Cherry blossom tree marks start of ‘Rooted in Reading’ campaign

Brighter Futures for Children and Ethical Reading joint press release, February 18 2020

When a 14-year-old boy moved to his permanent foster home last year, he came up with an idea to help himself – and others like him – keep their roots in Reading.

As an active member of Brighter Futures for Children’s Children in Care Council, he suggested a tree would help him, and others just like him, feel ‘rooted’ in the town.

He wanted a tree that would ‘grow fast and tall, live a long time and have pinky white blossom that would flutter down in the wind.’

Catie Blundell, Brighter Futures for Children’s participation officer, wanted to make this happen for him and others like him, so she worked in partnership with Ethical Reading and its innovative Trees for Reading initiative.

In association with Reading Borough Council (RBC) and Reading Tree Wardens, the initiative offers local organisations and individuals the opportunity to make a positive difference by sponsoring the planting and care of trees within the town.

Lead Councillor for Culture, Heritage and Recreation, Cllr Karen Rowland, passionately supported the project.

The people of Reading have paid for the tree through crowdfunding on Ethical Reading’s JustGiving page.

The double-bloom ornamental cherry tree – a Prunus avium ‘Plena’ – was planted outside the town hall in a special ceremony on Monday 17 February.

The private event was attended by members of the various organisations involved and, most importantly, by children and young people in care.

‘His idea was brilliant and it will help him, and many others like him, feel they truly belong. We have a lot of children and young people who either can’t live in Reading anymore because it isn’t safe for them to do so, or who have to live outside Reading because we don’t have enough local foster carers,’ said Brighter Futures for Children’s managing director Tony Kildare. ‘We can’t thank Ethical Reading and Reading Borough Council enough for working with us to make it happen.’

Brighter Futures for Children will shortly be launching a campaign, based on the tree and what it symbolises, called ‘Rooted in Reading’, to find more local foster carers.

Kathryn McCann, from Ethical Reading’s Sustainability team, commented: ‘It has been such a pleasure to work with him, Catie and the team at Brighter Futures for Children to make this happen. We look forward to seeing the tree in bloom, and hope that it will be a potent symbol of hope and belonging for Reading children in care for many years to come.’

Liz Terry, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Councillor for Children, said: ‘Our focus as a council is to achieve the best possible outcomes for children and young people in Reading. While it is not always possible due to individual circumstances, where we can we want children to be fostered in their home town, where they already have put down roots and where they feel secure and settled. The new tree in Town Hall Square is a symbol of that ambition and the council is pleased to have worked with partners to have made it a reality.’

Karen Rowland, Lead Councillor for Culture, Heritage and Recreation, said: ‘The planting of this tree is particularly meaningful to me, as an adopted child who experienced first-hand a personal sense of loss from being separated from the place where I was born. I’m thrilled to be able to play a role in helping this young person’s vision become a reality here in Reading.’

Notes to Editors

To find out more about becoming a foster carer with Brighter Futures for Children, visit the website:

Find out more about Ethical Reading’s Trees for Reading project here:






‘Outstanding’ rating for our short breaks children’s home

Cressingham, one of two children’s homes run in Reading by Brighter Futures for Children, has been rated as ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted after a recent unannounced inspection visit.

The inspector awarded ‘Outstanding’ ratings to all three key areas – the overall experiences and progress of children, how well children and young people were helped and protected and the effectiveness of leaders and managers.

This was Cressingham’s first Ofsted inspection since Brighter Futures for Children took over children’s services from Reading Borough Council in December 2018. The inspector visited the home on 3-4 December 2019.

Cressingham provides short breaks (respite) care to families of children/young people who have complex health needs, learning and associated physical and/or sensory disabilities, complex communication disabilities (Autism) and/or challenging behaviour associated with a disability.

It offers overnight accommodation for six children (male and female) between the ages of 8 to 18 who primarily live in the Reading area but also accepts applications from neighbouring local authorities.

The inspection report said that ‘children benefit immensely from their short breaks and look forward to them’.

The inspector found that ‘staff focus on the children doing their best, seeing beyond their disability’ and that children enjoyed excellent relationships with staff, which was evident through the children’s ‘laughter and broad smiles’.

He said staff ‘care for the children with tenderness, warmth and love. This creates an atmosphere which is nurturing and supporting, in which children thrive.’

