minister here earlier as well—so, you won't be surprised to hear me refer back to the work we are doing that is around the whole-school approach, but is about more than what just takes—[Inaudible.]—specific money that's gone into further extending the school counselling service, but also the work that we're doing, which will then have a financial consequence as well, about whether further extension of the school counselling service would or wouldn't make sense, but actually about dealing with the level of need that exists. I know this came up in the Chamber yesterday, but the school counselling service is a service that helps to address and support the emotional needs of children and young people in a way that prevents a requirement to go into more specialist services.

But the £20 million that's gone into the ring fence—we expect health boards to set that out against priorities and you know that children and young people's priorities are part of that. They'll be one of the priorities in the 'Together for Mental Health' delivery plan and, in turn, the impact. Well, at the joint executive meetings where my officials, including the chief nurse and others, go and sit around the table with the executive teams of each health board, this is part of the point of scrutiny about what's happening.

You can also expect to see more on what the transformation fund projects have been delivering and some of those are specifically about improving children and young people's mental health and well-being. So, on some of that, it isn't about saying there's a specific sum of money that I have set aside for children's mental health and well-being, but there is an investment choice that's being made into services and there's a clear policy priority that's been there. You'll see that we have invested some money from this department to go into the whole-school approach the previous year as well as adding to that in this year as well. So, there's real money—but, again, it comes back to seeing the impact as opposed to just saying that there is a sum of money and that's all that's required, because all of us know that lots of the protector factors are largely outside the health service and it's about how we act with others, at an earlier point. 

11:20

You will know that recommendation 27 in the 'Mind over matter' report, which was rejected by the Government, wanted you to undertake closer scrutiny of how the health boards are allocating that funding. So, how can you be confident that the processes and implementation of policy that you've identified is actually happening?

Partly because if you look at what we're doing around the whole-school approach, there is proper engagement from the health service about that and recognising that they have to be part of the answer, and part of the answer at an earlier point rather than saying, 'Here's the criteria for people who want to access a specialist service'. So, it isn't just about the improvement in the child and adolescent mental health service that matters and the money we've invested there; it is about how we track what's happening on mental health delivery. And you'll see more of that in the year when we get to publish, finally, over this next year, some of the data around achievement against the measure. But you can also expect to see that in terms of the fact that for the additional funding for service improvement, one of the conditions we agreed was that the local mental health partnership boards had to agree and sign up to that. So, it's not just the health service determining for itself. It is then about us tracking, 'Well, what's the impact? What does that then mean and how can we see an evidence base for whether there's been improvement or not', and there's a different range of measures to look at.

I just feel like there's a lack of specificity in your answer and that you're answering quite broadly—'We expect to see' and you will give us more information later in the year—but I feel like you could be more specific about how you are ensuring that each of the seven health boards are delivering on it. 

Obviously, the joint executive team process is a real part of the regular accountability that takes place. So, that is part of the direct accountability to understand what's been achieved. The regular engagement that myself and the deputy Minister have with health board chairs and vice-chairs, that's definitely about accountability and whether improvement is taking place or not. There'll be much more scrutiny about that when we get to publish more data and information about achievement. So, you will get to see, in harder ways, whether or not that's happening. And that is absolutely followed up from an accountability point of view—so, not just reporting but accountability—about whether those services are improving against the expectations that not just we have, but that the health boards themselves have as well. 

Okay. I'd like to look specifically at some of the issues around mental health services for children and young people. I don't know if you're aware that we've written to the health boards and asked about their allocation of funding and they've written back to us in varying degrees of detail. So, I'd like to ask some specific questions. What do you think the benefits might have been of splitting this year's additional mental health funding allocation between younger persons and adult categories, and would you consider that to be an approach that might be helpful in the future? 

I don't want to dismiss that out of hand and say, 'No, absolutely not—never, never, never', but I'd need to be persuaded that it's helpful. Part of the challenge—. To be fair, you've asked questions about transition between children and young people's services and adult services, and if you then say there's a specific sum of money, then you expect that once you say, 'This is for this group of people', you end up having gatekeepers to how and where that money's spent. And actually, we're looking for a service that looks at that person through their life course and supports them in their context.

So, if that's what we want and how we expect services to behave, the way that funding is allocated matters. If we then said there's a line between that, I think that could get in the way of providing the service we want. If there's a way to do that that wouldn't deliver that in practice I'd be interested but I would need to be persuaded that it wouldn't create more problems than it potentially solves. This comes back to: are we interested in just tracking the money, or are we more interested, which is where I start from, in understanding the impact of the investment choices we've made and the impact that has on the direct lived experience of the children and young people that we're interested in?

