Darlington children's services inadequate, Ofsted says

Children's services in Darlington have been rated inadequate by inspectors because of "serious shortfalls".

Ofsted's inspection of Darlington Borough Council's services also found management was inadequate.

There were unchecked "serious failure by senior leaders", "to take oversight of, and accountability for, Darlington's services", the report said.

The council said it was "disappointed" but accepted inspectors' conclusions.

Its Labour leader Bill Dixon said he knew from "personal and professional experience that safeguarding children is an incredibly complex and difficult task".

'Safeguarding is challenging'

"Our staff do a tremendous job," he said.

The council accepted improvements were needed and said some issues highlighted were already being addressed and the report's recommendations would be implemented.

Inspectors found children had to wait too long for assessment and managers did not have "sufficient grip or oversight".

"Elected members and the council's chief executive have not been sufficiently challenging towards children's services managers to assure themselves that children are safe," their report said.

Chief executive Ada Burns said: "Safeguarding children is challenging and difficult to get right, but I am confident that the children who are known to us are safe and their needs have been assessed."

The local authority had not made sufficient progress since the previous inspection in 2012 but some parts of the service were good or improving, the report concluded.

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