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Case study: Achieving for Children

Updated: Apr 13, 2021

Client: London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames.

Date: July 2013 - March 2014

Challenges faced by the client: Since the end of 2012 the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames have been operating a joint Children’s Services team, under the leadership of a shared Director of Children’s Services. However, ongoing budgetary pressure and a clear need to significantly improve service quality, led the Council to consider other options for how these services should be delivered.

They chose to take the radical step of creating a new social enterprise – Achieving for Children – to deliver these services as they wanted to enable the development of new delivery approaches, empower service users through greater personalisation and accountability, scale innovation rapidly, and provide capacity and learning for other authorities.

In the design and development of the new social enterprise, the two Councils sought to:

  • Improve service quality through a singular focus – they felt that the delivery of these services through an organisation solely focused on children’s social care would improve service outcomes.

  • Engage and empower staff – they felt a jointly owned social enterprise would provide opportunities for staff to be genuinely involved in the governance, strategic direction and operational management in ways that could not be achieved in two larger councils. This would in turn create a more positive work environment, delivering greater productivity, better retention and lower absenteeism, especially amongst front line social care staff.

  • Deliver better service integration – they felt that a separate organisation would be more likely to reduce geographical divisions and create a truly joint service.

Support Offered: Mutual Ventures advised on the development of Achieving for Children from the early stages of concept development, and supported the Joint Director of Children’s Services and his senior team to design, develop and implement the new organisation.

Our work focused particularly on the following key areas:

  • Vision and Values: Developing and leading a comprehensive process to design and develop the vision and values of the new organisation including: broad staff engagement, bringing together evidence from across the latest developments in children’s social care, and helping staff to identify and express the culture that they wanted the new organisation to fulfil.

  • Service Redesign: Building on the vision and values support, we supported the senior management team to define organisational design principles that provided a target operating model for each service to meet. We then worked extensively with the service leads across the 18 core operational service areas to challenge their thinking and design new operating models that would enable effective front line services within this framework.

  • Governance and Executive Management Design: Working with the two Councils and transition Senior Management Team to develop and define effective governance and target management structures for the new organisation, with the aim of providing the new organisation with the operational freedoms it needs to deliver its vision and develop a more commercial operating approach.

Outcome Achieved: Achieving for Children is now established as a Community Interest Company, jointly owned by the two founding Councils. It commenced operations on 1st April 2014, and delivers an integrated suite of children’s social care and education services, enabling both councils to deliver outstanding outcomes for children and young people. Its initial operating budget is in excess of £100 million per annum.

To date, few authorities have been willing to delegate these critical frontline services and this represents a major cultural change. By creating an organisation with ‘arm’s length’ separation from each Council, there will be greater opportunities to innovate and improve performance than would be possible within the constraints of a conventional (shared) public service delivery.

Nick Whitfield, Joint Director of Education and Children's Services, Richmond upon Thames and Kingston upon Thames Borough Councils, said:

“Mutual Ventures have been an invaluable partner in the design and development of Achieving for Children. Their extensive knowledge of alternative delivery models and ability to propose practical solutions to what have sometimes been seemingly insurmountable challenges has been greatly appreciated. Their clear thinking, friendly questioning and, crucially, awareness of the complexities of children’s social care has been clear, timely and invaluable throughout the journey.”


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