Child protection services in Sandwell will be overseen by an independent chair appointed by the Government, after inspectors slammed the council for failing to protect youngsters.
Dawn Primarolo, the Children’s Minister, said she was intervening in the Black Country authority, following a damning report described children’s services as “inadequate”.
She appointed Margaret McGlade, a former chair of social services with Derby City Council, to step in and oversee improvements. Ms McGlade will report directly to the Minister in Whitehall.
The action comes after Ofsted inspectors published a report in February warning that child protection services were poorly managed.
Councillors responded by suspended then social workers while it carried out an internal inquiry into staff performance.
Inspectors found that most cases of children at risk of physical harm were followed up by social workers but “other cases do not receive such attention.”
They warned: “Fluctuating staffing levels have led to a degree of turbulence in front line services and responses.”
The council was also concentrating too much on meeting targets rather than providing a high quality service, the inspectors said.
Ministers have now ordered the council to improve and set up an board chaired by Ms McGlade, which will draw up an action plan.
Ms Primarolo said: “No child should be failed by the services that are supposed to protect them and we always act where there is evidence that a local authority is failing to deliver children’s services to an acceptable level.
“We are intervening in Sandwell’s children’s services following Ofsted’s inspection of safeguarding and looked after children’s services published in January.”
Sandwell Borough Council leader Darren Cooper said: “We have already made significant progress in achieving sustainable improvements in children’s services but I realise there is still a way to go.
“We have worked closely with the Department for Children, Schools and Families to agree the best way forward and I am grateful for their support to ensure children are safeguarded.
“The level of intervention very much puts the onus on us to deliver and I am confident we can meet the requirements and targets that have been agreed.
“Above all else we recognise the importance of doing all we can as a local authority to ensure the well-being of looked after children is paramount in our minds.”