A CHILDREN’S services department at a North-East council that was once struggling is continuing to make steps to improve, a new report has found.

Darlington Borough Council’s children’s services were criticised by Ofsted and condemned as ‘inadequate’ when the department was inspected in 2015.

But almost three years later, Ofsted has recognised the “considerable achievement” made by the council to turn around the struggling department.

The most recent inspection, which took place over four weeks in February and March, concluded that improvements have been made since 2015, and gave the services a new rating of 'requires improvement to be good’.

In the damning 2015 report, Ofsted warned ‘significant failures’ by managers were leaving some children at potential risk.

And the town's MP Jenny Chapman said at the time that if it didn’t improve, a situation as serious as the child sexual exploitation scandal in Rotherham could develop in Darlington – but blamed the situation in part on dwindling council resources.

Suzanne Joyner, Darlington Borough Council’s director of children’s and adult services, said: “It is very pleasing that Ofsted has recognised the progress and improvements that have been made since 2015.

"There are lots of areas where we can be justifiably proud - children’s needs are assessed in a timely manner, and they feel that their voices are heard.

“We can not and will not rest on our laurels, our improvement journey will continue, we aim to be graded good in the future.

"We will all continue to work hard to give children and young people in Darlington the best possible start in life.”

Cllr Cyndi Hughes, Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet member for children and young people, said: “As an organisation, we have learned a lot from one inspection to the next.

"We prioritised the recruitment and retention of dedicated staff who will provide timely, quality assessments and support for our most vulnerable young people.

"With the help of our partners in education, health and the community, we will continue to strive for sustained good practice to improve the lives of children and young people in Darlington.”