Martin Ford 11 December 2019

London borough rejects insourcing children’s services

A London borough has decided against bringing its children’s services in-house.

Kingston and Richmond LBCs, which co-own community interest company Achieving for Children (AfC) alongside and Windsor and Maidenhead BC, had considered returning services to direct control when their contract ends in 2021.

However, Kingston has decided to remain working with the company for another five years under an overhauled contract.

A ‘rapid escalation’ in costs for supporting children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) after 2016/17 and ‘unsustainable’ overspends on its dedicated schools grant (DSG) led Kingston to reconsider its relationship with AfC, in which it has a 40% stake.

Earlier this year, a review found ‘governance of the contract was ill-structured and weak in its effect’ and councillors later rejected rolling over the authority’s agreement with the company for a further five years.

However, yesterday evening members were told that continuing to provide services through AfC while revamping its governance arrangements offered the greatest opportunity for savings and lowest costs.

Following the decision, Kingston’s director of corporate and commercial, Sarah Ireland, said: ‘Over the last few years AfC has worked with the council to deliver excellent services in a very challenging financial environment.

‘We are seeing a huge growth in the need for children’s services, particularly for support and education for children and young people with SEND.

‘They have worked extremely hard to provide education and support across Kingston despite there not being enough money available to meet the SEND needs in the dedicated schools grant.

‘Working with AfC we will continue to transform the way we deliver our children’s services and achieve excellent outcomes for Kingston’s children and young people.’

The decision is dependent on councillors at Richmond following the same recommendation at a meeting next week.

Windsor and Maidenhead, which took a 20% stake in the company in 2017, has a separate contract running until 2024.

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