A LEADING children’s charity has accused Swindon Borough Council of slow progress in ensuring vulnerable children are properly protected.

The NSPCC yesterday called on the council to implement measures to improve children’s services “without further delay”.

It follows the publication of an Ofsted report which found that social workers are repeatedly failing to identify children who are at risk of harm.

An NSPCC South West spokesman said: “Swindon Borough Council’s slow progress over Ofsted’s initial concerns is worrying and this report is clear that more work is now urgently needed.

“It is vital that these necessary measures to improve children’s services in Swindon, which have been acknowledged by the council, are made without further delay.

“We understand that this work is ongoing and we hope that the council delivers the much-needed improvements.”

Inspectors said that opportunities to intervene had been missed and that the quality of decision-making when children are first referred for help or protection has declined since the last inspection of children’s services in 2014.

Commenting on the NSPCC’s intervention, Labour’s children’s services spokesperson Coun Carol Shelley said: “I am really worried that the NSPCC thinks that the council could be doing more and they are not.

“The charity specialises in child protection and they are the only UK children’s charity with statutory powers to take action to safeguard children at risk of abuse.

“When they make criticisms of council services, we need to take note.”

She added: “I will be interested to hear from the cabinet member about her reaction to the NSPCC’s statement and whether she agrees that faster progress is needed.”

The Conservative member for children’s services is Coun Mary Martin, who last week took over the portfolio from Coun Fionuala Foley.

It had been suggested that Coun Foley was relieved of the brief as a direct result of the Ofsted report.

But council leader David Renard stressed that Coun Foley “had indicated several months ago that she desired a new portfolio”.

“Being responsible for all the borough’s children is actually one of the most demanding jobs any local councillor can take on,” he said.

Responding to the NSPCC’s accusations of “slow progress”, Coun Martin said: “While we welcome the work that the NSPCC does for children, its statement does not accurately reflect the actions we have already undertaken prior to the Ofsted inspection as well as in response to it.”

She pointed to a number of measures that have been adopted, such as securing an additional £7.5m of funding, appointing three additional experts with proven track records and introducing smaller teams with fewer cases so work can be processed more quickly.

“The council has sought support from other local authorities and the LGA,” she said.