Council bosses have admitted vulnerable Birmingham children are still not safe as they continue to battle to recruit permanent social workers.

Discussing Birmingham City Council's plan to improve its beleaguered children's services department, its chief Coun Brigid Jones, confessed there was "still a long way to go".

The authority is 12 months into a three-year plan and is spending an extra £30 million in a bid to turn the problem around.

But Coun Jones admitted it was "unlikely" the department would be deemed "good" or "safe" under its next unannounced Oftsed inspection - due between now and April 2016.

The number of social workers hired from agencies has also increased by almost ten per cent compared to last year.

Nearly 30 per cent of the council's 511 full-timers are not directly employed by the authority, according to figures.

Coun Jones said: "Children are certainly a lot safer in Birmingham now than they were last year but they are still not as safe as we would want them to be."

She added the rise in agency staff was exclusively down to an increase in the number of social workers being hired but admitted attracting permanent employees was "an issue".

Coun Jones said Midland councils had "called a truce" by introducing pay caps in a bid to stop them out-bidding each other for in-demand social workers.

"We now have a workforce strategy in place to ensure we stabilise staffing and give social workers the skills, confidence and the right tools to deliver great social work that will make a real difference to children's lives," she added.

But a risk assessment system highlighted concerns over staff recruitment and retention, as well as its review of children in care.

Failings by social workers and other child protection staff have been highlighted in serious case reviews into the death of children, including Birmingham youngsters Keanu Williams and Khyra Ishaq.

The department - rated inadequate for the past five years - was branded a "national disgrace" by the Government's chief inspector of schools in October 2013.

But Coun Jones said some improvements had been made, with social workers seeing caseloads reduced from 24 each to a "more manageable" 18.