National fostering film project launches in Reading

Brighter Futures for Children is joining fostering services across the country for the national release of a new short film commissioned by the largest collaboration of local councils, children’s trusts and not-for-profit agencies from all over England.

The unique film project, developed by the West Midlands Regional Fostering Recruitment Forum, is now working with councils and not-for-profit agencies around the country who have jointly funded the creation of a new film, aimed at helping to find more foster carers who can provide homes for the children and young people who need them.

The short film, called ‘Out There’, highlights the ways fostering can make a difference to the lives of everyone involved, from the children and young people who live with foster carers, to those who come forward to care for them.

Di Smith, Board Chair of Brighter Futures for Children, said: “While we have many brilliant foster carers in Reading, we always need more people to open their homes and their hearts to fostering.

“This project has been a great example of collaborative working to produce a high-quality film that will be a real asset in our campaign to recruit new foster carers in Reading.

“The aim is for this film to be shared on social media across the UK, reaching countless people and showing them the many benefits fostering brings to everyone involved, and we are proud to have played a part in making it happen.”

A total of 34 local authorities and not-for-profit agencies have been involved in the project, and the film will have a virtual premiere at midday on 12 October which will include an introduction from Kevin Williams, the Chief Executive of The Fostering Network. Everyone attending from the participating councils, children’s trusts and not-for-profit agencies will then be asked to share the film via all social media platforms and help the message spread across the UK using the hashtags #FosterForYourCouncil and #FindTheBestOfYou

Maria Young, Director of Children’s Social Care at BFfC, said: “By being a part of this project, we get the best benefits from pooling resources. The time, knowledge and expertise that working as partners has brought to this project can now help the children and young people in Reading.

“Out There captures many of the thoughts and emotions being felt today, particularly as many people have reflected during the pandemic about their life choices and the importance of community support. I think the film itself and the partnership approach really demonstrates the benefit of collaborative working.”

The film will be available to watch and share from midday on Tuesday 12 October on Brighter Futures for Children’s Facebook page (www.facebook.com/BFfCChild) and on www.readingfostering.co.uk. You can also view it on BFfC YouTube channel.

If the film inspires you to become a foster carer or learn more, you can contact the fostering team at 0118 469 3020 or email foster@brighterfuturesforchildren.org.

NOTE TO EDITORS

Brighter Futures for Children IFA is a not-for-profit independent fostering agency, independent of, but wholly owned by Reading Borough Council.


Brighter Futures for Children celebrates Sons and Daughters Month

Children of foster carers play a vital role in helping children or young people in care feel welcome and part of their foster family. We are celebrating their contribution in Reading during Sons and Daughters Month this October.

Brighter Futures for Children’s Independent Fostering Agency (IFA) will be highlighting the positive impact foster carers’ own children have on young people who come into their home during The Fostering Network’s annual campaign.

BFfC’s IFA has a fantastic group called the Foster Squad in Reading, where foster carers’ own children can get together, have fun and share their experiences of being foster siblings.

This month, the Foster Squad will be thanking all children of BFfC foster carers in Reading with a trip to the cinema and lunch at a pizza restaurant. They will also be presented with certificates and ‘thank you’ vouchers.

Di Smith, Board Chair of Brighter Futures for Children, said: “The contribution made by foster carers’ children is vitally important but not always widely recognised. Sons and Daughters Month gives us a chance to put that right.

“These young people welcome children into their family homes and help to make them feel happier, safer and more loved.

“I would like to thank all the sons and daughters of foster carers in Reading for their tremendous contribution to fostering.”

Kate and Winston are foster carers in Reading who foster alongside their two daughters, Cassie, 16, and Ellie, 20.

Kate and Winston said: “Fostering has taught our birth children so much. They are incredibly kind and accepting young people who have embraced all the children we have cared for, whatever their background or ability.

“I know they will keep those wonderful attributes with them throughout their lives. The difference they have made and continue to make to the lives of others makes us very proud.”

In Reading, there is a shortage of foster carers, which means children and young people are often fostered outside the borough. This is highly disruptive for them and takes them away from their school, friends and other support networks that are important to them, particularly at such a difficult time in their lives.

