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Reading’s fostering service no longer inadequate

18 March 2020

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:

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.