Berkshire

Reading children's services: Poor rating 'hindering recruitment'

Reading Council Image copyright Google
Image caption Brighter Futures for Children has been chosen as the name for the new company following a consultation

The leader of an "inadequate" council-run children's services has said its Ofsted rating is hampering the recruitment of social workers.

Reading Borough Council's provision was found to be "making uneven and slow progress" in March and was given the watchdog's lowest rating in 2016.

Deborah Jenkins, chair of a trust now running the services, said it was "increasingly difficult" to find staff for services with "problems".

A £2.9m grant will fund the project.

Ofsted's report in March found vulnerable children were not being visited for "many weeks or months" by social workers.

Inspectors were told that 53 children did not have a social worker.

Brighter Futures for Children has been chosen as the name for the new company following a consultation involving young people, residents and council officers across Reading.

Ms Jenkins said the services "needs leadership" and added she wanted more people to "engage" with them.

Challenging conditions

She told the BBC: "When you get Ofsted coming in and picking up a lot of faults that actually just makes things a downward spiral so people do not want to stay.

"We have got about 1,500 children in serious need of help and support."

She also estimated about 40% of staff at the company were employed by an agency.

Ms Jenkins, who chaired Together for Children in Sunderland, was appointed as chair in a joint decision by the council, Department for Education (DfE) and the children's commissioner Nick Whitfield.

In July 2017, a visit by inspectors found continuing "significant weaknesses", after an inspection the previous year found "serious, persistent and systemic failures".

The council said a shortage of qualified social workers, the high cost of living in the area and increases in demand were challenging for services.

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