A NATIONAL charity is challenging the region's welfare chiefs over their methods of care of vulnerable youngsters.

Children's charity Barnado's will be throwing down the gauntlet to North-East experts asking them: "Do we really know what works best for kids?''

A conference staged in Peterlee, east Durham, by Barnado's is expected to be attended by welfare bosses from across the region.

The forum is aimed at finding out whether the best methods are being used when working with children, and how they can be improved.

Dr Mike Hughes, Barnado's principal research and development officer, who lives in the North-East, will be one of the main speakers at the one-day conference.

He said: "Child welfare organisations have a serious responsibility. They must protect our most vulnerable children.

"You would expect that children's services are based on the best possible evidence, but are they?"

He said research by Barnado's, for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, had shown hard evidence was often low on the list when it came to running children's services.

"So we are throwing out the challenge to child care organisations asking them if they really know what works," he said.

"We always owe it to our children to offer the best, but this is especially so when we're talking about those children in the region who are in the greatest need."

Examples of research-based children's services will be presented to the conference, which is being held in Shotton Hall, on Tuesday.

Speakers will include Jonathan Ewen, director of children's services at Barnado's North-East, Peter Kemp, director of social services, Durham County Council, and Ann Baxter, director of social services for Hartlepool.