Staff working in Reading children’s services have made some progress but still need to improve in order to be judged as ‘good’.

Previously, Reading children's services were rated as 'requires improvement to be good' in September 2019 during an inspection into the council's fostering service, with lead inspector Tracy Scott making the verdict that the service provided to foster children was 'not good enough'.

While progress has been made in some areas, inspectors still found cause for concern.

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Children’s services in Reading are handled by Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC), which is owned by the Borough Council but run independently.

OFSTED inspectors conducted a focused visit recently, where they examined the arrangements in place for children in need and children subject to a child protection plan.

That includes children who are disabled, ‘children in need’ and children with a child protection plan, which can result in legal intervention for that child’s welfare.

These children will often have social workers to manage their cases.

Although improvements have been made, inspectors judged ‘the pace of change needs to accelerate’ and identified areas where improvement is crucial.

The inspection report states: “Social workers do not sufficiently consider the extent of cumulative harm that children experience, and this leads to overly optimistic assessments of parental capacity to change.

“Assessments often consider only the last referral and do not take

sufficient account of family history. Chronologies are not routinely completed.

“A small number of children do not get the intensive help that they need soon


BFfC was praised for its work with disabled children.

The report states: “Skilled social work ensures that children get the help that they need.

“All disabled children needing a statutory service receive help from the same team, and this enables long-standing relationships  between children, families and professionals to flourish.

“A bespoke service ensures that older children do not fall between gaps in provision.”

However, OFTSED found other areas where children’s services in Reading was not deemed good enough.

It was observed that opportunities for children to voice their wishes are limited, as they experience changes to their designated social worker and rarely participate in their child protection conferences.

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The rating for children’s services was not changed during the inspection, therefore it is still rated as ‘requires improvement to be good’.

Responding to the findings, Deborah Glassbrook, Executive Director of Children’s Services in Reading, said: ‘Brighter Futures for Children welcomes the focused visit and the inspectors’ valuable feedback.

‘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 some areas in need of improvement.

‘We have immediately enhanced our continuous improvement plan to ensure those areas which need greater focus and pace are addressed. The service restructure that was planned before the visit is now well under way and will support our improved delivery of services to children, young people and their families. We have also met with key partners to ensure we are taking a strategic and joint approach.

‘We’d like to reassure Reading residents that inspectors did not identify any ‘priority actions’ for us and no children were found to be at immediate risk of harm.

‘While the pandemic has created extra challenges for our services, we fully accept the findings of the focused visit and are determined to improve all aspects of the services we offer. Having made significant progress and had very positive formal recognition in many other areas of our work, we will concentrate on the areas of development identified here to ensure consistent and sustainable improvements across all services we offer to children, young people and their families in Reading.’

The focused visit was conducted by OFSTED inspector Alexander Kemp.

It was undertaken in February with the report published on March 21.

Findings in the recent visit will be taken into account during future inspections.