Campaign to find more Reading foster carers for teenagers

One year ago, Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC) planted a tree in Town Hall Square in partnership with Ethical Reading, Reading Borough Council and the Reading Tree Wardens.

The tree-planting, on 17 February 2020, was the brainwave of a 15-year-old boy, Nick*, who suggested it be planted to help young people in care, like him, who have had to move away from Reading to feel ‘rooted’ in the town. The cherry blossom tree stands tall outside Reading Town Hall and is now adorned with solar lights for some extra sparkle in the darker months.

BFfC has more than 270 children and young people in its care. Some of these young people, like Nick, have to live outside Reading because there is a shortage of Reading-based foster carers.

BFfC is launching a campaign to find more local foster carers, particularly for teenagers, so more young people in care can stay in Reading, where they belong. The campaign tells the story of Jade*, a 17-year-old girl, who has been in care since she was nine.

Jade said: “I’m really lucky because I live with my foster carer in Reading which means I’m close to my friends and family.”

Could you help a young person like Jade stay rooted in Reading by becoming a foster carer? To become a foster carer, you need a space in your heart for young people and a spare room in your home. BFfC provides good training and recognises the value of its foster carers with a financial package.

Read Jade’s story at:

Contact BFfC’s fostering team by email or call 0118 469 3020.

*Names have been changed to protect identities

Opportunities for Reading young people in National Apprenticeship Week

The wide diversity of opportunities available to young people through apprenticeships is being highlighted this week.

National Apprenticeships Week (February 8 – 14) has a theme of Build the Future this year and is focusing on how individuals and employers can benefit from the scheme.

Brighter Futures for Children’s (BFfC) Elevate career service is supporting the annual campaign by promoting the apprenticeship opportunities available to young people in Reading.

Businesses use apprenticeships to fill skills gaps, upskill and revitalise their workforce and young people on the scheme can benefit from increased confidence, skills, knowledge and career progression.

Elevate has a Jobs Board on the Young People Zone on the BFfC’s website (  which is updated regularly. This week there are additional apprenticeship opportunities which range from digital marketing to hairdressing and from childcare to logistics.

Prof Dr Kate Reynolds, Director of Education at BFfC, said: “Apprenticeships offer a great opportunity for young people in a job market which has been seriously affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There are openings available in a huge range of different fields in Reading and our expert career coaches at Elevate can offer friendly advice to young people looking for work or training opportunities.

“As well as the Job Boards on the Elevate webpage, there is an online chat facility or you can call the team on 07929 178133.”

Help with food and heating offered to Reading families in need

Food vouchers will be provided to children and families in most need in Reading this February half-term.

Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC), Reading Borough Council (RBC) and Reading’s schools will again be working together to help ensure no disadvantaged children in the borough go hungry or without heating.

The scheme follows a successful joint operation at the end of last year which resulted in 3,596 food vouchers being issued to Reading families over the Christmas break.

The Government’s Winter Grant Scheme includes £15 food vouchers for children who currently receive pupil premium free school meals. This scheme is co-ordinated by BFfC and, during the coming half-term, the vouchers will be issued directly by schools to their eligible pupils.

RBC is working on a scheme to help families with energy costs and details will be announced shortly.

Children who receive universal free school meals in Reception, Year 1 and Year 2 are only eligible for the vouchers if they additionally qualify for pupil premium.

The Christmas vouchers scheme was quickly put in place in December with the co-operation of schools and the One Reading Community Hub, which helped with call handling, and resulted in a good take-up from families in need.

Di Smith, BFfC Board Chair, said: “I would like to thank everyone involved in the hugely important task of ensuring food and energy vouchers get to disadvantaged children and families in Reading.

“These are tough times for many people and the partnership approach to delivering these vital schemes helps to provide a lifeline for those most in need.”

Liz Terry, Lead Councillor for Children at Reading Borough Council, said: “The council and Brighter Futures for Children have once again mobilised to ensure that no child in Reading, no matter what their circumstances are, need go hungry this half term.

“It continues to be an extremely difficult time for everyone, and particularly for those who are struggling financially. Help is at hand for those who need it the most.”

Ashley Pearce, Lead Councillor for Education at the council, said: “Without this hugely important initiative by the council, Brighter Futures for Children and local schools, there would be disadvantaged children in the borough at risk of going hungry this half term.

“I would urge any family who finds themselves in difficulty to contact the hub and check the support available to them.”

Families who find themselves in difficulty during the COVID-19 pandemic can contact the One Reading Community Hub for support at: or by calling 0808 189 4325.

If you think your circumstances mean your children may be eligible for pupil premium free school meals, please ask your school for an application form or fill in the form on the BFfC website:

Reading’s Improving Children’s Services Out of Intervention

The below press release was issued by Reading Borough Council on 8 February 2021

The 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.”