Staff working in Reading Children’s Services have made progress but still need to improve to be considered ‘good’.
Previously Reading Children’s Services was rated as ‘in need of improvement to be good’ in September 2019 during an inspection by the council’s Foster Care Service, with Principal Inspector Tracy Scott delivering the verdict that the service provided to foster children was “not good enough”.
Although progress has been made in some areas, inspectors have always found cause for concern.
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Children’s services in Reading are run by Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC), which is owned by the borough council but is independently run.
OFSTED inspectors recently carried out a targeted visit, where they looked at arrangements in place for children in need and children under a child protection plan.
This includes children with disabilities, ‘children in need’ and children with a child protection plan, which may result in legal intervention for that child’s welfare.
These children will often have social workers to handle their cases.
Although improvements have been made, the inspectors felt that “the pace of change needs to pick up” and identified areas where improvements are crucial.
The inspection report states: “Social workers do not take sufficient account of the extent of the cumulative harm suffered by children, leading to overly optimistic assessments of parents’ ability to change.
“Assessments often consider only the last reference and do not take
sufficient record of family history. The chronologies are not systematically completed.
“A small number of children are not getting the intensive help they need soon
The BFfC has been praised for its work with children with disabilities.
The report states: “Qualified social work ensures that children receive the help they need.
“All children with disabilities in need of statutory service are supported by the same team, helping to nurture long-lasting relationships between children, families and professionals.
“A tailored service ensures that older children do not fall between the gaps in the offer.”
However, OFTSED found other areas where services for children in Reading were not deemed to be good enough.
It has been observed that the opportunities for children to express their wishes are limited, as they experience changes in designated social worker and rarely attend their child protection conferences.
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The Children’s Services rating was not changed during the inspection, therefore it is still rated as “needs improvement to be good”.
Responding to the findings, Deborah Glassbrook, executive director of Reading Children’s Services, said: ‘A Brighter Future for Children welcomes the focused visit and valuable feedback from the inspectors.
“Some of the feedback was encouraging and positive – in line with recent Ofsted inspections of other areas of our service which have been rated ‘Good’ or above – but there are clearly areas which need improvement.
“We immediately enhanced our continuous improvement plan to ensure areas that need greater focus and pace are addressed. The restructuring of services that was planned prior to the visit is now well advanced and will support our improved service delivery to children, youth and their families. We also met with key partners to ensure we are taking a strategic and joint approach.
“We would like to reassure residents of Reading that inspectors have not identified any ‘priority actions’ for us and no children have been found to be in immediate danger.
“Although the pandemic has created additional challenges for our services, we fully accept the findings of the targeted visit and are committed to improving all aspects of the services we offer. Having made significant progress and achieved very positive formal recognition in many other areas of our work, we will focus on the areas of development identified here to ensure consistent and lasting improvements in all the services we provide to children, young people and their families in Reading. ‘
The targeted visit was led by OFSTED Inspector Alexander Kemp.
It was undertaken in February with the report released on March 21.
The findings of the recent visit will be taken into account during future inspections.