The Community Services Manager and the Business Manager for the Parenting and Community Service delivered a presentation updating Members on the action that had been taken to address the issues that had led the Internal Auditors to conclude that there was no assurance for St David’s House.
Members were advised that there were flats and other properties at St David’s House, including the Queen’s Cottages, and there were 55 tenants living in this accommodation. The tenants shared a communal area and mainly lived independently, though some required extra support. Meals were also provided to customers through a luncheon club.
The Community Services Manager had become responsible for St David’s House some months previously. She had identified a number of areas that were concerning and had therefore requested an Internal Audit review. The Internal Audit team had reviewed the facilities at St David’s House in May and June 2019 and had concluded that there was no assurance for the facility. In response the Community Services Manager had developed an action plan designed to outline the action that needed to be taken to address the problems identified in the Internal Audit.
The Internal Audit had found that staff were purchasing items for tenants and obtaining cash from cash machines for tenants using the tenant’s bank cards or details. Bank cards were being locked away in the St David’s House safe rather than retained by the tenants. Staff were also being paid in cash by customers for the luncheon club’s services and there had been no audit trail for these payments.
Since the Internal Audit had been undertaken changes had been made to the way in which the luncheon club was managed at St David’s House. All tenants now paid for this service in the same way that they paid for all Council services and therefore staff were no longer paid directly by residents. This ensured that there was an audit trail for these payments. Staff had been provided with Council credit cards which could be used to purchase food and other household items for tenants who would then be invoiced for the amount owed to the Council. This ensured that staff were not handling tenants’ bank details or credit cards. All bank cards had been returned from the St David’s House safe to relevant tenants.
In total 29 of the 30 actions required in the Internal Audit had been addressed. A new agreement had been drawn up on behalf of tenants. This ensured that there was a proper procedure in place. Staff had signed an agreement in respect of new operating procedures and a service review had been undertaken. New staff had also been recruited at St David’s House to undertake financial monitoring and administration. A return visit had been undertaken by the Internal Audit team some months after the initial inspection and at that time it had been found that some actions remained outstanding but Officers were confident that all appropriate actions had now been addressed.
Following the presentation Members discussed a number of points in detail:
· The costs of recruiting two new members of staff and the impact that this had had on budgets for St David’s House. Members were advised that following the service review of St David’s House some staff had left the organisation and whilst these two new posts had been introduced to fill service gaps this had not resulted in an increase to budgets for the service overall.
· The one outstanding action that had not yet been resolved and the reasons for the delay in addressing this action. Officers explained that whilst remaining staff had signed the new agreement at work two new members of staff had recently been recruited and had not yet signed the agreement. Once they had done so the action would be completed.
· The potential for visitors to participate in the luncheon club and how visitors’ payments were audited. The Committee was informed that visitors attending the luncheon club once or twice were permitted to pay in cash and there was an honesty box. Visitors who attended more frequently were invoiced for the service.
· The approach that had been taken by Officers to communicate the changes at St David’s House to tenants and the response that had been received. Officers advised that all tenants had been informed about the changes and support had been provided to those tenants who had struggled with the change.
· The skills required to manage one’s finances and the support provided to tenants at St David’s House to enable them to do so. Members were informed that in previous years staff had provided financial management advice but since the Internal Audit of St David’s House this had changed and an external advocacy team now provided the service.
· The safeguarding implications of the issues that had been discovered in the Internal Audit of St David’s House, including in respect of Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards (DoLS). Officers confirmed that St David’s House was registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and that a tool had been developed to enable staff to support tenants who did not have the capacity to make decisions for themselves. This tool had not yet had to be used but staff had received training in how to use the resource if it was ever needed in the future.
· The reasons why in the past staff had offered to provide financial advice and to purchase objects on behalf of tenants using their bank details. Members were advised that this had included concerns about some tenants being placed in a difficult position financially by their family. However, whilst Members accepted that these were good intentions, this was not considered to be an acceptable reason to act in that manner from a safeguarding perspective.
Members concluded their discussions by thanking Officers for all their hard work in terms of addressing the issues that had been identified at St David’s House.
the update in respect of St David’s House be noted.