Reading children's services improvements 'slow'

Reading Council
Image caption Inspectors reviewed progress made in the area of young people leaving care

Progress to improve "inadequate" children's services in Reading is "slow" and "uneven", Ofsted has said.

Inspectors said an "ongoing high turnover" of social workers continued to "impede" improvements to services.

Ofsted said they found 171 children did not have a "named social worker" and added protection plans did not cover "all areas necessary" to ensure a child was properly safeguarded.

A children's services official said children have never been "left unsafe".

Brighter Futures for Children, who took over children's services from Reading Borough Council in December 2018, said the 171 "unallocated cases" in May were due to a "particular moment in time when five social workers left in quick succession".

"Within a short space of time, additional staff were employed and the number of unallocated cases fell to zero," the service said.

Bright Futures told the BBC the number of unallocated children had increased to 10.

'Start of the journey'

Inspectors, who conducted their ninth inspection since the local authority was judged inadequate in June 2016, said the visit "highlighted a recurring pattern of staff being recruited and then leaving relatively quickly".

"It remains the case that many children subject to child in need plans are not being visited on a regular basis," they added.

Eleni Ioannides, the interim director of children's services, said: "Brighter Futures for Children is at the very start of its journey and this report is an accurate reflection of the situation we have inherited."

She added there was "no getting away from the fact" that the lack of permanent social workers was impacting on the service's ability to improve.

"This is a nationwide issue, felt more acutely by all children's services near to London, where social workers can attract higher salaries," she said.

In 2016, Ofsted found "serious, persistent and systemic failures" in the service when it was operated by the council.

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