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.”