The number of children in care in Reading continues to be higher than the national average but has decreased in the last year.

Reading’s number of looked after children (LAC) increased yearly between 2015 and 2018 but the council’s latest figures, from February 2019, show improvement.

Children’s services in Reading were recently taken over by council-owned private company Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC).

The arms-length company is ‘looking at developing its early help strategies to help stop children coming into care unnecessarily’.

The statistics were revealed by councillor Liz Terry, lead member for Children at Reading Borough Council (RBC) at a public meeting last week.

Cllr Terry said the council is in a ‘transition period’, with BFfC putting its transformation plans into place, looking at ways to make sure it is properly safeguarding children, and taking children into care when it is the right thing to do.

In 2018, the most recent year with nationwide comparable data, 75 in 10,000 of Reading’s children were in care – 278 in total – compared to a national average of 64 in 10,000.

Reading’s statistical neighbours – similar towns and cities including Southampton and Sheffield – have an average of 63.2, while geographical neighbours in the South East have an average of 51.

The average number of looked after children in Reading’s statistical neighbours has fallen in the last three years while Reading’s figures, and the national average, continued to rise.

However, the latest figures, from February 2019, show a small decrease to 72.4 per 10,000.

Cllr Terry revealed the figures at the council’s Adult Social Care, Children’s Services and Education committee on Thursday, April 4, after councillor Rob White, leader of the Reading Green Party, asked for an update.