The Royal Borough’s ambition, and challenge, is to continue to deliver integrated health, early help and specialist safeguarding services, which meet residents’ needs, against a backdrop of diminishing financial resources.
Recognising that delivery of children’s services could be legally delegated to an external organisation, a comprehensive options appraisal was undertaken. This concluded that the most suitable delivery model was a not for profit community interest company. The Royal Borough subsequently approved the transfer of children’s services, up to age 25, to the existing company, Achieving for Children, effective 1 August 2017, with a staffing resource of 278 FTE.
The Royal Borough has operated an integrated education, early help and safeguarding service required in the Children Act 2004 for a number of years. In 2016, this expanded to include 0-19 public health functions. The council’s ambition, and challenge, is to continue to deliver integrated services that meet residents’ needs against a backdrop of diminishing financial resources. It is legally permissible for a local authority to delegate delivery of its statutory children’s services through Regulations introduced in 2014. However, whilst delivery is transferred to a third party, the local authority remains accountable for delivering its statutory obligations.
The Royal Borough used the natural contract expiry dates of the 0-19 public health services to draw together the universal, targeted and specialist services of health and local authority into an integrated service. Between November 2015 and March 2016, it undertook a comprehensive options appraisal exploring how this integrated service could be delivered by one organisation, external from the local authority. This concluded that the most suitable alternative delivery model was a community interest company. This means that child protection services could be delivered by it and it would be solely focused on improving outcomes for the community rather than pursuing a profit. The subsequent business case concluded that the Royal Borough should pursue the option of joining an existing community interest company, Achieving for Children. Achieving for Children is a social enterprise community interest company created by the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames and the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames to provide their children’s services. It launched on 1 April 2014, with the aim of providing children’s early help, social care and education support services to their own councils, as well as other local authorities, schools and partners in the education, health, social care and criminal justice sectors. Both council’s children’s services are rated Good by Ofsted.
The transfer of children’s services and services for young adults with a learning disability under 25 years of age to Achieving for Children took effect on 1 August 2017, including a staffing resource of 278 FTE with a contract price of £34m. In researching different options for delivering Children’s Services, five key criteria important to successfully working differently in the Royal Borough were identified and these are being used to measure the impact of the new model:
- Securing quality outcomes for residents by driving improvement, placing customers first and reducing long term dependency on public services and associated cost.
- Engaging with and empowering staff, residents and partners.
- Opportunity for growth by improving financial stability through alternative revenue streams.
- Achieving efficiencies through income generation and savings of £3m over the next three years from integrated children’s services.
- Assuring accountability of our services to our residents and to regulatory bodies.
How is the new approach being sustained?
The Royal Borough is now in partnership with Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames and the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames. There are four levels of governance to ensure that the approach delivers the outcomes required:
- A Joint Committee of elected members from the three authorities manages the partnership through an agreed set of reserved matters.
- A joint Commissioning Board manages the overall performance of the Company.
- Achieving for Children’s Board of Directors manages the day to day running of the Company.
- Monthly commissioning meetings with each individual authority manage the delivery of the contract at a local level.
Key to successful delivery has been investing in a dedicated project team to develop and deliver the project plan. This team provided overall coordination and management and supported a project board comprising representatives from finance, HR, ICT, business infrastructure and the front line children’s services. There was also substantial investment in communication at a range of levels – including staff, partners and residents. A range of communications were issued every week by email, supported by face to face drop in sessions, screen savers and co-location of the project team with the front line teams in order to provide immediate response and ‘temperature check’ at all times.
Contact :Alison Alexander, Managing Director
Hilary Hall, Deputy Director Strategy and Commissioning,
Helping children and young people to fulfil their potential is a key ambition of all councils, but our children’s services are under increasing pressure.
Bright Futures is our call for fully funded children's services.