11:25

And I think the suggestion of splitting is to achieve that, but you're suggesting there are those unintended consequences, which are very real. Okay. Perhaps we'll come back to that in the future.

In previous years, you've allocated non-recurrent funding to health boards in order to reduce waiting times for primary and secondary CAMHS services. And health boards, in their responses, have told us that's been helpful in clearing backlogs. But, what they've also said is that recurrent investment is vital to ensure that waiting time performance is sustained. How are you going to address that?

Well, we put additional growth into the mental health ring fence. That was a choice that I made in recent weeks. So, actually, there is something here about the response from health boards that is, of course, correct—of course it needs to continue to invest in a sustainable service. But, that isn't saying we've got the money that we've got, and a significant increase in the budget. But, we can't possibly improve what we're doing without even more money over and above that. Health boards are getting a proper uplift in their funding, much greater than any other public service, given the budget that we have. And it can't be the case that the answer is, 'We'll bank what we've got and we'll then say that, to deliver any further improvement, there's got to be additional resource coming out of other parts of Welsh Government or the reserve', that isn't appropriate. So, it is about health boards meeting their responsibilities as whole population organisations, and that goes back to not just the reporting but the scrutiny as well. So, I'm not particularly sympathetic to any argument that says that it's impossible to improve further the responsibilities they already have and priorities they already recognise without more money going in over and above the significant uplift that we've announced to health board budgets.

Okay. And moving on to the next point, the figures provided by the health boards suggest there's been additional investment in crisis and out-of-hours care services, but that remains an area of concern. Could it be the case that costs relating to these locum and agency staff to provide services is giving a false impression of investment?

No. That's about having sustained investment, and actually having the staff to be able to do that. And it's not all about direct health service provision. Because part of the challenge about crisis support is that crises don't always conveniently take place in a health service facility. And if you think about the work that has been done with police services, for example, about crisis support in the community, and what that looks like—. So, it's about the health service, again, working with others. But you have seen real investment in crisis services. And, actually, what all of us—including health boards—want to see is the ability to invest in those services with permanent staff as the preference. And, again, we've seen that there have been deliberate choices made about investing in those crisis services.

So, do you think there is a recruitment and retention issue with regard to crisis services?

Well, yes, there's a recruitment and retention issue in regard to almost every part of the health service. That's just an undeniable reality.

So, doesn't that mean that that problem will be sustained, and will inevitably continue to draw in money and create these problems?

But that's about getting ahead of where you are with non-permanent staff in any part of the service. So, it's about a service that is stable, that is delivering, and actually about persuading people to make more permanent choices around working there. And some of it is about the certainty over funding, for some people; if they know they're working in an area where funding is not recurrent, that does affect choices people make, and not just in the health service but everywhere else as well. But it is actually about creating the right service and getting people to sign up to permanent terms. But we're not in a position to require people to do that. It is, after all, a voluntary act to attend for work; we can't require people to be in the workplace.

Okay. In their evidence, health boards provide a breakdown of expenditure over different services, and some said that costs were not identifiable whereas others have provided some specific figures. So, for example, figures have been provided in investment in psychological therapies, but the figures seem to fluctuate across different health boards. Is the reason why progress in relation to the provision of psychological therapies for children and young people has stalled because of that lack of clarity across health boards?

11:30

Well, I haven't seen the figures that you're referring to, but there is always a challenge about how money is allocated and the basis on which people understand the question they're being asked and the answer they give. Actually, it comes back to: there's money that we're investing in the service and I'm interested in seeing an improvement in outcomes. In the scrutiny, for example of the vice-chairs, I don't say, 'Tell me how much you're spending.' I say, 'I can see the figures, and you can see the figures too. What are you doing to improve those outcomes?' Because different health boards will need to make different choices about where they are with the relative level of need that they have and how well they meet that. So, I wouldn't expect to see a uniform picture of exactly the same amount of investment in each place, because the need of the local population isn't always going to be exactly the same. 

But isn't one of the problems the fact that we don't know how much is being spent? The committee has asked for this information off health boards and has had different information back off different health boards. So, we haven't actually been able to identify what is being spent on specific services. Do you recognise that that's a problem in terms of driving improvement and accountability? 

