Page last updated at 16:23 GMT, Friday, 30 January 2009

Help for 'inadequate' child units

Councillor Pete Ruhemann
Mr Ruhemann blamed pressure from rival parties only for his decision.

External consultants will be drafted in to help improve the safeguarding of children at two councils in Berkshire.

Reading and Wokingham's children's services were among eight councils across the country where standards did not meet Ofsted requirements.

Last week, the head of children's services at Reading, Councillor Pete Ruhemann, stepped down.

A Department for Children, Schools and Families spokeswoman (DCSF) said help would be brought in from February.

It would last about nine months and commissioning was already under way, she said.

Mr Ruhemann stepped down one week after the publication of a critical inspection report into Reading's children's services.

He admitted there had been a "number of significant shortcomings in the service" which he was "very concerned about, angry about and very sorry about".

There is no suggestion at this stage that an intervention team is needed to run our services
Susan Law, chief executive at Wokingham council

He said he had been working for the last few years to rebuild the service.

The inspections were carried out in September last year.

Criticisms included assessments not being completed on time, over-burdened social workers and inadequate filing of personal data.

A spokesman for Reading Borough Council said its department was being given "a package of practical support" to help with the recruitment and retention of staff, performance management and quality assurance.

Ofsted's report acknowledged that Reading Borough Council had been working to remedy the weaknesses.

Susan Law, chief executive at Wokingham council, said: "There is no suggestion at this stage that an intervention team is needed to run our services or that our decision-making in relation to our services is out of our hands.

"The consultant appointed will provide a joint diagnostic review, not intervention."

External consultancy teams have also been sent to Birmingham, Essex and West Sussex.

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