Improving Services for Children in Care

CHILDREN in care benefit from living in stable, caring homes and receive increasingly attentive and effective support from social workers, according to the latest Ofsted inspection of Reading’s Children’s Services.

Inspectors focus on a specific area on each monitoring visit and ‘Children in Care’ was subject to their latest inspection where they found a number of improvements in performance.

Areas requiring improvement were also identified in the report but inspectors acknowledged managers were mostly aware of the issues and were taking action.

The two-day Ofsted visit in May was the sixth since Reading Children’s Services was judged inadequate following a full inspection in June 2016.

Inspectors found the quality of direct work with children in the teams where children in care cases are allocated is improving and that work was planned, thoughtful and effective. They went on to say that children are given good support to meet their health and educational needs.

The report also says social workers in the care teams “carefully build trusting and meaningful relationships with children.”

Social workers are also praised for working with children to understand their feelings about being in care, their relationships and contact with their families and promoting their educational achievements and engagement in leisure activities.

Inspectors said children in care were supported by an effective virtual school, working closely alongside social workers and that their health needs were assessed and reviewed promptly, with a focus on healthier eating and regular exercise.

They said: “Many assessments are comprehensive, holistic reviews of children’s physical, emotional and mental health.”

The Children in Care Council (CiCC) is praised for broadening its scope and offering more children opportunities to participate in activities, provide feedback and promoted greater engagement.

Inspectors found the workforce was increasingly stable with 64 per cent of social workers and 70 per cent of frontline managers now permanent members of staff, which is the highest level since the full inspection.

The report says: “Inspectors observed a calm, purposeful working environment in the teams they visited. This included the safeguarding service, where significant difficulties in workloads are being purposefully addressed. Morale was positive and workloads considered manageable by social workers.”

Inspectors said that addressing pertinent recommendations of the 2016 inspection had not been comprehensive enough overall but that “plans for accelerating and embedding improved services for children in care are now realistic and achievable.”

Cllr Liz Terry, Lead Councillor for Children’s Services, said:

“I am pleased to see a number of positive observations by the Ofsted inspectors during their recent visit to Reading’s Children’s Services.

“I would like to thank staff and managers in the team for their hard work and commitment which is helping the service to move more purposefully in the right direction, resulting in positive outcomes for children.

“Of course, we accept there are areas requiring improvement and there is still much to be done but residents should be assured there is no shortage of ambition and determination to ensure Reading’s families get the Children’s Services they deserve.”

The full Ofsted report can be found at: https://reports.ofsted.gov.uk/local-authorities/reading

David Millward

For media enquiries about this release email david.millward@reading.gov.uk or call 0118 937 4289