A monitoring visit into the service, rated ‘inadequate’ by inspectors in August 2016, found the recruitment to the council’s new single point of access service for children’s services had led to “prompt responses to contact and referrals” and “improved decision making”.
The visit focused on the council’s work in help and protection, including the early help services, the single point of access and quality of social work practice. It said, “substantial progress” had been made in Reading, and skilled early help practitioners were gaining a “stronger profile and influence” in the service.
It was announced this year that Reading’s children’s services would transfer to an independent company wholly owned by the council by September 2018.
Ofsted found: “The recently appointed permanent chief executive has created a more supportive, corporate environment across children’s services, and this is strengthening and accelerating the capacity for improvement.”
It said a new auditing model was highly valued by workers and managers, and social workers were welcoming “discussion on their practice in a non-threatening, developmental climate”. The model seeks views on audit findings from frontline staff, and includes live coaching and reflection with workers and managers on their work with children and families, Ofsted found.
Improvements were still needed in the single point of access, inspectors said, as a small number of complex cases had generated “questionable” threshold decisions.
“This did not leave children at risk, but did suggest a strong likelihood of subsequent re-referrals. Some long-standing parenting difficulties which adversely affected outcomes for children were not fully explored,” the report said.
Recruiting more permanent social workers “remained difficult”, and the workforce plan to address this problem had taken too long to develop, inspectors said. Despite this, the authority had made good progress recruiting team managers, and partner agencies were “expressing greater confidence in the progress of improvement in frontline practice and at a strategic level”.