Brighter Futures for Children, which has the only not-for-profit Independent Fostering Agency in Reading, is looking for people aged over 21, with a spare room and a big heart to become foster carers within a 20-mile radius of Reading itself.

Whether you have children still living at home, your youngest child has grown up and moved out of home or even if you have not had your own children, BFfC’s IFA is interested in hearing from you.

You can join the next online fostering information session on Tuesday 19 October, 5.30-6.30pm by emailing foster@brighterfuturesforchildren.org. Call the friendly fostering team on 0118 469 3020 to learn more, or visit the website: www.readingfostering.co.uk for inspiring stories.

There is no obligation, and tuning into an information session, listening to a foster carer tell their own story and experiences and being able to ask questions informally is a great way to find out more about fostering and whether it’s right for you.

NOTES TO EDITOR

Foster carer Kate and daughter Cassie are available for interview. Please email: David.millward1@brighterfuturesforchildren.org or call 0118 937 4081 if you would like to arrange an interview.

Find out more about Sons and Daughters Month on The Fostering Network’s website at: https://www.thefosteringnetwork.org.uk/get-involved/championing-fostering/sons-and-daughters-month


Cressingham children’s home remains ‘Outstanding’

A Reading children’s home run by Brighter Futures for Children has retained its ‘Outstanding’ rating following a recent full Ofsted inspection.

Cressingham provides short breaks for up to six children at a time who have learning or physical disabilities, sensory impairments, or a combination of these.

The inspector awarded an ‘Outstanding’ rating in the three key areas of: Overall experiences and progress of children and young people, how well children and young people are helped and protected and the effectiveness of leaders and managers.

The report published says Cressingham provides highly effective services that consistently exceed the standard of good. It adds that the actions of the children’s home contribute to significantly improved outcomes and positive experiences for children and young people who need help, protection and care.

Staff at the home are recognised for providing highly personalised and well-planned care that meets children’s individual needs particularly well. As a result, children enjoy an active and stimulating experience during their stay, which helps them to achieve outstanding outcomes.

The report says staff liaise with schools to help them consistently meet children’s needs and reach their potential. It adds: “This excellent partnership between the home, school, parents and specialist health professionals contributes to the progress that children make.”

There is also a strong staff focus on developing children’s independence skills which helps their confidence and self-esteem grow.

The inspector says children have excellent relationships with staff at the home who are attuned to each child’s preferred communication methods. This includes reading their behaviours and body language, which allows children to successfully communicate their wishes and feelings.

Staff also have an excellent understanding of children’s vulnerabilities and they follow clear and detailed risk management strategies to provide safe and competent care for the children, says the report.

The inspector comments that the highly committed and motivated staff team is effectively led by an experienced and qualified registered manager who uses their individual skills and experiences to best advantage.

New staff receive individually tailored induction and development processes that allow them to settle into their role confidently and existing team members provide an added layer of guidance and support.

Ofsted carried out the unannounced inspection on 20 and 21 July.

Di Smith, Board Chair of Brighter Futures for Children, said: “It is a pleasure to read the Ofsted inspector’s report on their visit to Cressingham children’s home in Reading. It captures the enormous level of commitment and care shown by staff.

“We are very proud of our outstanding team at Cressingham and I would like to congratulate them on maintaining the very highest standards of care and support for the children and young people who stay with them.”

Cllr Liz Terry, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Children’s Services, said: “Well done to everyone at Cressingham children’s home for retaining their ‘Outstanding’ Ofsted rating.

“The team does a superb job of liaising with parents and fellow professionals to gain a clear understanding of the children they are caring for. Their attention to detail and caring attitude clearly makes it a highly enjoyable and fulfilling experience for the children and young people who stay at Cressingham.”

The full Ofsted report is available to view at: https://files.ofsted.gov.uk/v1/file/50168994. Cressingham was previously rated ‘Outstanding’ following an Ofsted inspection in December 2019.


The Lodge nursery rated ‘Good’

A nursery run by Brighter Futures for Children has been judged ‘Good’ following a full Ofsted inspection.

