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Children are well looked after by West Berkshire Council - Ofsted

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Ofsted Inspectors have given West Berkshire’s children’s services a gold star.

They awarded the council a ‘good’ rating, and praised ‘a strong, stable and child-focused leadership team’ which has continued to improve services for children and families in West Berkshire, despite the challenges of Covid-19 and increasing demand.

The report said West Berkshire Council, in common with many other local authorities, faces increasing pressure to find high-quality, affordable placements for children in care.

West Berkshire Council (56469057)
West Berkshire Council (56469057)

Dominic Boeck (Con, Aldermaston), West Berkshire’s executive member for education, children and young people, says: “This report again shows how committed everyone at West Berkshire Council is to improving the lives of all of our children, no matter the challenges they may face.

“We’ve worked hard to maintain the rating we were given in our last inspection and we will look for ways to do even better.”

Although work is in progress, leaders are yet to update the sufficiency strategy to deliver an increase in the availability of suitable homes locally for children in care.

West Berkshire was also told to improve the full exploration of children’s ethnicity and culture, to inform assessments, quality of recording social work visits to children, and the implementation of a sufficiency strategy, to provide local homes for children in care.

The inspector said children in West Berkshire for whom there are immediate safeguarding concerns, including disabled children, benefit from a high standard of evaluation, analysis and well-evidenced decision-making.

The report added that West Berkshire has a secure system for tracking children who are removed from school, leave the area or go missing.

The local authority has clear expectations of all schools about the information required when a child is not in school in these circumstances.

The local authority is successfully promoting and supporting schools with therapeutic approaches to inclusion and children’s mental health needs which is having a positive impact on rates of fixed-term and permanent exclusion of children.

It notes long waiting lists for child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS).

The inspector also pays tribute to the way the council treats children who are unaccompanied and seeking asylum.

It says they are met with kindness and are well supported when they arrive in West Berkshire.

They are found accommodation that is commensurate with their needs, enabling them to begin to feel safe.

Children are provided with access to an interpreter and legal advice to support their status applications.

They are given opportunities to learn English, practise their religion and to develop their friendship networks.

Young people attend college or training and enjoy hobbies and interests.

The inspector said social workers understand the trauma that young people seeking asylum have faced and help them by building strong relationships together.

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