Children in care film gets standing ovation

An inspirational film, made by and for children in care, got a standing ovation at its premiere in Reading recently.

The film, which is almost four minutes long, is an emotional, thought-provoking and ultimately uplifting account of young people's experiences of coming into care and of being in care.

Our young people in care wanted to create the film as a way of reassuring others coming into care that it would be okay.

'The young people were totally committed to helping improve the experiences of others coming into care, as well as having their voices and views heard,' said Brighter Futures for Children's Managing Director Tony Kildare.

'The end result is an inspiring film, which left everyone at the premiere filled with pride and in awe of their amazing achievement,' he added.

The film became a reality thanks to TellyJuice, the London-based creative video agency who gave their time and creativity free to produce a brilliant film for us.

'TellyJuice turned the  young people's dreams of making a film into a reality and we can't thank them enough,' said Catie Blundell, Brighter Futures for Children's Participation Officer, who works with the children and young people on ways to have their voices and views heard.

The young people spent a creative day at TellyJuice writing their thoughts and feelings about being in care and about their foster carers on colourful cards. To protect their identities, then held the cards up and recorded the voice over for the film.

At the end of the young people's powerful messages, a song, called 'Thank You' which is dedicated to our Foster Carers was played. The song was written and performed by two of the young people and was recorded at Readipop,  the Reading-based music and arts charity which, again, gave us their expertise and studio time free of charge.

The film had its premiere at a special showing, thanks to the generosity of The Vue Cinema, Reading, in front of 130 invited guests.

The film is now widely available on our social media sites and on our website at www.brighterfuturesforchildren.org and is rapidly clocking up views.

'Our young people have helped allay the fears for many children coming into care, as well as promoting the fantastic work of our foster carers.

'We're hoping it will also encourage more people in Reading to come forward as foster carers with us, to help enhance the lives of our children and young people by offering them the same level of care - both short and long-term - and to keep them in Reading, where, together, we can offer them a brighter future,' said Mr Kildare.

View the film at www.brighterfuturesforchildren.org

Facebook: @BFfCChild

Twitter: @BFfC_Child

 


Young people in care speak out through poetry

Young people in care who took part in an eight-week poetry course, called Spoken Word, Spoken Mind, read their poems out to an invited audience as part of Reading Fringe Festival recently.

Brighter Futures for Children worked together with local organisations to bring the project about and provide an opportunity for the children to express themselves creatively.

Led by local Reading poet Becci Fernley, the Spoken Word, Spoken Mind workshops took place all over Reading, in venues organised by the Reading Fringe Festival. Each week Becci inspired the young people to open up about their thoughts and feelings about being in care and to use these as a basis for some powerful poetry.

The idea for the project came from Connect Reading's Kirsti Wilson whose organisation's very ethos is to join local companies and charities together to help the local community.

'Children who come into care often have adverse childhood experiences and find it difficult to express themselves or to make sense fo what they've experienced,' said Catie Blundell, Brighter Futures for Children's Participation Officer, 'The Spoken Word provided our young people with an opportunity to combine expression with learning the art of poetry and the results were amazing,' Catie added.

The project was part-funded by the Arts Council, through Reading Fringe Festival and through Supt Stan Gilmour, Thames  Police's Commander for Reading, who support trauma-informed practice across the borough. That funding was kindly sourced for us by Connect Reading.

The highlight of the project was participation in a closed event, as part of Reading Fringe Festival, to 130 invited guests at The Vue cinema, Reading.


Progress is slow but we’re upbeat about our future plans

Ofsted has today (19/7/19) published its findings on its second monitoring visit since Brighter Futures for Children took over children’s services from Reading Borough Council in December 2018. It was their ninth monitoring visit since children’s services were rated inadequate in 2016.

Link to Ofsted monitoring visit report

Inspectors visited on June 26-27. They reviewed the progress made in the area of help and protection, particularly the work carried out in the Family Intervention Teams (FIT), the Children and Young People’s Disability Team (CYPDT) and the Access and Assessment teams (A&A). Inspectors focused on children who are the subject of child protection and child in need plans.

The main findings were that, although there have been some improvements in the service, for example in the Children and Young People Disability team, the progress is slow, uneven and, when made, not always sustained.