The Lodge, at Southcote Children’s Centre, provides full day care for up to 42 children aged two to four-years-old.

The inspector awarded a ‘Good’ rating in all the key areas of: quality of education, behaviour and attitudes, personal development and leadership and management.

The report says days are structured to enable children to spend a significant amount of time outdoors and that they show excitement as they explore with their friends. Children access activities which spark their imagination and they are confident to follow their own interests.

Children are familiar with the daily routines, such as washing their hands on arrival, and staff sensitively encourage them to understand the importance of personal hygiene routines, the inspector says.

All children were found to be making good progress in their learning, and parents commented that their young ones loved attending the nursery and were progressing well.

The report highlights that support for children with special educational needs and/or disabilities and for disadvantaged children is a particular strength of the nursery.

It continues: “All children enjoy the wide variety of experiences on offer and make good progress from their developmental starting points.”

The inspector notes that children enjoy playing in a safe and secure environment and that daily checks are carried out to ensure resources and equipment are in good condition.

Recommendations to further improve the nursery include; helping parents to become more actively involved in their children’s learning at home and to ensure children of all abilities are sufficiently challenged.

Di Smith, Board Chair of Brighter Futures for Children, said: “I am delighted to read of the very positive findings from the Ofsted inspection of The Lodge. It is encouraging to hear that the children make good progress and that they show such excitement and imagination in their learning.

“Congratulations to all the staff who work so hard to ensure children learn and develop in such interesting and inspiring ways.”

Cllr Ashley Pearce, Lead Councillor for Education, said: “Well done to everyone at The Lodge for providing such a fun and caring environment for all children who attend.

“This is a vital stage of a young child’s growth and development and I am proud we have such good provision for Reading’s families.”

The inspection took place on 16 August and the full Ofsted report can be found on their website here


Successful bid to improve support for disadvantaged families

Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC) has successfully bid for government funding to develop a programme which will improve services for families in Reading and beyond.

Around £915,000 has been awarded to BFfC by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) from the Local Data Accelerator Fund.

The bid was submitted in collaboration with West Berkshire Council, Wokingham Borough Council, Thames Valley Police, Portsmouth City Council, Solent NHS, Clinical Commissioning Group and the Department for Work & Pensions West Berkshire Cluster, and supported by Reading Borough Council.

The funding will allow BFfC to develop a system which brings together data to enable social care, police and health professionals to have a joined-up approach to supporting disadvantaged families. The initiative forms part of the government’s Supporting Families programme.

BFfC had already successfully set up a data-hub in Reading which gave social care practitioners easier access to information about families and allowed them to establish the families’ current and future needs and take a more trauma informed approach.

It also allows professionals to track the progress of families and highlights where additional support may be needed to prevent needs from escalating.

The project has helped BFfC become one of the top performers in the national Supporting Families programme.

Other local authorities have been keen to mirror the success of the Reading Data Hub and this funding will allow BFfC and its partners to develop the scheme and roll it out to other council areas.

Di Smith, Board Chair of Brighter Futures for Children, said: “I am delighted that Brighter Futures for Children has been awarded this funding and would like to thank the MHCLG, our partners and everyone else involved in the bid.

“The programme brings all the information held on families together in one place to give professionals an overview of each family’s situation. It reduces the time spent looking through reports and spreadsheets and allows social workers to spend more time visiting the families they are supporting.”

Cllr Liz Terry, Reading Borough Council's Lead Councillor for Children’s Services, said: “Congratulations to Brighter Futures for Children on their successful bid for this funding which will help improve outcomes for Reading’s children and their families.

“I am proud that this innovative work, which started in Reading, will go on to benefit families in our neighbouring council areas and potentially other local authorities across the country.

“Closer working between our social care team and partner agencies makes complete sense and I look forward to this project bringing professionals even closer together for the benefit of disadvantaged families.”

The government press release can be found here.


Pinecroft children’s home rated ‘Good’

A Reading children’s home run by Brighter Futures for Children has been rated ‘Good’ following a full Ofsted inspection.