Well, from my point of view, again, I can't comment on the figures that I haven't seen, but I wouldn't be surprised if you got different responses. I would expect there to be different responses and that the health boards would be able to explain about how and why they're investing in services overall and the specific areas that you asked for. I would expect health boards to provide you with an answer, though. I wouldn't expect them to say that they can't tell you.

[Inaudible.]—between the information provided from different boards.

I mean, why can one health board tell you how much they're spending on psychological support and another health board not? How do you then drive improvement in that area if you can't get a consistent answer from health boards? I think it's a problem across the board, really, for the committee. 

Well, I'd expect the health board to be able to tell you what they're doing to improve each of those areas, including some of the answers about how they spend money, and to give you an honest answer about if money is being spent in more than one area that they think has an impact. They should be able to set that out, rather than not to give an answer. But again, I'm talking in a hypothetical way because I haven't seen—

They are on the agenda. The papers have all been published. Hefin.

But then we could put it to you, Minister, and say, 'Well, you must have had the same experience we've had when you've tried to interrogate how funding is allocated in different boards. And different boards have different procedures and different ways of presenting data. Given that that data is presented differently in each board, it becomes very difficult to compare funding streams between boards.' Have you not had that experience, because that's certainly the experience that the committee has had?

Of course I know that health boards spend money on different priorities and sometimes calculate how they do that and the reason they do that in different ways. But then that's because they're meeting the needs of their local population. That doesn't mean they all have to have an exact, uniform approach to doing that.

But it's not that; that's not the point. The point is that some boards will be able to give you a specific audit trail of how money has been spent in a specific area and another board will say, 'Well, we can't quantify that. It's very difficult to present that data.' That's the problem.

That, for me, gets back to not just presenting the data but what that tells you about whether you are investing in the right areas to deliver the improvement. Health boards should be able to look at that. And if they can't, they need to address that.

If you go back to when the delivery unit goes in to examine an area, they look at a range of different things. They often end up helping health boards to understand what they're doing, how they're doing it, and whether there's an impact. And it always comes out with not just challenges but potential areas for improvement for them to go at as well. That's part of the point and the purpose of the delivery unit going in. So, I'm not surprised that you've had different answers.

I haven't read the answers that the health boards have given. There's plenty to read in advance of these already. But I'll happily go and look at them, because I would expect that health boards should give you an answer as a committee that says: 'Here's what we think we're investing in, in the different areas of our budget, to have an impact in this area, and here's how we set it out.' I don't think that's an unreasonable question. I think each health board should give you an answer, even if—

But the further issue is it should be consistent between the boards as well.

Well, no, I don't actually think that it should be. Because I think they should be able to explain, if they are taking a different approach, how and why, and how and why are they adding other things in. I think that that's a completely legitimate expectation, but I wouldn't start from the position of saying that there should be an absolutely uniform approach to doing that.

I would argue that there's a case to be made that comparison between boards should be transparent, if possible, and it isn't at this point in time.

I think it should be transparent, even if that transparency includes an answer about why different figures are provided between health boards about how they're going about that work. I think that's completely fair.

11:35

Okay, I think we're going around in circles a bit now—

—but there is a point of clarity that is worth pursuing in future there.

And then finally, my last question, a number of health boards make the point that spend on tier 4 in-patient services is expected to increase as new services are achieved and work is taken forward to develop in-patient care services further. So, with that in mind, what additional funding will there be from the Welsh Government to support that, and where can it be found in the draft budget?

Well, we don't know how much that is, so I can't really allocate a sum of money for a service that I don't know about, because the work hasn't been completed yet in terms of the Welsh Health Specialist Services Committee, in terms of the work that is under way to understand exactly what that provision would require. So, once that work is completed, if health boards themselves, given the investment we've made, are not able to do that, I'd then be in a position to come back and say when I would expect that to be done, and if there is a sum of money that we would make available or not. Because it does depend on what's being done and what's being proposed: the service specification, the model, how much the capital costs are, and where the staff costs come from as well. So, I'd need to know all those things before being able to give you an answer to the question.

Okay. We've got some questions now on improvement funding from Dawn Bowden.

Earlier, you alluded that just throwing money into the pot isn't the only answer; and I think that was part of what the transformation fund was about, it was about pump-priming something to change the way that services are delivered for the future and so on. So, how confident are you that the transformation funding that's been allocated so far is being used to establish those new and innovative services and is not just being used to plug gaps? Have you got evidence of what is happening in those kinds of initiatives and whether those will make a long-term difference?

