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15 December 2020

The Achieving for Children (AfC) Board of Directors met on 15 December 2020. The following substantive items were considered:

Sufficiency Strategy

The Board discussed the draft sufficiency strategy and made associated recommendations for the final draft. Two key objectives of the strategy are to build in-house provisions and to streamline external placements in order to minimise spot purchasing.

The Board noted that one of the intentions of the plan is to support young people before and after they go into tier 4 CAMHS. The possibility of having a provision in Kingston to provide for step down from hospital or mental health provision was discussed.

Independent Fostering Agency update

The Board noted that the team was on track to have recruited an additional 20 foster carers this year. The Board further noted that the infrastructure is in place and there is opportunity to grow the IFA.

The Board were informed that the IFA will essentially be operated as a separate trading account from April 2021. There is a possible substantial saving over four years together with an improved experience for children and young people.

DCS updates

Highlights from the reports of the two Directors of Children’s Services:

  • Continuing pressures on children’s social care. The number of contacts turning into referrals is one particular area where there is continued increase. This is leading to an increase in workloads in Referral and Assessment, Child Protection and Youth Resilience teams. Additional staffing has been put in where needed, but recruiting social workers remains a challenge.
  • Due to the withdrawal of the expected provider of services at the respite centre in Chessington, AfC is now in discussions to appoint another provider. This has, unfortunately, delayed the opening of the centre.
  • The Board was informed that the latest directive from the government and public health around the school closures and rapid testing is that schools themselves will need to administer the rapid flow testing, which will be a significant challenge for them.

Budget and medium term financial plan

The Board noted the budget pressures across the three boroughs. Meetings are taking place between officers in the councils and AfC to look at what is driving the social care pressure. There also continues to be pressure on the high needs block.

It was acknowledged that the savings targets are challenging and there needs to be a maintained focus on achieving the savings, which can be difficult during COVID times.

Chief Operating Officer report

  • Increasing demands on the budget continue, particularly in social care in Richmond, and there is growing pressure on the high needs block in all three boroughs. Pressure on budgets in social care and SEN are continuing to be challenging across the three boroughs.
  • The Board was assured that the detailed work on the impact of Brexit has ensured that all process are in place.
  • AfC’s COVID recovery plan has moved back to restricted freedom. Some changes to office space are being made in order to maximise the use of space for social care teams.