CHILDREN'S services at Stockton Borough Council require improvement, Ofsted inspectors have found.

Now bosses at the council have pledged to respond quickly after the 'disappointing' rating from Ofsted after a four-day inspection in May.

While some services were said to be strong, inspectors reported 'inefficient management oversight' across the full range of services.

This, they said, was leading to 'unnecessary delay for some children in their assessed needs being met'.

The council was put under the microscope by Ofsted's Inspection of Local Authority Children's Services scheme, which was introduced last year.

Inspectors raised a number of concerns, one being that unqualified workers were holding children's cases and making social work decisions.

They said high numbers of children in the care system were putting pressure on services.

And they added management oversight and 'grip' needed improving across all services to stop delays in the system.

Inspectors also found a number of strengths, including “effective” safeguarding and early help for families, “strong” services for care leavers, and improved workforce stability.

Social workers’ caseloads are “manageable” and “this is enabling them to develop longer-term, more meaningful relationships with children and families”, inspectors said.

Councillor Lisa Evans, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: “Though the overall rating is of course disappointing, it’s also encouraging to see the inspectors recognise so many strengths and positives in our work at a time when we’re facing huge demand for our services.

“What’s important now is that we respond quickly and decisively and that’s exactly what we’re doing. We’ve gained some really valuable learning and... we have moved swiftly to put an action plan in place to address the areas where we need to improve."