Pinecroft provides care for up to five children with learning or physical disabilities, sensory impairments, or a combination of these.

The inspector awarded a ‘Good’ rating in the three key areas of: Overall experiences and progress of children and young people, how well children and young people are helped and protected and the effectiveness of leaders and managers.

The inspection report published today (25 August) says staff at the home value children as individuals and have built positive and trusting relationships with them.

It continues: “The children have positive experiences moving into the home. The collaborative work between the allocated social worker, parents and education settings mean the children receive support and understanding from well-equipped and prepared staff who can meet their needs.”

The inspector says the children benefit from highly personalised care provided by committed and hard-working staff who understand the needs and vulnerabilities of the children and work diligently to ensure they are catered for.

Staff at Pinecroft are praised for having excellent knowledge and understanding of the children’s vulnerabilities, risks and medical needs. Highly detailed care plans, combined with staff vigilance and awareness, ensure the children are kept safe.

The staff also manage the children’s complex emotional and behavioural needs well and demonstrate a commitment to overcoming difficult and challenging behaviours.

The inspector describes the home manager’s monitoring systems as excellent and demonstrate clear managerial oversight of the home.

The reports says the home’s management and BFfC leaders work in close partnership with a range of professionals and specialist services to safeguard the children and to meet their holistic, emotional and healthcare needs.

It continues: “This approach demonstrates the leaders’ and managers’ dedication to wanting the absolute best care and outcomes for the children.”

The inspector also highlighted improvements to be made, including: ensuring staff use children’s communication aids, methods and devices at all times in accordance with the children’s plans; children benefit from a variety of activities that help their needs and develop interests and skills; and full reports are made within 24 hours of any measure of control, discipline or restraint in relation to a child in the home.

Ofsted carried out the unannounced inspection on 23 and 24 June.

Di Smith, Board Chair at Brighter Futures for Children, said: “I would like to congratulate everyone at Pinecroft children’s home for achieving a ‘Good’ Ofsted rating.

“The inspector’s report recognises the hard work and dedication of staff and management at the home, particularly at a time when the pandemic has presented extra challenges.

“Staff are committed to providing the best possible care for the children and young people at Pinecroft and work is already under way to address the areas of improvement raised in the report.”

Cllr Liz Terry, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Children’s Services, said: “It is clear from the inspector’s report that children and young people at Pinecroft are well cared for by understanding and diligent staff.

“I am delighted with the recognition of the hard-working care staff who build such trusting relationships with the children and who work closely with parents and other professionals to provide the best possible care and support.

“I would like to thank everyone at Pinecroft for their continued hard work and commitment.”

The full Ofsted report can be found at: https://files.ofsted.gov.uk/v1/file/50168296


GCSE exam results 2021

Students have been receiving their GCSE exam results across Reading today.

For the second consecutive year, the government said that GCSE exams could not be held this summer because of the disruption students faced due to the pandemic.

Instead, teachers were asked to assess the standard of work each student had achieved in their subjects so the school could determine a grade.

Every young person in Reading who has received their results today should feel proud of their achievements in what has been a stressful and uncertain time. And they should take advantage of the support on offer if they are disappointed with their results.

Prof Dr Kate Reynolds, Director of Education at Brighter Futures for Children, said: “I would like to congratulate all Reading students who received the grades they were hoping for today because it is their hard work throughout the year which has led to their achievement.

“I would encourage any young people who are concerned about their results to contact our expert team at Elevate careers service who can offer advice and support.

“The assessment of pupils’ performance to determine exam results has been one of the many extra challenges our teachers and schools have had to face in the least year. I would like to thank all school staff for their exceptional hard work and dedication throughout the pandemic.”

Cllr Ashley Pearce, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Education, said: “There has been a great deal of uncertainty for young people over the last year with many missing out on lessons at school and on the support they would normally enjoy from face-to-face contact with classmates, friends and family.

“Students in Reading who received the results they had hoped for today should be feeling proud of their achievements. Any young people who are disappointed with their results should seek advice on the many different options available to them.

“I would like to say thank you to all staff in Reading’s schools for the way they have dealt with so many different challenges in the last year and shown such commitment to the education of our children and young people.”

