Reading’s fostering service no longer inadequate

Brighter Futures for Children’s Independent Fostering Agency (IFA) has been judged ‘Requires Improvement to be Good’ by Ofsted, following its first inspection as an IFA since the company took over the fostering service in March 2019.

The judgement, which was the same in all three judgement areas, is an improvement on its previous judgement of ‘Inadequate’. It is important to note that the inspection found no serious or widespread failures that result in children’s welfare not being safeguarded or promoted.

The three judgement areas were:

  • Overall experiences and progress of children and young people
  • How well children and young people are helped and protected
  • The effectiveness of leaders and managers.

The inspection, which took place between 10-14 February, found much that is working well, including most children’s needs being met by foster carers, who provide them with the care, stability and security they need to make progress.

The inspectors found that children benefited from the trusting relationships they built and maintained with foster carers and that most were making positive progress in education.

Foster carers had a sound understanding of risk and were supported by the IFA, which worked well in partnership with professionals to reduce risk-taking behaviour.

Inspectors found no major concerns regarding children going missing or being at risk of exploitation.

They identified that children were learning age-appropriate living skills and that, where possible, children’s placements were planned and children could meet foster carers before living with them.

Foster carers and staff knew the children and young people well, that foster carers managed contact with birth relatives and friends effectively and there were regular opportunities for children to express their views.

What inspectors found wasn’t working so well was the consistency and efficiency of management oversight, the number of children moved on from foster care, a lack of sensitivity in some recording and the IFA’s ability to demonstrate children’s contribution to improvement and design.

They found inconsistencies in record keeping, plans and other administrative and management tasks. All of the recommendations are now being addressed.

Deborah Glassbrook, Director of Children’s Services at Brighter Futures for Children, led the inspection response for the IFA, briefing inspectors and giving them full access to cases, information, staff, service users and partners, as required.

Deborah Glassbrook, Director of Children’s Services at Brighter Futures for Children, led the inspection response for the IFA, briefing inspectors and giving them full access to cases, information, staff, service users and partners, as required.

She said she recognised that the IFA, as with all Brighter Futures for Children services, was on a continuous improvement but was definitely on the right path.

“We have been responsible for the setting up and running of the IFA since March last year and we’ve come a long way in a relatively short space of time,’ she said. ‘Like other areas of children’s services, we have really picked up the pace of improvement and some of these will take more time to fully show.

‘We now have a stable, experienced management team in the Independent Fostering Agency, and we have an action plan to address all the weaknesses we already knew about and those identified in this report.

‘I think the key message for the public is that our children and young people are safe and we are working at pace to make all the other necessary improvements to deliver a quality and consistent service to our children and young people in foster care in Reading.

‘I’d like to thank staff and, in particular, our foster carers for their hard work and commitment to our children.’

Cllr Liz Terry, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Children’s Services, said: ‘We are very pleased to see that the Independent Fostering Agency is heading in the right direction.

‘The improvement in the performance of the fostering service is the result of a lot of hard work and I am glad to see this has been recognised by the Ofsted inspectors. Of course, there is still much to do and the council will continue to work with Brighter Futures for Children to drive the service towards a future ‘Good’ judgement.’

The full report can be found here

NOTE FOR EDITORS:

Brighter Futures for Children owns the IFA, which operates in the same independent, not-for-profit way as Brighter Futures for Children does in relation to its owner, Reading Borough Council.

Brighter Futures for Children took over the responsibility for the delivery of children’s services, including children’s social care, early help, education services (including SEND) in December 2018 and the fostering service from March 2019.


Reading unites against child exploitation

Making sure all children across the borough are safe is a key priority for Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC), which is working with partner organisations on a campaign to raise awareness of child exploitation.

The campaign coincides with the National Child Exploitation Awareness Day on Wednesday (18 March), which aims to highlight the issues surrounding exploitation and encourages everyone to think, spot and speak out against any abuse.

Information will be available from locations around the borough, as well as on social media, highlighting to residents the signs to spot for exploitation, with the message: ‘If you see something, say something.’

Training is being provided to staff working in children’s services at BFfC and also to Reading Borough Council, as well as to taxi drivers, who are required take a two-hour session on safeguarding children as part of their licence.

Deborah Glassbrook, Director of Children’s Services at BFfC said: “Child exploitation takes a range of different forms - criminal, physical, emotional, and sexual and involves the manipulation or coercion of young people under the age of 18.

“The job of keeping our children safe requires input from all agencies who work together all year round to prevent and protect all children and young people from any exploitation.

“But everyone has a part to play.

“It is so important to raise awareness of this and highlight all issues so if anyone has a concern about a child or young person being exploited in anyway, they know how and where to speak out.”

Employees from BFfC, the council, health services, voluntary organisations, and Thames Valley Police will also be uniting against exploitation by pledging  support throughout the week and encouraging residents to pledge their support.

Join the campaign to unite against child exploitation – follow BFfC on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and #CEADay20.

For more information or if anyone has concerns about a child they suspect may be a victim of exploitation, contact BFfC's Children’s Single Point of Access on (0118) 937 3641 or email cspoa@brighterfuturesforchildren.org

ENDS

 Editors notes

 More details about National Child Exploitation Day and the topic of CSE can be found at http://www.nwgnetwork.org/


Record number of Reading student get first choice secondary school place

A record number of students have had an offer of their first preference for secondary school place in Reading this year.

First preference offers stand at 73% this year, compared to 64% in 2019 and 66% in 2018. This means that more than 90% of students got their first (73%), second (12%) or third (6%) choice, which is 91% overall.

The number of students not allocated any of their preferences decreased from 12.28% last year to 7.45% this year.

Reading Girls has increased in popularity again this year and the WREN School, Highdown School and Maiden Erlegh, Reading all continue to be popular choices.

Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC), which delivers education services in Reading on behalf of Reading Borough Council, has made sure all secondary school pupils in the borough have a place for September, despite fierce competition for places.

Last year on National Offer Day, there were no surplus places in Reading schools but this year, BFfC has a surplus of 92 across Reading.

‘We’ve been planning since last year to ensure more school places are available for the start of term in September,’ said Prof Dr Kate Reynolds, Director of Education at Brighter Futures for Children.

‘We have a statutory duty to provide every child who had an on-time application with a school place on National Offer Day. Due to this increased demand, Blessed Hugh Faringdon Catholic School will create an additional class.

‘Based on parental preference, we knew we’d need more because 200 additional residents chose to apply for a Reading school place for their child last year.

‘We’d like to thank all our schools for working so hard with us and for being so accommodating. Reading secondary schools are becoming increasingly popular, which is good news,’ she added.

The surplus spaces will no doubt be taken by late applications, which come in after the closure of the second round. Currently there are 90 late applications, which means the 92 surplus spaces will go very quickly.

The percentage of pupils allocated to schools outside Reading was 29.19% this year, 26.44% 2019 28.52% 2018, 37.39% in 2017 and 34.78% in 2016.

2020 2019 2018 2017 2016
Bulmershe 85 81 69 107 78
Oakbank 46 40 58 59 50
Maiden Erlegh 32 30 26 30 28
Little Heath 136 106 117 156 131
Denefield 81 75 74 81 88
Maiden Erlegh Chiltern Edge 84 101 80 128 118

 

The table above includes the schools in which we place most children out of borough.

ENDS

Note to Editors:
Brighter Futures for Children began operating on December 3, 2018. We are a not-for-profit company, wholly owned but independent of Reading Borough Council. We have responsibility for the delivery of children’s services, early help, education and SEND (Special Educational Needs and Disabilities) in the borough.