Are we talking about the mental health transformation fund that we renamed to avoid confusion with—

—the transformation fund that goes alongside 'A Healthier Wales'? Because within that transformation fund—'A Healthier Wales'—there are at least two areas, Gwent with a big project, but also a project in north Wales, that are looking at transforming and improving the well-being and prospects of children and young people. So, there is funding in that space, it's not just in the space of what we're now calling the service improvement fund to distinguish it from the other transformation fund.

And yes, I don't know if Jo-Anne or Jean want to give you some more details, it is monitored by officials, there are milestones that are monitored and there are a range of examples of new services that are being provided in there. So, going back to some of the street triage and crisis care services as well, yes, you can see that. And a range of areas have got relatively similar ideas. So, a single point of access is not just in one part of Wales. It might get called something slightly different in different parts of Wales, but there's a lot of commonality in some of the answers being provided.

Yes. So, we've got different streams of funding. So, apart from the overall allocation, we've got all these different streams of funding. So, we've got the mental health transformation fund, we've got the mental health service improvement fund, we've got the regional partnership board funding, and then we've got the integrated care funding scheme. So, we've got all these different pots of money that are coming in, and it kind of goes back to the questions that Hefin was asking earlier. So that I can get a better understanding of what steps you take to monitor how those different funding streams are actually meeting their intended objectives, what are you doing to ensure that you know that this extra money going in for that particular purpose is actually achieving its objective?

Yes, we do have that, and it might be helpful if Jo gave a specific example of how officials do that and the report that comes in to me to see that.

So, just to clarify, there are only two funding streams that go to health boards for mental health provision: the main funding through the ring fence, and then the service improvement fund, which is, as the Minister said, the new name for the transformation fund. So, those are now one and the same.

The service improvement fund is allocated to health boards on the basis of submissions that they make to us for new ways of working. So, in presenting those, if you like, 'bids' to us, that's one of the ways in which we seek to ensure that that funding is being used for new service delivery and new models of working rather than just being absorbed into service delivery, business as usual. So, they submit those plans to us, we'll scrutinise those, we'll test and challenge and go back and ask questions. If we're satisfied with those service improvement proposals then we'll release the funding, and, through the course of our engagements with health boards, we'll be looking at how those service improvement plans are actually developing in practice. Again, as the Minister said, we have six-monthly joint executive team meetings where the health boards will present us with a range of performance data, including performance data relating to mental health and specifically around children's mental health services, where we'll be looking at what the impact of some of that service delivery redesign—

11:40

—and redevelopment is.

Sorry, Jo-Anne, for interrupting you there, sorry. What sort of things does that performance data include? So, what outcomes are you expecting? What are you looking for? How will you know that this money has achieved this because this particular performance target has been reached? 'Target' may not be the right word, but you know.

So, clearly, one of our key performance indicators is performance against the Measure, and, as you'll be aware, we've been working to break down reporting on the mental health Measure between adults and children and young people, and we hope to be able to be in a position to publish that later next year. We also have management information—for example, there's a reference made to psychological therapies. One of the things we look at is what the waiting times are around psychological therapies. Again, that's an area where we're considering how we can bring more transparency to the reporting of that data. Neurodevelopmental services—. We also look at information around perinatal mental health services—so, how many mothers are being seen by the service. We look at things like how many people are being referred to the service, how many people are then being accepted into the service, because you'll be aware that, across a range of mental health services, the issue of inappropriate referrals, or not directing people to the right point that is able to provide the right help, has been an issue. So, it's a range of data that is publicly available and other information that is management information shared between us and the health board that we're able to look at.

Okay. Okay, that's helpful, thanks for that. My final question is just around the written evidence that health boards have provided to us about preventative spend. They've said that that can be quite a challenge in focusing on achieving key performance targets. Are you satisfied that the funding allocation in the budget is sufficient to ensure greater focus on prevention? Because the health boards seem to think that that is a challenge for them.