Young people in Reading can access information, advice and guidance from Brighter Futures for Children’s expert careers advisers if they are disappointed with their exam results. The team at Elevate careers service can be contacted in the following ways:

Elevate is also holding a summer networking event next week to give young people a chance to talk to local providers about college courses, training and employment opportunities. The event is being held in partnership with New Meaning on Thursday 19 August, 11am-3pm, in Portman Road, Reading.

Young people living in Reading aged 16-19, or up to 25 for young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities, can book a place by calling Elevate on 0118 937 3766 or by email to: elevate@brighterfuturesforchildren.org.

The Virtual School will be available on results day to support children looked after and care leavers if they require any advice, information or guidance. Please contact Mab Akhter, Virtual School Assistant Headteacher at mab.akhter@brighterfuturesforchildren.org.


Reading AS/A level results 2021

Young people across Reading have been receiving their A-level results this morning (Tuesday 10 August).

As last year, the government decided A-level exams could not be held this summer because of the disruption students faced due to the pandemic.

Instead, teachers were asked to assess the standard of work each student had achieved in their subjects so the school or college could determine a grade.

Young people in Reading who received their results today should be proud of what they have achieved under such difficult circumstances. And they should take advantage of the support on offer if they are disappointed with their results.

Prof Dr Kate Reynolds, Director of Education at Brighter Futures for Children, said: “It has been a challenging time for students who have had their education disrupted during a vital period of their school career and I would like to congratulate all those who have achieved the results they were after.

“Any young people who did not receive the grades they hoped for should contact our excellent Elevate careers service to discuss all the options open to them.

“I would like to pay tribute to all school staff in Reading who have worked so tirelessly to support young people throughout the pandemic.”

Cllr Ashley Pearce, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Education, said: “Young people receiving their A-level results today have experienced an extraordinary 16 months. Those who achieved the grades they wanted should be very proud that their determination and perseverance has paid off.

“Anyone who did not receive the results they had hoped for should not worry as there are so many options open to them and I would urge them to seek the advice and support available.

“I would like to thank all staff in Reading’s schools who have given 100% commitment to educating and support their students throughout the pandemic.”

Young people in Reading can access information, advice and guidance from Brighter Futures for Children’s expert careers advisers if they are concerned about their exam results. The team at Elevate careers service can be contacted in the following ways:

Elevate is also holding a summer networking event next week to give young people a chance to talk to local providers about college courses, training and employment opportunities. The event is being held in partnership with New Meaning on Thursday 19 August, 11am-3pm, in Portman Road, Reading.

Young people living in Reading aged 16-19, or up to 25 for young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities, can book a place by calling Elevate on 0118 937 3766 or by email to: elevate@brighterfuturesforchildren.org.

The Virtual School will be available on results day to support children looked after and care leavers if they require any advice, information or guidance. Please contact Mab Akhter, Virtual School Assistant Headteacher, at mab.akhter@brighterfuturesforchildren.org


Exam results support for Reading’s young people

Young people will be able to access expert support from Brighter Futures for Children’s (BFfC) professional careers advisers after they receive their exam results next week.

The team at Elevate careers service will be available to provide information, advice and guidance online, in person or by phone after students find out their AS/A Level results on 10 August and GCSE results on 12 August.

Elevate, which is run by BFfC, is also holding a summer networking event later this month to help young people find a college course, apprenticeship or employment.

Young people who are concerned about their exam results have a variety of ways to chat with the careers team about their possible next steps. They can:

A summer networking event will also give young people living in Reading aged 16-19, or up to 25 for young people with special educational needs and /or disabilities, a chance to talk to local providers about college courses, training and employment opportunities. Elevate is holding the event in partnership with New Meaning on Thursday 19 August, 11am-3pm, in Portman Road, Reading.

Places must be booked in advance by calling Elevate on 0118 937 3766 or by email at: elevate@brighterfuturesforchildren.org.

Prof Dr Kate Reynolds, Director of Education at Brighter Futures for Children, said: “Our team of experts at Elevate are ready and waiting to help Reading’s young people who are looking for advice and support after receiving their exam results.

