SEND Update

Brighter Futures for Children fully recognises the national pressure on funding for SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities).

Since we took over the delivery of the SEND service from Reading Borough Council in December 2018, we have been working hard to ensure the resources we have are focused correctly on the needs of children and their families.

Through the delivery of the SEND Strategy, we have reviewed what we have in place to ensure resources are targeted appropriately. We continue to work with partners, including Reading Family Forum, to analyse information on children and family needs and use that to inform priorities.

We have seen a shift in the level and types of SEND needs of children in Reading and continue to develop different ways of improving services and support for children.

We have also co-developed tools for schools and settings to help them identify children’s needs early and we have put in place evidence-based support for children with SEND needs. This is intended to help schools focus their resources on support that has the greatest impact.

We continue to work with the Schools’ Forum to ensure that the SEND element of education-related funding is targeted in the right areas. We are also working hard to attract additional funding, alongside Reading Borough Council, and we have been successful in our bid for a new special Free School and the SEND Independent Advice and Support service.

We are also delighted that The Base autism centre will be opening shortly at Blessed Hugh Faringdon Catholic School, Reading.

We have recently become a national Trailblazer for the work we are doing to support children’s mental and emotional health in school settings. This was jointly commissioned with the CCG and West Berkshire, and has come about due to the work our Educational Psychologists and Primary Mental Health Workers have been doing.


It's Foster Care Fortnight and we're on a mission to help keep children local to Reading

Brighter Futures for Children's fostering team is embarking on a huge campaign during Foster Care Fortnight to encourage more people to become foster carers in Reading.

'We want everyone in Reading to support our campaign to keep as many of the children who come into our care local,' said Brighter Futures for Children's Managing Director Antony Kildare.

'While it is sometimes appropriate to move a child or children away from Reading for safeguarding reasons, we occasionally find that we have to place children outside Reading because we don't have a large enough pool of foster carers in the town to meet their needs,' he added.

'This can mean that siblings need to be separated or children have to move schools or away from their friends, which makes their time in care more difficult than it needs to be,' said Mr Kildare.

'So we've embarked on a community campaign to get everyone in Reading behind it to find more local foster carers who can help prevent this from happening.

'This situation isn't unique to us because there's a national shortage of foster carers. We are taking time during Foster Care Fortnight to spread the word about the rewards of fostering and dispel the myths that prevent some people from finding out more about it,' he added.

Brighter Futures for Children has a strong social media strand to the campaign, is attending local events, distributing posters for people to put up in their places of work and even large display screen adverts at Reading Station, thanks to the generosity of Maxx Media, who gave the space to the not-for-profit company for free.

'We've been delighted with the community support and partner engagement we've had so far but we need everyone to get behind this to help us find more extraordinary people like those who currently make up our fostering family.

'So, if you think you could help us and if you think you could foster, or know someone who could, please get in touch. We can't wait to hear from you,' he said.

Visit the website at www.brighterfuturesforchildren, call 0118 469 3020 or email foster@brighterfuturesforchildren.org to find out more.


Ofsted notes speed and effectiveness of response time for children at risk

Reading’s children’s services’ response to concerns about children at risk is quick and effective, according to a report by Ofsted inspectors published today (8 May).

Ofsted inspectors found the service offered by Brighter Futures for Children’s CSPoA (Children’s Single Point of Access) mirrors improvements made when the service was last inspected in 2017.

During the visit, which took place between 12-13 March, inspectors focused on the following:

  • 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 the 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.

However, the purpose of the monitoring visits is to look at improvements and inspectors were critical of the pace of change, the inconsistent quality of social work practice and the quality of data.

Inspectors acknowledged the change in the way the service is now managed and that relevant partner agencies do not always contribute to strategy discussions or fully understand the thresholds for entry into children’s social care.

‘We are pleased that improvements have been sustained and we are working hard to improve practice across our services,’ said Antony Kildare, Brighter Futures for Children’s Managing Director.

‘We are streamlining our processes to capture data more accurately. This will give us better performance management information on frontline practice, which will be shared regularly with leaders and with managers. It will help us to robustly monitor and better manage the quality of social work practice,’ he added.

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,’ she said.

Cllr Liz Terry, Lead Councillor 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 seen on Ofsted’s website: www.ofsted.gov.uk. The direct link (look for 12 March, published on 08 May 2019) is:

https://files.api.ofsted.gov.uk/v1/file/50074946