Well, it's a challenge for everyone about shifting resourcing to an earlier point, because lots of the focus within the health service—we saw it yesterday, we'll see it when I next have questions—will be about the acute end. It'll be about the areas where we measure time and activity, and that's where lots of the focus is, so it's difficult because that's an expectation of the Government about 'we want you to improve these areas', and it's also the wider public and political expectation, where lots of the commentary takes place. But, actually, just because it isn't easy doesn't mean to say that it isn't either expected or achievable, because if you look—and I don't know if you've taken the opportunity to read the national integrated medium-term plan that I've published, or indeed the guidance, the planning guidance, that we've given to health boards—we're really clear in that about the requirement to move to a more preventative and early intervention approach. So, the £100 million transformation fund, the 'A Healthier Wales' transformation fund, well that is about getting people to the point where you're looking at a new model of service, to be earlier intervention, more prevention, not just doing things in a hospital and looking to find new ways to spend money there. So, it's part of what our expectation is, but that's about our policy and our planning approach as opposed to trying to say there is a sum of money that is just about prevention and earlier intervention.

And to be clear, I was talking specifically—because we're talking about mental health—I was talking specifically about the whole-system approach to children and young people's mental health, so your comments are still relevant in terms of that whole-system approach.

Absolutely. So, the £0.5 million we're investing in school counselling, the money we invested in the whole-school approach—they're convenient things to have sums of money attached to them, but they're only part of it, because we all know that there's lots more that goes in outside that is outside health, as well as what the health service does as a universal service outside of school in any event. So, it's part of the reason why I've got some sympathy about not wanting to put a figure on the sum of money that is spent on prevention. But I do think we need to be better, and health boards too, at describing about areas of their spend that they think are preventative, and can demonstrate are preventative, as opposed to saying, 'It's too difficult, so I can't give you a figure.'

11:45

Yes, because the health boards seem to think that their challenge, really, is focusing on performance targets, and you can't really set a performance target for a whole-system approach to mental health and well-being, can you, that's the thing.

Well, there are targets around a range of other measures, but that doesn't mean to say that it isn't their job to also look at having a system that does intervene earlier, so you take out some of the demand and the need for your acute services, wherever they are, whether it's for children or adults, whether it's mental health or physical health. So, it is still my expectation, because you see it very clearly in our policy programmes, you'll see it in the 'Together for Mental Health' delivery plan—there's an expectation that we do more work at an earlier point, and not just at a point of crisis. 

Thank you. Siân Gwenllian now has some questions on looked-after children. 

Rydych chi fel Llywodraeth wedi gofyn i awdurdodau lleol ddatblygu cynlluniau pwrpasol ar gyfer lleihau'r nifer o blant sydd yn derbyn gofal. Oes yna arian ychwanegol yn mynd i'r awdurdodau lleol i'w cynorthwyo nhw efo'r gwaith o ostwng y niferoedd?

You as a Government have asked local authorities to develop plans to reduce the number of children who receive care. Is there additional funding being given to those local authorities to aid with this work of reducing the number of children?

Thank you, Siân, for that question. I think the important point to make about the reduction plans is that we've asked each local authority to develop its own plans, and each local authority has come up with its own estimate. There hasn't been a requirement for them to cost those reduction expectations. That hasn't been what we've asked them. We've asked them to change the mode of thinking, and to move to a situation where they are trying to reduce the number of children who come into care. So, finance hasn't come into it in that sort of way. But, of course, we are in the background of the considerable amount of finance that we are putting in in terms of putting in money into the RSG for social services, money for workforce pressures—a £30 million grant for workforce pressures, going up to £40 million in 2020-21—£30 million to the regional partnership boards, and, of that, £15 million is specifically for children and young people. 

So, we are specifically giving money in order to help local authorities, but that is in the generality. They are coming up with the specific plans of their own volition, and, in fact, in many ways, this is a less expensive way of moving ahead, because I'm sure you're aware of the hugely expensive amount of money that is spent on some of the out-of-country and out-of-county placements. And if you are able to place children in accommodation in the local authority nearer to home, for very good reasons—it's not always the right thing to do, but often is—that often means a reduction in expenditure. So, I think it's very important to remember that as well. 

But there's initial expenditure, of course, to move to that kind of situation. So, there's nothing specific that you're giving to local authorities on that. 

No, certainly, we have got the money available, capital money available—£15 million available to build accommodation, for example. We've got a very good example in Gwent, where they built accommodation called 'Rose Cottage'—some of you may have heard about it—where they were able to bring, I think, four children back from out of county, and that was a saving to the local authority. So, no, we've definitely put in funding and efforts to make sure that the money is available. And an additional—. We are providing, every year, money for edge-of-care services, money for personal advisers. We've got the St David's Day fund. We fund the Reflect programme. So, all this money is there, which is there to help the local authorities to make that change around.

