Children’s services in Windsor and Maidenhead will be outsourced to a community interest company next year.
The services will transfer to Achieving for Children (AfC) – a community interest company established and owned by Kingston and Richmond councils – from April 2017 after cabinet members approved the plans at a meeting this week.
The move will see Windsor and Maidenhead become an owner and equal shareholder in AfC along with Kingston and Richmond. Staff directly employed with the children’s services, 277.9 full-time equivalents, will transfer to AfC under TUPE arrangements but will continue to work in the borough. The move will cost the council £364,000.
AfC, which was set up in 2014, is one of the government’s ‘Partners in Practice’, a group of high-performing services which ministers say will trial new ways of working. It oversaw the turnaround of Kingston’s children’s services from an ‘inadequate’ to a ‘good’ Ofsted rating.
Ofsted rated Windsor and Maidenhead’s children’s services as ‘requires improvement’ last year.
The council concluded transferring services to a community interest company was best suited for it because services could not make a profit, would not be able to distribute assets to shareholders and would be accountable to residents.
The decision to outsource the service is part of a wider council agenda to create a ‘mixed economy’ approach to service provision.
A report submitted to cabinet members concluded the “potential risks of delivering differently are outweighed by the benefits”. Having access to different income streams, more integrated services tailored to residents and an ability to meet required financial savings were all benefits noted by the report.
Savings targets set by the council, £1.331 million over the next three years, will need to be met. The report noted that AfC could potentially deliver efficiencies “in excess” of those expected if the services were run in-house.
“This is due to economies of scale, the sharing of best practice and expertise between the partner authorities whilst increasing resilience,” the report said.
Alison Alexander, Windsor and Maidenhead’s managing director of adult, children and health services, said the move will see children’s services become part of a larger organisation “which can offer stronger and better provision which ultimately will create a better service for our residents”.
Natasha Airey, the council’s cabinet member for children’s services, said the authority firmly believed working with AfC would allow services to be delivered in the “best way possible”, and families would notice “very little difference” in the way services are run.
Nick Whitfield, chief executive of AfC said he was “confident” there will be mutual benefits in the long term partnership. .
“We’re all operating in a tough financial climate, and joining services together across Kingston and Richmond has already helped us to reduce our back office costs and improve services for vulnerable children and young people. Any options to make further efficiencies in this area are worth looking at,” Whitfield said.