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19 December 2023

A workshop was held with young people to discuss and develop the new AfC Strategic Plan.

Since the October Board, Sian Wicks and Lucy Kourpas have met with the three CEOs. Feedback was that executive leadership engagement and board escalation process are good. Conversation about what good growth looks like for AfC.

A further workshop was held with councillors to get final feedback on the Strategic Plan. February 2024 will see the AfC strategic plan go through public committees in the three councils and there is to be a particular focus on a children and young person’s plan.

Budget 2024-25

Lucy Kourpas provided the following update to the Board: 

  • Working since the summer to set a balanced budget for 24/25. 
  • AfC has been fully engaged in the councils' budget setting processes and the budget setting process is still ongoing across the three LAs. The figures presented are therefore still draft. 

There was a detailed discussion on the budget and the following key risk areas were identified:

  • social care placements, 
  • home to school transport costs, 
  • legal placements / advisory costs and S17 payments
  • achievement of savings

AfC has been commissioned by all three councils to deliver local government services and councillors are key decision makers; Executive directors are working hard to explain the options for balancing affordability and service scope / quality as well as the risk and opportunities of different options. 

Health and Safety Annual review

The Board acknowledged the good work that has taken place in the area of health and safety over the course of the year. 

  • Good processes are now in place to review, update and publicise AfC’s health and safety policy.
  • Training has been updated. 
  • Mandatory training for all staff launched in October on fire safety training (e-training). Currently the number of staff who have completed this training is low so a reminder will be sent out to line managers to prompt their staff to do the training. If low take up continues, steps will be taken to escalate.
  • The Head of Safety and Premises Management has an action to monitor fire drills more closely in the upcoming year.
  • Maintenance across community buildings in all three boroughs remains problematic and this includes residential settings.

Windsor and Maidenhead Director of Children's Services update

  • The Board noted the positive report from Lin Ferguson, particularly noting the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead agreed to the extension of the AfC contract for another five years. This gives AfC a stable platform to continue to develop and enhance children’s services and reflects the high regard that the borough has for the performance of AfC across the board.  
  • Overall performance across all services continues to be good, despite increased demand.
  • There are wellbeing initiatives, floor walking and managers are keeping in touch with staff; caseloads are reasonable and resources are regularly reviewed.

Kingston and Richmond Director of Children's Services update

  • Local Area SEND inspection Richmond upon Thames: A positive report was received from the inspection carried out 2-6 October. AfC will submit the action plan by 15 January 2024 to Ofsted / CQC.
  • Continue to have Kingston and Richmond state schools - Good or Better rated from Ofsted inspections.
  • The Family Hubs programme is ongoing.
  • Children’s Services transformation work programme continues with reviewing the early help service offer. There have been structural changes made to date and the service model is close to being agreed with shared caseloads.
  • Mental health - Richmond has commissioned a review of CAMHS provision - how well provision is funded, make recommendations. Led by external reviewers who will report back by the end of January 2024.
  • AfC has successfully bid for two grant streams for improving foster care in Kingston and Richmond:
    • Mockingbird is an intensive package to support carers and mainstream foster carers. 
    • Foster carer regional recruitment 
      (RBWM are also part of the regional recruitment approach and have received grant funding).
  • Children’s home in Kingston is progressing. Public consultation completed and planning process taking place.
  • An update was given on local school developments.
  • An update was given on a significant incident.
  • We have mobilised a Placement Working Group to look at increased placement costs.

Updates from Board members including safeguarding update

There were no updates.

Items for escalation to CEOs

Building maintenance issues to be escalated if the respective Health and Safety Boards are unable to progress the concerns / issues.

Any other business

An update was given on youth engagement including:

  • Feedback from young people on how engagement could be improved.
  • The young people would like to adopt a buddying network with the Board members.