Following an Ofsted inspection, which rated its children’s services as inadequate, Sunderland Council was put under the direction of the Department for Education (DfE). The Council set up a new company, called Together for Children (TfC) to deliver the majority of children’s services functions. The commitment of all involved enabled TfC to be the first children’s service in the country to move from an ‘inadequate’ judgement to ‘outstanding’ in just one inspection cycle.
Despite this success, TfC recognised that the public sector and children’s social care context had changed significantly since the company’s inception and would continue to do so. As a result, the company felt it prudent to take the opportunity to assess and seek assurance over its approach to financial forecasting and establishing trends in demand, and associated costs, and reviewing early intervention activity to identify additional areas of best practice.
Following initial mobilisation, C.Co suggested that there was greater value to the company from a continued focus on the approach to forecasting. In addition, C.Co recommended additionally drafting a collaborative joint (council and company) narrative on TfC’s journey to date. This included identifying opportunities for future improvement and cost avoidance, which would support the company being prepared for any future discussions around funding reductions.
C.Co delivered its assurance across three workstreams:
- The approach to financial forecasting within the company
- A review of the financial and performance journey to date
- The identification of opportunities for further consideration and improvement.
Based upon our initial discussions with a range of company finance and transformation officers, together with a meeting with the council’s finance lead, C.Co developed a set of key lines of enquiry (KLoE) to support the direction of the review and help challenge, positively, the scale of ambition and potential for generating cashable savings.
The outputs of the review provided a clear narrative of the company’s journey to date; increased rigour to its short and medium-term financial management; and a number of key areas of focus, from which efficiencies in operational structure, delivery and savings could be achieved.
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