Eleni Ioannides, interim Director of Children’s Services, said: ‘Brighter Futures for Children is at the very start of its journey and this report is an accurate reflection of the situation we have inherited.

‘There is a huge amount of work to be done to improve children’s social care in Reading and, even though we have made great strides since we took over in December 2018, it is too early in our journey for new improvements to show.

‘However, there is no getting away from the fact that the lack of permanent children’s social workers is impacting on our ability to make sustained improvements.

‘This is a nationwide issue, felt more acutely by all children’s services near to London, where social workers can attract higher salaries. It isn’t helped by the high cost of housing and living in Berkshire which, again, impacts on our recruitment success.

‘The positive news is that we have eight ‘home grown’ social workers who will qualify next week and will be able to take on more cases, we have several permanent social workers starting with us and a few who have converted from agency to permanent, which shows we are an employer of choice.

‘We have also embarked on a targeted recruitment campaign with a new recruitment agency which will specialise in finding permanent social workers. It is already attracting social workers to us. This is our key priority.

‘Ofsted acknowledged the work we have done to improve performance management data and the accuracy of the audits we have carried out, which have helped us identify the areas where we need to improve and steps are already being taken to do so, although it’s too early for these to show in monitoring visits.’

The 171 unallocated cases were, as indicated in the report, at a particular moment in time when five social workers left in quick succession. The situation was dealt with swiftly, extra resources were put in and colleagues from across the service stepped in to ensure all children were seen and that there was oversight of cases.  Within a short space of time, additional staff were employed and the number of unallocated cases fell to zero.

We must stress that, at no point, were any children left unsafe.

Ofsted inspectors recognised improvements we have made in the quality of assessments, in effective multi-agency involvement, and in the creative direct work we undertake with children, which is very positive.  We now need to work to ensure that the best of our practice becomes more commonly and consistently the standard that everyone can expect.

Delays in court proceedings work has been addressed by a thorough business analysis of the current state and new processes have been mapped for implementation. This change will take time to embed and to show as an improvement but the issues have been identified and tackled.

Tony Kildare, Brighter Futures for Children’s Managing Director, said: ‘We have robust action plans in place to tackle all the known issues.

‘We recognise that we have a long improvement journey ahead to better the services we offer to the children of Reading but we are determined to succeed and to make sustainable, positive changes. It will take time but we are adamant we can deliver.

‘Recruitment and retention remains our biggest issue and we’re really pleased that our permanent recruitment activity is now under way.  Continuity of social care and creating trust with the children and young people we are here to serve is at the very heart of a social worker’s role, though until something is done nationally to address the discrepancy between the amount agency social workers can earn compared to their permanent counterparts, this will continue to be an issue, just as it is in other not-for-profit and public sectors, such as the NHS.

‘In other areas of children’s services we manage, there have been significant achievements since December. Our two children’s homes are now both ‘Outstanding’, we have made great strides in implementing the education strategy, we have been complimented by Ofsted on our work in schools, and we continue to improve our Special Education Needs and Disabilities (SEND) service, which was recognised by Ofsted in their comments on the work of our Children and Young Person’s Disability team.

‘In addition, the 28 projects being run under our Transformation Programme are starting to show real results, particularly in early help, where our new pre-birth and reunification teams are making a positive difference to children, young people and families in Reading.

‘We are not making excuses. There is much work to be done to rectify the state of children’s social care as we inherited it in December, but we are determined, passionate and firmly believe that our improvement journey has begun.

Cllr Liz Terry, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Councillor for Children’s Services, said: “It is clear from the latest Ofsted letter that while progress is being made in Reading’s Children’s Services it is not happening quickly enough.

“The nationwide problem of social worker recruitment continues to be a significant barrier in the service’s ability to deliver the improvements required. It is a difficult problem, felt most severely in the South East, and I look forward to seeing some positive results from Brighter Futures for Children’s new recruitment campaign.

“I had hoped establishing the new company would be a fresh start, with progress being made more quickly. I am disappointed this is not yet the case but in the meantime the Council will continue to support BFfC as they strive to provide the best possible children’s services for families in Reading.”