Mutual Ventures

Reading Borough Council Children’s Services

Reading Borough Council Children’s Services received an ‘inadequate’ judgment from Ofsted in 2016, leading to the Department for Education issuing a statutory improvement notice and appointing an external Commissioner. After consideration, the Commissioner recommended that children’s services should be transferred to a new company, with its own governance and management structure.

Within the council staff, Reading had just experienced a change in leadership and there was significant changes in personal within the council at all levels. Alongside this, Reading was one of the councils at financial risk and was required to make large savings.

Support provided

We led a 14 month project to transform Reading’s children services and establish the new company. We provided on-site project management and advice to the council on the design and establishment of the company. The project was under high levels of scrutiny locally and nationally and involved managing complex stakeholder interaction and political decision-making at national and local level. 

Our work included:

  • Setting up a robust project governance infrastructure, with clear accountability and regular reporting
  • Selecting the right model for the new company
  • Guiding the development of the contract which formed the basis for the council-company relationship
  • Supporting the setting of the budget for the new company, including factoring in planned savings consistent with the council’s Medium Term Financial Plan
  • Recruiting a strong board of directors and leadership team
  • Ensuring the effective TUPE transfer staff and ongoing engagement with unions
  • Designing the commissioning and contract management function within the council
  • Dis-aggregating support services (e.g. HR and finance) from the council to ensure that both the council and company got a fair deal and ensuring assets, property and ICT for the company were fit for purpose

Outcome achieved

The new children’s company Brighter Futures for Children was launched on 1st December 2018. Following our work, we received excellent feedback from the Council and the Trust.

Since establishment, the service has shown rapid improvement. Following a full Ofsted inspection in October 2019, it received a ‘Requires Improvement’ judgment, reflecting a significant step up from the previous inspection. The Ofsted report acknowledged that ‘a lot of time, energy and resources went into setting up the company arrangement, but this is beginning to deliver results’ and how ‘partners now view the senior leadership team as responsive and visible’.