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30 January 2023

Report from the Chairperson

Board members were asked by the Chairperson what their key priorities were for 2023 and the following were noted:

  • understanding the budget and issues, financial constraints, risks in keeping children safe if budgets reduced further, business plan, concern of only being able to offer statutory services if budgets are restricted
  • recruitment and retention of the workforce 
  • how staff are dealing with increased and more complex caseloads and managing their wellbeing
  • voices of the child, young person and families are heard
  • being clear what we are asking of the Councils.

Updates from the Board members

Kingston officers are working with AfC to have young people from the Youth Council represented on the regeneration projects that are being formed across Kingston and Richmond. It is hoped that the young people will engage in dialogue with housing providers, council officers, architects etc to influence policy at council level and be heard.

A video was shown to the board members which had been compiled by representatives of the 9 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 Crew for SEND. The video contents covered a range of issues that mean the most to the young people involved in these groups. The Board members were delighted to view this video and hear from the young people directly. 

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

  • Very busy times and challenging budget. 
  • Windsor and Maidenhead received a GOOD rating from the CGC for the Health Visiting School Nursing first inspection held at the end of last year 2022. 
  • SEND - review with DfEE on accelerated progress plan on 6 March 2023. If come off plan will go into the inspection window and therefore will be expecting an inspection in the summer.
  • Now in window for the next ILAX window.
  • EHCP continue to be high.
  • Front door drop in contacts coming through; means a drop in referrals going through to social care for assessments.
  • Small drop in strategy meetings required; small increase of number of children on a CIN plan and beginning to see less children in care.
  • Demand high but slowing and beginning to feel a bit more manageable.
  • Challenging times with regard to recruitment and retention - social workers and health visiting. 
  • Employment Tribunal likely to happen at the end of year.
  • Invest to save money being used to create a new team and a project officer role.
  • Building on the Families First model into Ops 2; this will be built into what is already in place.
  • Looking at complex families to see who services can be more joined up to support the families.

Innovative ways in meeting demands to keep statutory numbers of visits and children seen under 5 years of age has been carried out and has been acknowledged by the Board. 

The Board thanked and congratulated staff on the GOOD rating for the Health Visiting and School Nursing first inspection. Great work has been done to maintain being inspection ready throughout the pandemic. 

Richmond and Kingston - Director of Children’s Services

  • Contacts and referrals have plateaued but at a higher level than before.
  • Increase in CIN work, children subject to plans and CP in care are stable, can see where most need is i.e. S17 level.
  • Recruitment of staff continues to be an issue which impacts on caseloads.
  • Placement efficiency is a challenge particular care placements and now seeing a number of high cost placements.
  • Received funding to roll out to all schools mental health practitioners in all primary and secondary schools in Richmond.

SEND Futures update

The Programme Director attended the Board and provided an update on the SEND Futures Plan work. This is a programme of work to improve the outcomes for children and young people 0 - 25 years with SEND across Education, Health and Social Care and financial stability.

Five key areas:

  • Support being provided to mainstream schools to identify need as early as possible and intervene and support where necessary. 
  • SEND Placement Commissioning Team established. 
  • Expansion of specialist places in schools and new schools.
  • Total number of EHCPs issued will come in on target due to EHCPs closing/ceasing though issuing EHCPs has increased.
  • People - there are challenges within local systems eg, shortage of staff in AfC, schools, health and early years providers. Participation officer now appointed and due to start. Ongoing issues with recruitment being reported by schools for support staff as hourly wage less attractive compared to other jobs; this is a vital role for schools and AfC is looking at ways in which to support schools. 

Written Statement of Action

No longer exists for Kingston. Local Area had revised visit in October 2022 - 4 areas all judged to have made significant progress.

In Richmond, there is still the Written Statement of Action relating to transitioning to Adult Services which stems from Local Area Inspection in June 2021. DE and NHS England continue to monitor progress and July 2022 visit reviewed the four areas of transitioning to Adult Services:

  • quality of outcomes in plan
  • annual report process
  • pathway planning
  • health pathways transitions

First 3 above were identified as being on track and during the July 2022 visit health transitions were flagged as critical so a return visit took place in November 2022. An additional interim monitoring meeting will be held in February 2023 to look at the health pathway transition. 

Education annual report and performance

The Board was updated on the Education Annual Report and Performance for Windsor and Maidenhead. The Board noted the borough’s good performance, hard work and support being given to schools as well as schools doing outstanding work with children and young people.

Chief Operating and Finance Officer update

The Board considered two issues raised by the COFO which had been reviewed in detail at the Audit and Risk Committee on 15 January 2023.

  • impact of inflation and what the impact that this has on AfC’s financial position and affordability
  • recruitment which then transitions into manageable caseloads, impact on teams, services are safe.

Budget and medium term financial strategy

The Board agreed to the 2023/24 budget that will go forward to the councils for approval. Ultimately this is a reserved matter decision for the three councils, however the AfC Board approval was sought. The combination of inflationary, demand pressures and savings required means that 2023/24 will be another challenging year in financial terms. 

Business plans

AfC’s business planning cycle runs over a five year period, with 2023 being the last year of the current business plan. Therefore work will commence in March 2023 on the next business plan - 2023-2028. AfC’s business plan will have strategic priorities, priority programmes and include the AfC values. There will be activities to engage the AfC Board, key stakeholders, children and young people, parents, partners, staff etc to contribute to the new format of a five year plan.