The overall pace of improvement in Reading’s children’s services in Reading is insufficient, according to a new Ofsted report published last week.

The visit, on March 12-13, 2019, was the eighth monitoring visit since the local authority was judged inadequate in June 2016.

Council-owned company Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC) took over Reading’s children’s services in December 2018.

The department was placed into special measures in August 2016 after Ofsted rated it ‘inadequate’.

Ofsted concluded that, although improvements in Reading’s children’s services have been sustained since October 2017, ‘the wider, overall pace of improvement has not been sufficient’.

Inspectors were critical of the pace of change, the inconsistent quality of social work practice and the quality of data.

Ofsted also criticised the instability and interim status of large numbers of staff.

A new interim director of children’s services was appointed in March 2019 after Stephen Kitchman left a month earlier.

Eleni Ioannides, interim Director of Children’s Services, said: “We know there are areas which need addressing in terms of oversight and the consistent quality of social work practice but we’re at the start of our improvement journey and this report indicates we’re on the right track.

During the visit, inspectors focused on:

  • the effectiveness of the children’s single point of access (CSPoA) in responding to concerns about children
  • the early response to risk, particularly strategy discussions and child protection enquiries
  • the effectiveness of the arrangements for ‘stepping up’ or ‘stepping down’ between different levels of intervention.

Inspectors praised the way BFfC’s CSPoA was run, with co-located and virtual partner agencies effectively sharing information and attending meetings and making decisions.

They were also complimentary about practitioners’ shared understanding of thresholds and timescales for initial screening and enquiries.

The report added that responses to concerns about children at risk are quick and effective.

Cllr Liz Terry, lead member for Children’s Services, said: “The initial speed and effectiveness of the response to each case brought to the attention of the Children’s Services team is critical, as is the appropriate ongoing treatment of that case.

“I am pleased to see the improvements to the service recognised by Ofsted inspectors but note the areas where more work is required and will be keen to see further progress in these areas happening more quickly.”

The full report can be found here