I accept the point you're making; it's like turning a ship around, isn't it, and there is initial expenditure, but that, as I say, is provided in the money that we provide, and there is a saving. 

11:50

Ond, wrth gwrs, fel rydych chi'n ei ddweud, ar hyn o bryd mae'r mwyafrif o'r gwariant yn mynd i'r pen mwyaf drud o'r sbectrwm yn hytrach nag i wasanaethau i atal problemau. Dyna mae Cymdeithas Cyfarwyddwyr Gwasanaethau Cymdeithasol yn ei ddweud wrthym ni—hynny yw, bod yr adnoddau'n cael eu defnyddio fwyfwy i ddarparu cymorth brys i blant a theuluoedd sydd eisoes ar y pwynt argyfwng, sy'n golygu mai prin ydy'r arian i fuddsoddi mewn ymyrraeth gynnar. Rydych chi'n sôn am y llong yma—ydy'r gyllideb yn caniatáu i awdurdodau lleol symud i ffwrdd o wariant acíwt tuag at waith sylfaenol i atal problemau? Pryd ydym ni'n mynd i weld y sifft mawr yma'n digwydd?

But, of course, as you say, currently the majority of expenditure is going to the most expensive end of the spectrum rather than to preventative services. That's what the Association of Directors of Social Services has told us—that the resources are used increasingly for emergency support for children and families who are at crisis point, and so then the early intervention support is lacking. Is the budget allowing local authorities to move away from that kind of acute expenditure to that work to prevent problems? When are we going to see this great shift happening?

Well, it will take some time to see the shift happening, because the plans that we've come up with are three-year plans. So, we're not expecting this to happen overnight. We've seen some encouragement—although, you know, it's very, very early days—in terms of there are fewer children for the last two years actually coming into care, which I think is a reflection of the money that we've put forward for preventative services. But, as I say, it is a long haul and we don't expect any quick results. 

But I think that there are definitely—. I've listed some of those services that are already there that are to emphasise the preventative work, and that is, I think, what we wanted to be able to do—for the local authorities to be able to shift their work to that preventative work so that we don't have that need for so many children to come into care. Sorry, did you want to speak, Albert?

Just supporting what the Minister is saying—the £15 million that's been designated for children within the regional partnership board spend, already we're seeing some really important initiatives that are in that space that you quite rightly ask about. So, if I just give a couple of illustrations very briefly, one is in west Glamorgan. They have the multi-agency placement support service. So, they've been actually working with children—an enhanced service across the region around therapeutic support. In the first half of the year, they've worked with 64 children, and actually a different range of therapists—educational and psychology—but they have found with those children that they have increased placement stability, which is really quite important in terms of improving outcomes for children.

Another service that Ministers have mentioned around Gwent—Gwent have an enhanced edge-of-care service and already, in the first half of the year, they've worked with 126 children and families to support them. So, we're really beginning to see some really positive outcomes being achieved with that financial investment into partnership work.

And I think one of the important points to make is that, as a result of this plan to try to bring down the number of children in care, Albert and his officials have visited every local authority in Wales and have had intensive discussions with them about where they are, where they're going, and have highlighted an enormous amount of good practice. But it has been very profitable in enabling us to have a whole picture of how things are moving in Wales. And, as I say, there are some good signs.

Ond mae'r problemau mawr yn dal i fodoli, onid ydyn, efo 9.2 y cant o blant yn derbyn gofal gan awdurdodau lleol Cymru wedi bod mewn tri lleoliad—mae 630 o blant wedi bod mewn tri lleoliad gwahanol. Ac wedyn mae'r broblem yma o 20 y cant o blant yn cael eu lleoli y tu allan i Gymru. Ac mae hynny i weld—. Does yna ddim golwg bod hwnna yn mynd i leihau. Dwi'n derbyn beth rydych chi'n ei ddweud, ond ein gwaith ni, wrth gwrs, ydy pwyso i'r gwaith yna brysuro ac i'r gwaith yma gael blaenoriaeth. Ydych chi'n cytuno efo hynny?

But great problems still exist, don't they, with 9.2 per cent of children looked after by local authorities in Wales having been in three placements—630 children have been in three different placements. And then we have this problem of 20 per cent of children being placed outside Wales. And that seems—. That doesn't seem to be improving at all. I accept what you're saying, but our job, of course, is to call on you to accelerate that work and for this work to be given priority. Do you agree with this?

