How often do you get the chance to take a leading role in a successful organisation that’s at the cutting edge of children’s services and which serves two of the most vibrant boroughs in London?
Ian Thomas, Chief Executive of Kingston Council, and a former DCS, admits he’d have jumped at the chance to be DCS at Achieving for Children (AfC).
The social enterprise, set up by Kingston and Richmond councils, has become synonymous with innovation and success in the space of just five years.
‘This is a unique opportunity,’ says Ian. ‘There isn’t a DCS role out there that operates across two councils, is a DfE Partner in Practice and is part of a local authority owned company.’ ‘You have two chief executives and two sets of elected members who are passionate about children and young people. For a DCS it’s a bit of a dream scenario to work in a situation such as we have here’.
AfC was set up to bring an unerring focus to the needs and interests of children and young people in the two boroughs. Glowing endorsements from Ofsted underline it has done exactly that.
Paul Martin, Chief Executive at Richmond Council, says AfC passed ‘a real test of durability’ following changes of administration last year. ‘Both the new leaderships have a similar outlook and they see a very strong appeal in AfC because it’s achieving good outcomes for children and young people,’ he explains. ‘Elected members also want assurance that the DCS and top team are working collaboratively with both councils. This isn’t an arms-length arrangement - relationships across both councils will be a very important element of the role.’
Paul believes AfC brings many advantages – from the added size and scale of a combined workforce operating across a large slice of south west London to the freedom and flexibility it offers as a community interest company. ‘Staff tell me that they take real pride in working for this organisation,’ he says. ‘They identify with it in a way that many social workers and other children’s services professionals don’t always identify when part of a local authority, which by its nature does so many different things. The offer to attract and retain talented staff is strong and we can provide lots of opportunities around training and development.
Paul recognises the attraction for talented, innovative professionals, ‘The extra capacity AfC creates enables you to engage specialists that you might not otherwise have access to and get involved in interventions that won’t always be possible for a single local authority. But there are challenges to be addressed, such as SEND provision for our most vulnerable children and young people.
Both Paul and Ian are clear the next DCS must embrace the organisation’s dedication to continuous improvement, sharing learning across the two boroughs and drawing on the experience of peers elsewhere.
They will also need to demonstrate an ability to work effectively with key partners such as the NHS, police and voluntary sector, says Ian.
‘We need someone who is a confident leader and innovator and who thrives in a highly challenging and supportive environment. They will be respectful to colleagues and partners and will create the right environment for staff to find new and creative solutions to what are often complex problems.
This is an exciting part of London with a very strong focus on children, young people and families. The new DCS will have a great platform to drive further improvement and innovation and deliver even better outcomes.’
Message from Paul Martin and Ian Thomas
This role is a fantastic opportunity to make a significant impact to the lives of children and young people across two vibrant boroughs. If you would like to join us and help accelerate our strong progress to date, then we would love to hear from you.
LB of Richmond and LB Wandsworth