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Children's Services progress backed by minister

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Progress made by children's social care staff in Middlesbrough has been recognised by government.

The department is undergoing rapid change after it was judged inadequate by Ofsted in a verdict announced in January 2020.

Twelve months on, Middlesbrough Council was informed this week that Children and Families Minister Vicky Ford had endorsed the recommendations of a children's commissioner.

A Department for Education commissioner conducted a scheduled review of the service in November and recommended the Council continues to retain control of child social care in the town.

Under the leadership of Director of Children's Services Sue Butcher, the team is concentrating on key areas identified by the commissioner, including the case loads of social workers.

The commissioner found the director and Deputy Mayor and Executive Member for Children's Services Antony High were providing effective leadership and oversight.

A comprehensive improvement plan has been introduced to address the past failings identified by Ofsted.

Cllr High is proud of the advances made by the department.

"Staff at every level are working so hard to put things right and I'd like to thank all of them for their dedication," he said.

"We're in a much better place this January than we were last year and while we welcome this news from the minister, we certainly won't be relaxing.

"It's been a challenging period for the department, made even more difficult by Covid, but we know what we have to do to ensure we provide the service the town expects and deserves.

"Our mission is to show Middlesbrough children that they matter and help all young people look forward to a bright future."

Mayor Andy Preston also praised staff and says they can look forward with optimism.

"They're under tremendous pressure and are being closely scrutinised, but are delivering the change that was desperately needed," he said.

"There's still heaps to do, but I'm confident we have the political oversight and leadership in place to fully transform children's services. Antony High and Sue Butcher are doing a great job."

A final commissioner review is due in May and the Council will continue to work closely with the Department for Education.