Oh, absolutely, and it is one of my top priorities. In fact, I spend an enormous amount of my time on this issue, because, obviously, the health and the well-being of our children who are on the edge of care or who are being looked after must be our priority, because they are our most vulnerable children.

In terms of the 9 per cent of children who've had those three or more placements, there is a small—only 1 per cent—decrease from the previous year. So, that is a small improvement in those numbers. And, of course, for children who have had such difficult lives and who are being looked after, stability is absolutely the key. So, any movements such as you've described—obviously, we've got to really work against those happening. So, what we do need to do is we need to have sufficient high-quality placements available for children, and I think we've already discussed that a bit, in terms of the sort of care that we need.

We also need more local authority foster carers, and we've got a campaign with the national fostering framework in order to try to improve that. So, we are working to increase the amount of placements that we've actually got, because that is the key, to have the good placements and, hopefully, to have local placements for those children that we're not able to prevent actually coming in to care. Sometimes a move is planned and is the right thing to do because it can be bringing children nearer to their siblings in particular. Children in care always mention to me when I see them that they want to be near their brothers and sisters, really. It's a very key issue. So, sometimes there is a good reason to bring children and to make a move for children. And, sometimes, children are placed only for a short period before finding a longer period. But those situations, which we know do happen, where placements do break down, that's what we're working very hard to try to prevent.

11:55

Ocê. Mae yna un agwedd yn naratif y gyllideb ddrafft sy'n fy mhoeni i ychydig bach ac yn debygol o fod yn gynhennus. Mae o'n nodi yn y gyllideb ddrafft fod y Llywodraeth yn gweithio efo swyddfa comisiynydd cenedlaethau'r dyfodol i ystyried bondiau effaith gymdeithasol fel model buddsoddi ar gyfer y dyfodol. I mi, mae hynny'n canu clychau, mae'n fy nychryn i o glywed hynny, oherwydd mae hynny i mi yn arwydd o breifateiddio ac o weithio efo cwmnïau preifat ac yn y blaen i ariannu'r gwasanaethau holl-bwysig yma ar gyfer plant mewn gofal. Pa mor bell mae'r trafodaethau hynny yn mynd? Ydych chi'n hapus efo'r trywydd yma?

Okay. There is one aspect in the draft budget narrative that does concern me slightly and is likely to be a cause for argument. It's noted in the draft budget that the Government is working with the future generations commissioner's office to look at social impact bonds as an outcomes-based investment model for the future. For me, that does ring alarm bells from hearing that, because for me that's a sign of privatising and of working with private companies and so forth to fund these vital services for looked-after children. How far have discussions gone, and are you happy with this path?

Can I just say there's a lot of interruption? But I got the question—I heard the question, yes. Well, we haven't got very far at all. It's exploration only, shall we say, and no decisions have been made.

Am I right in thinking that that would include exploring working with private companies? 

Not necessarily. I mean, in terms of the voluntary sector, the public sector, non-profit-making organisations—the private sector does not necessarily have to be involved. This is a method that is widely used. I think it's 25 countries that have actually used it. So, obviously, we want to look at all methods, but, certainly, in terms of the private element, that doesn't necessarily have to come into it at all.

Would you be happy to have the private element as part of it?

Personally, I think it would be best if we could work with the voluntary sector or the third sector, but I wouldn't dismiss anything. We're only exploring it. We're not committed to anything. But we are working with a non-profit organisation known as Social Finance, and this has been operating since 2007, and they partner with government and the social sector in order to find better ways of tackling social problems in the UK and beyond. So, I think it's very important to look at models that do exist, which doesn't mean that we will necessarily take them up or take them up in their entirety, because we are very committed, as you know, in Wales to try to balance the sector in any case, to try to get more work in the public sector generally, and we've been looking at that in terms of social care provision generally, to try to balance it. So, this is very exploratory.

Maybe you can update the committee when you've done a bit more of your exploratory work and where that is leading so that we can help with the scrutiny of that.

Yes. I'll tell you where it has been used is in Essex, and it's been used in Essex with children on the edge of care, and I understand it's been very successful. 

In Norfolk and in London, apparently, it's been used, but I don't know more than you do.

Okay, just before we move off this subject, can I just clarify? The £15 million that you referred to for regional partnership boards, which is for therapeutic support services, is that specifically for care-experienced children?

12:00

It's for care-experienced children and children on the edge of care.

