Children's services mutual set to expand to third local authority

Adam Offord
Thursday, September 22, 2016

A children's services mutual that was established to run services in two London boroughs is in line to be extended to a third local authority area, it has emerged.

??Achieving for Children (AfC) was formed in April 2014 to run children's services in the neighbouring boroughs of Kingston and Richmond.

It has now emerged that The Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Council is in talks about handing over responsibility for its children's services to the organisation.

The council said the move would benefit families, residents and staff.?

A final decision is due to be made by the council's cabinet next Thursday (29 September). If the go-ahead is given, Windsor and Maidenhead's existing children's services workforce of 277 staff will be transferred to AfC from April 2017 but will continue to work out of the council's offices.

Under the deal, the council would become an equal shareholder in the company, allowing it to retain responsibility for all children and young people under its statutory duty.

??The current chief executive and director of children's services at AfC is Nick Whitfield, who oversaw the creation of the community interest company.

Whitfield has also been involved with the establishment of a community interest company to run services at Sunderland Council after being appointed children's services commissioner at the authority by the Department for Education as part of efforts to improve standards.

And last month the Department for Education installed him as independent chair of an improvement board at Wandsworth Council, a local authority bordering Kingston and Richmond, following a scathing Ofsted report in February.

Windsor and Maidenhead Council said the partnership would bring a number of benefits including greater resilience, staff development, improved service provision and greater potential for innovation.??

Natasha Airey, lead member for children's services at Windsor and Maidenhead Council, said that services the council provides must always be delivered in the best way possible and it believes that AfC will help it do that.

"Families will notice very little difference in the way that services are run, and if we decide to formally agree to implement this partnership, residents and our staff will benefit from an improving service," she said.

"We firmly believe that AfC will give us the people, resources and shared expertise to meet the higher standards we aspire to."

?Alison Alexander, managing director and director of adult, children and health services at Windsor and Maidenhead Council, added: "Decisions such as these are not taken lightly and are always made with the interests of our residents and staff as an absolute priority.

"If the decision is approved, we will be part of a larger specialist children's organisation which can offer stronger and better provision, which ultimately will create a better service for our residents."

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