THE county council has set its sights on becoming a "top" authority for children's services - as the new company running care on its behalf has been launched.

Worcestershire Children First, the new 'wholly-owned' company running children's and education services on behalf of Worcestershire County Council, launched on October 1 and council bosses have said they want to be the authority that others come to

The council was forced by the Department for Education (DfE) to find a new way to provide children’s services.

The county council received a ