City councillors are confident of appointing a new strategic director to oversee Birmingham’s schools and children’s social services by early next year.
Interviews for the £155,000-a-year job are expected to take place in November and December.
The successful candidate will replace Eleanor Brazil, who became interim strategic director last year after safeguarding services for vulnerable children were declared inadequate by Ofsted and placed under special Government measures.
The council was ordered by the Children’s Minister Tim Loughton to work to a formal improvement plan.
Mrs Brazil won national praise for transforming Haringey social services, also placed under an improvement order following the scandal over the death of 17-month-old Peter Connolly after social workers failed to spot that he was being abused by his mother’s boyfriend.
She told a scrutiny committee there had been considerable interest in the strategic director position, which is regarded as one of the most challenging social services jobs in the country.
Mrs Brazil admitted that vulnerable youngsters are still being let down.
She said that although management changes and new methods of working were starting to make a difference the performance of social workers remained inconsistent and not all children at risk of sexual or physical abuse were receiving adequate help.
Mrs Brazil added: “We are putting the building blocks in place and are very clear that this is about better outcomes for children.
“But I see more examples than I would want to of children not getting the best services. I also see examples of very good services.
“I would love to be here in six months’ time and be able to say there were very rare examples of where we are not doing the best for a child.”
Although millions of pounds of additional funding has been poured into social care, Birmingham has rarely been out of special measures in the past decade.
The department has had to contend with several controversial child deaths, notably that of seven-year-old Khyra Ishaq who was starved by her mother and stepfather at home in Handsworth despite visits to by social workers and education officials who failed to take appropriate action.
Council leaders are pinning their hopes on a radical restructuring of the department. More money is being spent directly on social work, with a new network of Integrated Family Support teams set up to identify and intervene with at-risk families before children begin to be abused.
The teams, consisting of social workers, teachers, GPs and police officers began operating last month and will have a specific remit to stop youngsters from falling through the net.
The two politicians responsible for transforming social care released an upbeat message.
Les Lawrence, cabinet member for Children, Families and Young People, and Matt Bennett, executive member for children’s social care, insisted that Birmingham was “at the start of a new dawn” and that the structural changes were beginning to pay dividends.
In a statement the two said they made no apology for getting rid of staff who were not suitable for new roles.
“We can only have staff who meet the high standards required of them,” the statement added.