Children’s services in Reading have been removed from government intervention five years after being rated inadequate by Ofsted.

Reading Borough Council (RBC) was ordered by the government to set up children’s company Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC) after the service was rated ‘inadequate’ in 2016.

Children’s services in the town were placed under close scrutiny by the government due to concerns “children were left at potential risk of serious harm for too long before action was taken”.

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In a letter to RBC Leader Jason Brock on Monday, Vicky Ford,  parliamentary under secretary of state for children and families, confirmed she was lifting the government direction with immediate effect, as a result of the continuing improvement of children’s services in Reading.

Di Smith, chair of the BFfC Board, said: “I am delighted with this news which is a positive endorsement of the progress Brighter Futures for Children has made.

“I would like to pay tribute to our amazing staff who are firmly committed to building on these gains and to securing further improvement for the benefit of children, young people and families in Reading.”

The letter from Ms Ford says “significant improvement” has been made since Ofsted’s inspection five years ago and praises the “hard work and commitment of all involved at the council”.

It says “elected members, senior leaders, partners and staff at all levels in Reading have demonstrated a commitment…ensuring vulnerable children and families now have access to an improved quality of service.”

The letter adds: “This is an important and well-deserved step but there is still more work to do.

“I will be asking my officials to stay close to your continuing improvement journey, and, to that end, Reading will now enter a period of ‘support and supervision’, in line with all authorities who exit formal intervention.”

A 2019 Ofsted report highlighted examples of strong practice across the service, showing progress, but there were still areas where improvement was required, with the rating changing from ‘inadequate’ to ‘requires improvement’.

A subsequent report by Children’s Services commissioner Nick Whitfield acknowledged the pace of improvements has continued and recommended removal of government intervention.

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Ashley Pearce, lead councillor for Education at RBC, said the removal of intervention  is the culmination of five years of tremendous efforts to turn the service around.

Councillor Liz Terry, RBC’s lead member for Children’s Services, added: “This is hugely welcome news for all staff working with children and families, whether at the council or BFfC, who have worked so tirelessly over the last five years to drive forward improvements to children’s services in Reading.

“What is even more impressive is that improvements have continued during the pandemic, which continues to throw up huge challenges for children’s services and local government, which are likely to continue for some years’ to come.”