CHILDREN's services working with some of the most deprived young people in the country have been branded inadequate across the board in a damning watchdog report.

Ofsted says children's social care services run by Middlesbrough Borough Council have "serious and widespread" failures which meant vulnerable young people were not being protected.

Middlesbrough Mayor Andy Preston said: "I want to sincerely apologise to the children of Middlesbrough, the parents of Middlesbrough and the whole town because they deserve the best services and we have fallen massively, massively short of that."

Ofsted carried out an three-week inspection between November 18 and December 6 last year.

In a report published today, it said: "Since the last inspection of services in 2015, the quality of children's services in Middlesbrough had deteriorated and services are now inadequate.

"There are serious and widespread failures that leave children in harmful situations for too long.

"Risks to children and young people, including those who are being exploited, are not appropriately recognised, and insufficient action is taken to help and protect children."

It adds some children are not getting the help they need and are living in situations of chronic neglect for too long before action is taken.

Mr Preston, who was elected last May, said there had been a ten-year decline in the service, which had previously been rated as "requiring improvement" when it was last inspected in 2015.

Since 2010, council spending on the service has increased from 13 per cent of its budget to 35 per cent..

He said: "There is a story of ballooning demand for children's services. It's nation wide but it's acute here.

"Although money and a lack of money makes delivering services difficult, money alone is not an excuse. We have to take responsibility and work to do it better."

He added: "More money would make it easier to bring in changes but I don't believe it's going to come. I'll ask for it, but I don't think it will come."

The authority will be working with other councils, police, Ofsted and the Department of Education to make improvements.

Mr Preston said he expected to make some "meaningful" announcements on what changes would be made within a fortnight.

He said: "What I'm not going to do is announce a range of new policies. The children here do deserve a rapid response, but even more they deserve the right response."

Middlesbrough has a high rate of children in care in comparison with the national picture and is currently looking after 569 young people, with a further 315 subject to a child protection plan.

Ofsted noted there were a significant number of newly qualified staff, but added there had been an improvement in staff turnover and in vacancy and sickness rates.

It added: "Leaders are targeting the recruitment and retention of more experienced staff and are developing a 'grow your own' approach to ensure they have the staff with the right skills to deliver better practice.

"Pockets of better social work practice demonstrated positive signs of impact of the new strengthening core practice programme."

Mr Preston added: "We have a whole army of staff who genuinely care really deeply. This will disappoint them and demotivate them,

"My job and the job of the leadership is to help people and work out a way forward."