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29 January 2024

Update from the Chair of the Audit and Risk Committee

MS provided an update from the Audit and Risk Committee, which met the previous week, with the following key points:

  • There were positive reviews from internal audit partners with a good trajectory in terms of controls and policies in place.
  • The Treasury Plan was reviewed and is similar to last year and the Committee was comfortable with this. We also looked at the plan for producing the Annual Report and Accounts and this looks good.
  • There are a number of challenging risks across the organisation and the following issues are escalated to the Board.
    • continuing lack of expert procurement advice in RBWM
    • discussion around what is acceptable inspection performance. Given the resource constraints that we have.
    • We are struggling to recover debt from the NHS and thai has been escalated within the NHS with an action plan in place. 

2024/25 Budget and Medium Term Financial Plan

The detailed budget was discussed including key risks and mitigations and the Board were asked to recommend it for final approval to the councils.

The Board agreed the proposed budget for recommendation to the councils

Strategic Plan

The Strategic Plan was discussed and the Board were asked to recommend it for final approval to the councils.

The Board approved the documents and recommended them to the three local authorities for approval.

Kington and Richmond SEND Futures Plans

Lucy Kourpas ran through the three sets of documents included in the pack. 

  • progress update
  • refreshed draft plans
  • inspection preparedness

There was a detailed discussion about all three areas.

Windsor and Maidenhead Director of Children's Services update

Lin Ferguson provided an update on the following key areas:

  • Working on a 5 year extension to the AfC contract, which was agreed at the end of last year. 
  • There are three potential inspections in the near future, ILACS, SEND and IFA so we are doing lots of inspection readiness work at the moment.
  • In-year spend is creeping up due to demand. There have been eleven new placements in the borough since October 2023.
  • In relation to social work recruitment and retention we are in the process of reviewing the benefits package for social workers.
  • There are currently nine transformation projects which we will update on further later in the year.

Kingston and Richmond Director of Children's Services update

Ian Dodds provided an update on the following key areas:

  • Discussions regarding the AfC contract which is due to end in 2026.
  • The next inspections we are due to have are ILACS in Kingston, which is now overdue, and the Youth Offending Service inspection which is due this month. We also need to plan for focus visits and the Joint Targeted Area inspections. 
  • ID noted this has felt like the hardest year ever in terms of budgeting. In terms of placements we are experiencing the same issue as RBWM and we have added a transformation programme to look at how we might better manage placements at both ends of the age range.
  • Work on the new Kingston children's home is on schedule. We have completed residential engagement and are about to go into pre-planning and are on track for this to be completed.
  • The biggest challenges for us at the moment are school place planning, particularly delays in opening new specialist schools.
  • Waiting times for language therapy is particularly long at the moment. There are ongoing conversations with our provider around what they can do.
  • Staffing is stabilising in the Referral and Assessment and Safeguarding teams with more permanent employees being recruited and agency workers are relatively stable. 
  • We are piloting the Early Careers Framework and that is going well.
  • We are developing Family Hubs and the wider family help offer which will encompass our Early Help assessments and child in need work. 
  • We have had an independent review around SEN transport in Richmond from Peopletoo.

Chief Operating and Finance Officer Executive Update, including outturn report

  • App A: Q3 Board Assurance Framework
  • App B: Q3 Dashboard
  • App C: Q3 Finance Update 23/24
  • App D: Draft EDI Plan

Lucy Kourpas gave an update on key areas:

  • Staff awards have been aligned with the three directorates. Nominations have been received, judging has taken place and the Award Ceremonies have been set. We will publish all nominations as well as winners.
  • Our concerns are the budget and strategic plan, there is a huge amount of change and the capacity for this change is a concern in terms of the leadership team and project management.
  • We do now know what the budgets are and this has been discussed and we are managing council expectations around performance. The shared risk model will be very important over the next year. We are investing in working with councils to get the balance between quality of service and affordability.
  • The Health and Safety fire safety training now has attendance of 58% so we still need to continue working on this but it is increasing.
  • We continue to work with the councils regarding maintenance of our buildings.
  • We are seeing an increase in the number of employee relation cases and are undertaking a number of reflections and lessons learned.
  • The draft EDI action plan was circulated for comment.

Quarterly programme update

The Head of Strategy and Programmes gave an update on the key programmes and there was a detailed discussion.

Updates from Board members and items to escalate

It was agreed to formally write to the CEO of RBWM regarding procurement support.

Any other business

Board members will identify which children and young people groups they could attend.