Staff were praised for threading the children’s identity and cultural needs through all aspects of their care and for providing a range of stimulating activities and encouraging play.

In addition, they were praised for demonstrating an excellent knowledge in how to protect and safeguard the children and for recognising the children’s vulnerability and for not being complacent.

The inspector noted that the registered manager, Helena Baptista, had developed an ‘effective impact assessment to consider the suitability of children being referred to the home’ and that children were well matched, with opportunities to socialise and have fun with other children to support their personal development.

Praise was given for up-to-date support plans, healthcare plans and safer recruitment practice.

The inspector had particular praise for Helena’s forward thinking, innovative ideas and leadership skills, with weekly team meetings and training needs fully met.

Tony Kildare, Managing Director of Brighter Futures for Children, said he was delighted with the rating, which was testament to Helena’s leadership and the whole team’s dedication to improving the lives of the children and young people they cared for.

‘This is a double success for Helena and her team, as Pinecroft, the other children’s home she manages, was rated outstanding last year too.

‘We are all extremely proud of everyone involved in the delivery of an outstanding and vital service to children, young people and their families.’

Cllr Liz Terry, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Children’s Services, said: ‘I would like to congratulate the team at Cressingham Children’s Home for consistently providing high-quality caring services for the children and young people who visit.

‘Children benefit enormously from their short breaks at Cressingham and their parents and carers know they are being looked after by a wonderfully caring and thoughtful staff team.

‘Everyone associated with the home should be very proud of such an exceptional Ofsted report.’

The full report can be found on Ofsted’s website:



Reading’s Improving Children’s Services Out of Intervention

The below press release was issued by Reading Borough Council on 8 February 2021The continuing improvement journey of children’s services in Reading reached a major milestone today when it was officially confirmed that the service has been removed from Government intervention.

In a letter to Reading Borough Council Leader Jason Brock today (Feb 8), 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 by the Council and Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC).

Today’s letter acknowledges ‘significant improvement’ since Ofsted’s inspection 5 years ago and the ‘hard work and commitment of all involved at the Council.’ It goes on to say: “Elected members, senior leaders, partners and staff at all levels in Reading have demonstrated a commitment to achieving this. In doing so, Reading has ensured that vulnerable children and families now have access to an improved quality of service.”

Reading’s Children’s Services were first placed in intervention in 2016 following an Ofsted inspection, with a revised Direction issued in December 2018. A 2019 Ofsted report highlighted examples of strong practice across the service, including in early help services. It also showed there were areas where improvement was still required.

A recent subsequent report by children’s services commissioner Nick Whitfield acknowledged the pace of improvements have continued post inspection, alongside an ongoing commitment from both Reading Borough Council and Brighter Futures for Children for this to continue. He recommended removal of Government intervention, which was confirmed in today’s letter to the Council Leader.

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.”

Today’s removal of the Statutory Direction is the culmination of five years of hard work. The decision has been welcomed by the Council and Brighter Futures for Children, who manage children’s services on behalf of the Council.

Liz Terry, Reading Borough Council’s Lead Councillor for Children’s Services, said:

“This is hugely welcome news for all staff working with children and families, whether at the Council or Brighter Futures for Children, 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.

“Children’s social care teams everywhere have a huge responsibility in minimising the impact of the pandemic on vulnerable children and young people. I am delighted that their hard work in Reading has been acknowledged in this way.

“Along with our colleagues at Brighter Futures for Children, our statutory partners in health, police and in our schools, and the voluntary/community sector, we all have a responsibility to help every single child in Reading achieve their full potential, no matter how challenging their personal circumstances may be. We know there is a long way to go and much more work to do, but the lifting of this notice is a major milestone in a continuing improvement journey.”

Ashley Pearce, Lead Councillor for Education at the Council, said:

“While it has been uniquely challenging year for everyone involved in delivering education to the children and young people of Reading, the removal of intervention is the culmination of five years of tremendous efforts to turn the service around.

“Teachers and teaching staff continue to work hard to give every child and young person in Reading the very best possible start in life, at times under very trying circumstances. I’d like to thank them for their hugely valuable contribution.

“We all now need to redouble our efforts in developing vital care, education and support services for children and young people across the town.”

Di Smith, Chair of the Brighter Futures for Children 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.”