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22 March 2021

The Achieving for Children (AfC) Board of Directors met on 22 March 2021. The following substantive items were considered:

Voice of children and young people

The Board noted the Board Engagement Forward Plan for 2021/22. The document outlines a number of key activities and various forums where the Board could have an opportunity to listen to children and young people. It was agreed that it is important to ensure that attendance at any events or forums would add value and what outcomes it is hoped to achieve.

A number of the activities on the lists are longstanding and feedback is continually taken, but it was agreed that staff in the organisation could be encouraged to share what they learn through their work with children and young people across the operational areas. An example of a new opportunity for engagement with young people would be the new AfC Environment Strategy and this would be followed up. Linking into the Board’s forward plan would identify other opportunities and it was recognised that participation could be more co-ordinated across the company and this would be followed up by the Directors of Children’s Services (DCSs).

Chief Operating Officer Report

The Board noted that the themes of overspend remain unchanged with pressure on (Dedicated Schools Grant) DSG funds and the high needs education budget. Discussions have been taking place with the DfE on the overspends. The Board will be monitoring the DSG overspend in the three boroughs.

The Board discussed the updated Board Assurance framework and noted that the more operational indicators, such as those relating to health, were reported to the Councils on a regular basis rather than being presented to the Board. The project update presented to the Board contains the information needed by them in terms of the delivery plan. It was agreed that, at the next Board workshop, a review of the key performance indicators would be discussed along with any quality assurance issues for which data is not collected.

DCS updates

Kingston and Richmond

The Board were taken through the report and key points taken from it were that:

  • Social care performance has remained really good despite the increase in contacts and complexity of referrals coming through.
  • Waiting times for emotional health appointments were a concern, particularly with a large increase in the number of referrals. Thresholds at tier 3 have now been raised so there are more being held at tier 2. This issue has been raised by AfC with the CCG but, in the meantime, the DCS has increased capacity at tier 2. The Board were assured that every child on the waiting list has a plan which includes assessment of harm.
  • The return to school by pupils had gone smoothly with primary school attendance at 97%. All schools are focussed on wellbeing and development of children as well as the learning.
  • Inspection preparations are underway with AfC expecting inspections/re-inspections of SEND in Richmond and Kingston and ILACS in Richmond.
  • The number of education, health and care plans remains high and it is expected that there will be an increase in requests for plans due to the impact on children’s learning due to school closures during Covid.

Windsor and Maidenhead

The key points reported for Windsor and Maidenhead were:

  • Worsening position around the DSG particularly over recent months, with an increase in plans over the last year and with a significant rise in both state-funded and independent placements. Cost growth has risen.
  • Social care teams are performing well considering the constraints they are having to working within.
  • There has been a substantial increase in the waiting list in East Berkshire for therapists and ASD/ADHD support over the last three quarters

Quarterly Clinical Governance Report

The Board received the six monthly clinical governance report which highlighted the following:

  • Waiting times for neuro-developmental assessments for ADHD and autism have been affected by COVID-19 restrictions. Action plans are in place including the addition of weekend clinics.
  • Health services are finding recruitment and retention, particularly in the health visiting service in RBWM, a challenge and a separate report on staffing will be brought to the Board.
  • As health visiting and school nursing services have not been inspected since 2015, it is expected that an early inspection of services was likely and services are well prepared.
  • Capacity and pressure in the health visiting team is causing issues and, although the team have a plan, stability of service in the medium to long term is difficult due to a reduction in funding. This would be revisited by the DCS at the end of the quarter and would be escalated to the Board for further discussion or escalation to the owners if the situation did not improve.

Safeguarding Updates and Annual Safeguarding Report

The Board Director who had attended the safeguarding meetings in the three boroughs reported that there had been good performance in these challenging times and gave assurance to the Board that safeguarding performance is good across all three boroughs.

The Board had received the Safeguarding Annual Report for RBWM. The main point of note was that eight key priorities for the partnership had been identified, including domestic abuse, children in appropriate education and children suffering from neglect which is still a particularly significant issue. A priority lead for each of the eight priorities has been appointed.