“I am delighted that this year, they can offer face-to-face appointments in the excellent new Youth Hub in Reading town centre. There is also a great opportunity for young people to find out more about further education, apprenticeship and employment prospects at a summer networking event this month.”

Cllr Ashley Pearce, Lead Councillor for Education, said: “It has been another extraordinary year for students in our schools and once again they will be receiving their exam results without having sat any exams.

“It is essential Reading’s young people have career experts to turn to for advice and support if they are concerned about their results. I would encourage any young person in that position to contact the friendly team at Elevate to chat about their next steps.”

The Elevate page on the Brighter Futures for Children website is regularly updated with local opportunities for jobs, traineeships, apprenticeships and internships, plus further and higher education choices. Visit:  https://brighterfuturesforchildren.org/young-peoples-zone/careers-service-for-young-people/


Young people talk about mental health challenges of the pandemic

Young ambassadors for a Reading youth counselling service have produced a series of videos discussing mental health issues related to the pandemic.

No5 counselling service for children and young people has joined forces with Reading Borough Council and Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC) to make the short videos to offer support as we come out of lockdown.

The four young ambassadors from No5 have reflected on the past 16 months and what it has meant to them and described how they have managed to get through it.

In the videos, Tia talks about the difficulty of starting a new school during the pandemic and how she dealt with feelings of anxiety and lack of motivation. University student Gemma tells how she changed her mind set to turn an unexpected Christmas away from her family in Italy into a positive experience. And Angie describes how we should spend more time taking care of ourselves, as we would a child.

Also, Abbie explains why it is okay to admit you are struggling and to ask for help; discusses dealing with anxiety about the future and tells how she felt nervous about going back to work in retail.

You can watch the videos and find more information and resources regarding mental health and wellbeing, at: https://brighterfuturesforchildren.org/young-peoples-zone/mental-health-support/ and follow @readingyoungpeople on Instagram.

Deborah Glassbrook, Executive Director of Children’s Services, said: “The last year has been a particularly difficult time for our children and young people. They have had to cope with the anxiety of staying away from school, friends and family members and have faced uncertainty in all aspects of their lives.

“The No5 young ambassadors share fascinating stories in their videos and give some great advice about how they have dealt with different situations. As we enter the long summer holidays, I am sure it will be a big help for young people to hear about the real-life experiences of their peers and to think about their own mental wellbeing.”

Cllr Graeme Hoskin, Lead Councillor for Health, Wellbeing and Sport, said: “The COVID pandemic has significantly impacted many people’s wellbeing over the last year, and for young people, getting back a normal life may feel far away. I’m proud that work done by Tessa Brunsden, Community Alcohol Partnership Officer, with local secondary school children earlier this year was able to inform this collaborative project. Her presentations and discussions with the pupils highlighted that many young people’s anxiety surrounding COVID wasn’t just related to physical health and following the local Government guidance, but also in maintaining friendships, planning for the future, and concerns for their family members.

“The young ambassadors at No5 are trusted faces for many young people in Reading, and they have created some excellent videos touching on specific issues raised in the school sessions. As Reading follows the rest of the country in leaving lockdown restrictions, the videos are an important reminder to take the next step at your own pace, as even a positive change can be different for everyone.

“I’d encourage everyone to watch the videos when they’re shared on our social media platforms each Sunday, or take a look at the full playlist here: https://youtube.com/playlist?list=PLW2GVxPNwSYZTgRMooLH0io2ubsYbmgyX.”

No5 is a community-based organisation offering free, confidential, specialist counselling and mental health support to children and young people aged 11-25. Visit the website at: https://no5.org.uk/.

Carly Newman, Operations and Relationships Manager at No5, said: “Our Young Ambassadors provide fantastic insight into the experiences and struggles of young people over the last 16 months, and it is so important that local young people hear their messages and know that they are not alone. We are so glad to work alongside our statutory partners to share these messages and help support local young people.”

The six short videos are also being shared on Brighter Futures for Children’s and Reading Borough Council’s social media channels over the summer.