Report from the Strategic Director of Adult Care, Housing and Public Health.
1. Approve the establishment of a Financial Exploitation and Abuse Service for Rotherham as detailed at Section 3 – Option 2.
Consideration was given to the report which set out the proposals for a new Service to prevent the financial abuse and exploitation of Rotherham residents. The proposed Service would include the recruitment of a specialist investigator dedicated to Rotherham to investigate cases where crime was suspected, the review of historic exploitation cases and the delivery of financial exploitation and abuse awareness training for key staff and partners. The Service would add to the existing safeguarding offer within the Council’s Adults Safeguarding Service and the Council’s Trading Standards Service to provide a more comprehensive response.
The Council’s Adult Social Care Services consistently received safeguarding concerns that have an element of suspected financial abuse. Since 2019, although the number of concerns raised has fluctuated, (223 in 2019/20, 362 cases in 2020-21 and 318 in 2021-22, 150 to date in the current year) the percentage where financial abuse was suspected had remained around the 43% mark and had been the third highest category of abuse over the three year period.
Deprivation was a known factor in making individuals and communities more susceptible to financial exploitation and abuse. On the Index of Multiple Deprivation 2019 (IMD 2019) Rotherham ranked the 35th most deprived upper tier local authority in England out of a total of 151 authorities. In all, 59 Rotherham neighbourhoods ranked amongst the 20% most deprived in England and 36 of these were in the top 10% most deprived. Given the context and reflective of the Council’s core commitment to safeguarding and ensuring Rotherham residents were safe, healthy and live well, the Council had been developing proposals for the development of a new Service offer to further help prevent such abuse and exploitation in the Borough.
The work to establish the Service offer was delayed, principally by the impact of the pandemic, with colleagues in West Yorkshire experiencing issues with time and resources to support Council colleagues in Rotherham. Post-pandemic, discussions resumed with the necessary urgency to enable the proposals contained within this report to be finalised.
A Council working group including colleagues from Adult Social Care Strategic Safeguarding, Housing Services, Regulation and Enforcement, Finance, Performance and Business Intelligence, Procurement and South Yorkshire Police Safer Neighbourhoods Team, had worked to develop the proposal for Rotherham. If the recommendation of the report was approved, the working group would implement the Service proposal to commence activity from April 2023. The working group would also focus on developing referral pathways and associated procedures to support the implementation of the new service offer.
If approved, the proposal would supplement existing Council resources and through a procured specialist provider, include the appointment by that provider of a specialist investigator, for an initial period of 2 years, dedicated solely to Rotherham casework. The procured provider would also be asked to deliver the other activity as detailed in Section 2.5 of the report as part of the contract. The appointed investigator would be recruited and managed by the procured provider. It was envisaged that the postholder would benefit from the wider resources of the provider, in addition to building essential operational relationships with Council staff and partners.
This report had been considered by the Overview and Scrutiny Management Board as part of the pre-decision scrutiny process. The Board fully supported the recommendations but made a number of recommendations:
1. That Cabinet approve the establishment of a Financial Exploitation and Abuse Service for Rotherham as detailed in Section 3 – Option 2 of the report.
2. That a briefing is circulated to update OSMB on the outcomes of the first year of delivery following appointment of a specialist service provider.