Right, okay. You'll be aware, I'm sure, that four of the young people amongst the 33 young people covered by the review of deaths of suicide or probable suicide were formerly looked after. You'll also be aware from your time on this committee that we made very clear recommendations about the need to improve emotional and mental health support for care-experienced children. What specific investment is being made generally to support the emotional and mental health needs? Is it just that £15 million or is there anything else that we should be aware of in the budget?

Well, basically, it's a whole-system approach, isn't it? Help is needed through the whole of the system for those children. So, there is widespread help throughout the budget that will address this issue. For example, if we look at the looked-after children element of the pupil development grant—which I think this committee did look at, didn't it, specifically—that is an area where we are addressing this issue.

Obviously, we are setting up a group, or we've set it up now, I think, to look specifically at corporate parenting, because, obviously, that's an absolutely key issue, I think, about how we, as corporate parents, and local authorities as corporate parents, help and deal with the emotional needs of this particular group of children. So, I'm looking to that group to come forward with specific proposals about how we can work with the children.

It was also the focus of the ministerial group on improving outcomes for children, which is chaired by David Melding. So, we have a focus on this issue, and I'm aware of the question you asked yesterday in the Chamber, which the First Minister answered.

The Minister has mentioned the 'A Healthier Wales' transformation funding. It's really important just to reference to this committee that there's substantial funding being utilised by some of the regional partnership boards, north Wales particularly, in relation to transformation around children and young people—intensive support. Indeed, in Gwent, they have the iceberg model as well, which is a particularly interesting model that's showing benefits in the very early stages.

Okay, thank you. Janet has some questions now on 'Healthy Weight: Healthy Wales'.

Thank you. So, £5.5 million has been allocated in the draft budget 2020-21 to support the 'Healthy Weight: Healthy Wales' strategy, which, of course, is the Welsh Government's long-term plan to prevent and reduce obesity across Wales. What allocation has been made within this funding to ensure that the 'Healthy Weight: Healthy Wales' plan impacts on the obesity rates of children and young people as well as adults?

I haven't set out a separate funding stream within the £5.5 million either for adults or for children and young people. The first programme board, which I'll be chairing, will meet at the end of this month. I'll be looking at how that money is spent to make the sort of impact we want, because, for example, if you think about the environment that we grow up in and live in, and the advertising that we see and the promotions for different drinks—. I've said before in the Chamber that when I take my son swimming, I see a wall of chocolate in front of him. It isn't just children and young people who see that—there are adults as well. So, actually, dealing with that will have an impact on the population.

So, there's a range of measures that we're taking, but when you see more work from the programme board, the specific measures being taken and the review, you should be able to see what impact we're having and where some of that work is being targeted at children and young people. Of course, we'll have the harder outcome measures about the weight of the population at different age ranges and whether people are overweight or obese, because it's a significant challenge for the future of the country.

I suppose, from my perspective, I am interested in children and young people, and getting in there soon—prevention and intervention are better.

Is it the case that the consequential allocated to Wales from the soft drinks industry levy is not being transferred into the health and social services MEG, and why is this?

12:05

When the soft drinks levy money came to Wales, it went into the reserve. It's the standard way that the Welsh Government takes a consequential then decides what to do with it. And I actually think that when you look at the money that's come in from the levy and you look at the amount of money that's been invested in health and social care, it significantly dwarfs the money from the levy, and the reality is we've put money into health in particular over the course of this Assembly and that has had consequences for other budgets.

So, I just think that looking at the levy in isolation is not a particularly helpful way to look at the resources available to the health service to deliver against this because we, as a department, have been the big winner in all of the budgets for the whole of this Assembly term and if we then want to say, 'Actually, we want more money; we want to go back to the consequential from the levy, we want that to be visibly and obviously put in', when you could just have an accounting mechanism that says that it's there now without changing any of the figures, so that if we then asked other departments to take money out of them to put additional money in that's bad for the levy, I just think that's going to be incredibly unhelpful and not an honest picture for how we've actually got the resource base we currently have now, because that has meant other departments not having rises over a number of years.

Mae'ch papur chi'n dweud bod yr asesiad effaith integredig strategol yn cynnwys ystyriaeth glir o effaith penderfyniadau cyllidebol ar hawliau plant. Lle yn union mae hyn yn y ddogfen asesiad effaith integredig strategol?

Your paper states that the strategic integrated impact assessment includes a clear consideration of the impact of budgetary decisions on children's rights. Where exactly is this in the strategic integrated impact assessment document?