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22 May 2023

This was the first meeting of 2023 as the meeting planned for 27 March 2023 was cancelled and scheduled reports for discussion were carried forward to the May 2023 AfC Board meeting.  Observing this Board was the new Chief Executive for the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead.

The Board members’ main priorities for this meeting were:

  • workforce, recruitment and retention
  • sufficiency strategy
  • engagement and feedback to young people from today’s meeting

Engagement with young people 

A video was shown to the board members which had been compiled by representatives of the nine forums/groups which are young people led and where there is engagement - Kingston and Richmond Youth Council, Windsor and Maidenhead Youth Council, Windsor and Maidenhead Kickback, Mental Health Champion, Young Health Champion, the Esteem Group, Girls Forum, Children in Care Councils, Racism and Recruits Care for SEND. The video contents covered a range of issues that mean the most to the young people involved in these groups and cover the period February - May 2023 activity. 

The Board members were delighted to view this video and hear from the young people directly and acknowledged the young people are confident in articulating activities they are engaged with. The Board noted that all project groups want to continue to engage with AfC Board members and will consider opportunities for young people to see the workings of local government.

The Board notes that If asking for feedback from young people, this shouldn’t be made difficult for them, eg. a lengthy form to complete or a report to write. It is far easier for adults to have conversations and ask specific questions to the young people, seeing them face to face and listening to their views.

Nikki Craig reported to the Board that she attended a Kingston event which looked at regeneration of the borough. There were young people also present and they contributed that their priorities and areas of concerns were homelessness, lack of public toilets, accessibility for disabled people, eg. wheelchair users, and that they would travel to other places rather than spend time in Kingston. Hearing young people’s voices about policy and planning services in boroughs outside of an AfC environment was powerful.

The Board were asked to consider a request put forward by the 14 young people who lead the project groups, CiCC and the youth Council for funding to recognise their commitment, involvement and contribution in these groups.  

The Board agreed they want to recognise the young people for their time and will look at costing this proposal and bring it back to the next AfC Board meeting in July 2023.

Sufficiency strategy

Matthew Edwards attended for this item and gave the Board members an overview of the sufficiency strategy by way of the context, duty, principles, current landscape and deliverables. The board is asked to consider the right form of travel for the councils with tangible plans and then the councils will need to join together and work on this.

A detailed discussion took place with the Board noting that AfC should be very clear about what the organisation does in the space of being a provider for placements. The strategy should link in and connect with the social care model AfC is providing and that more work needs to be done around children and young people with medical needs. The Board acknowledged more joined up working with Health ie work sub regionally with Integrated Care Boards or regional partnerships to be better placed to deliver high cost low incidences placements so as not to be just in a position of being a provider. Currently AfC is, by default, becoming a provider; responsiveness of decision making needs to improve in order to change and act in a timely manner to the changing climate.

Workforce report and staff survey 2023 results

The Workforce report was circulated in advance of the meeting and Gill Goouch presented the staff survey results to the Board. A recruitment and retention task group has been set up to focus on both areas but the main focus in the first instance is on retention of staff. The HR team are considering how to recognise and reward the workforce and be supported in the workplace, how to support managers to recruit and bring in capacity to assist managers to source applicants.  A detailed discussion followed. To help with recruitment and retention, Board members were asked to reinforce the staff recognition scheme and encourage staff to recommend people to vacancies. Any suggestions from Board members as to what is being done outside of the public sector would be of value to recruit and retain employees. 

Windsor and Maidenhead - Director of Children’s Social Care update

  • Cabinet member meeting with Lin Ferguson
  • Sadly four young people have recently taken their own lives. Taking individual action and reviewing suicide response across the partnership which will be a focus over the next few months. Support is being offered to peers and students, with Educational Psychology teams reaching out to school personnel and students as well.
  • School admissions - 21 girls waiting for placements, all discussions are open and hoping to rectify the situation.
  • Budget for 2023/24 - both general funding and designated school budget - increase demand, units costs increase. All managers are involved in the process, the budget is being scrutinised and the AfC Board will be kept informed.

The Board noted the Safeguarding Partnership Annual Report in the two versions available - easy read and full. The DCS provided assurance to the Board on key service issues and the Board has had the opportunity to comment and ask questions.

Richmond and Kingston - Director of Children’s Services

  • Hope House - RBK’s registered children’s home has young people and joint working between Hope House and the placements team to identify other suitable young people to live there.
  • Free school meal level of funding provided by the Government from September 2023 for pupils in years 3, 4, 5 and 6.
  • Family Hub update, in line with Kingston’s one stop services into one place 
  • Staffing update of senior managers and succession planning

The Board noted the Safeguarding Partnership Annual Report in the two versions available - easy read and full. The DCS provided assurance to the Board on key service issues and the Board has had the opportunity to comment and ask questions.

Clinical governance

The Board was updated on two clinical risks identified in the last six months:

  • staffing capacity in particular recruit and retain health visitors, occupational therapists, physiotherapists and speech and language therapists. Positively all children’s nursing roles are filled.
  • one serious incident notification for the AfC Board to note which related to the death by suicide of a child on the waiting list for the Emotional Health Service. The learning from the serious incident relates to information-sharing between services and support for practitioners when dealing with the death of a service-user.

AfC will be looking to work with Health for safeguarding supervision to support professionals in dealing with difficult casework ie a child death by suicide whilst waiting for mental health assessment.

Chief Operating and Finance Officer report

Lucy Kourpas provided the following summary of executive concerns:

  • sufficiency strategy and impact on quality and cost of placements
  • health and safety and wellbeing - staff workloads, impact on staff wellbeing, be proactive in this space

2022/23 priority programme annual report

An overview of progress with projects across Achieving for Children during Quarter 4 of 2022/23 was given to the Board members.

25 key projects have been completed, either efficiency related or priority projects during 2022/23 with 5 notable ones as follows:

  • Implementation of new in-house HR service across the whole organisation.
  • Implementation of the Families First model in Kingston and Richmond, with evaluation planned for October 2023.
  • Completion of the early help strategy, partnership model and operating model in Kingston and Richmond.
  • Successful bid for a new special school in RBWM.
  • Successful planning for two new Specialist Resource Provisions in RBWM in 2023, with a further two planned for next year.

AfC Board approval granted

The Joint Negotiating Council (JNC) Senior Officer Pay Award to be paid for Chief Officers effective from April 2023 of 3.5% backdated to 1 April 2023 was approved by the AfC Board.