A COUNCIL has won government praise for improving its previously failing children's services.

Darlington Borough Council was told it was placing children at risk in 2015 following a damning Ofsted report of its services which highlighted 'serious failures' in the system, which was ranked as inadequate.

Last year Ofsted said the services needed to improve further, and support and supervision has been given by the Department for Education (DfE) over the last year.

Last year's rating of 'requires improvement to be good', was a significant improvement on the previous Ofsted inspection, back in 2015, which resulted in deep-rooted changes being made to children’s services.

A letter from the DfE – sent to Councillor Heather Scott, Leader of Darlington Borough Council – has praised the ‘strong and committed leadership’ now in children’s services.

It added: “There is evidence not only that the council has embedded improvement… but also that appropriate steps are being taken to identify and address further areas for improvement."

The letter marks the formal end of the DfE’s intervention in Darlington children’s services and is seen as a milestone step towards the council’s goal of achieving outstanding outcomes for children and families.

Suzanne Joyner, Darlington Council’s director of children’s and adults’ services, said: “This is another key point in our journey towards that coveted ‘outstanding’ rating.

“We know we still have a lot of work to do to get there, but I’m pleased that the DfE has recognised the progress we continue to make.”

Councillor Paul Crudass, the council’s Cabinet member for children and young people, said: “This letter from the DfE makes very encouraging reading and I would like to say a big ‘well done’ to everyone who has helped strengthen children’s services in Darlington.

“In the relatively short time that I have had this Cabinet portfolio, I have very quickly seen that we have some very talented, dedicated people working hard to help our children and young people.”

Four years ago Ofsted was highly critical of the overall quality of the council's children's services, saying that managers at all levels of the organisation did not have sufficient grip or oversight of what happened on the front line and that too many children were waiting too long for assessments. Inspectors were also concerned about the high workloads of social workers and having teams with too many inexperienced workers.

In contrast, the DfE's letter to Cllr Scott says: "I am reassured there is strong and committed leadership in Darlington and a clear vision for high quality services."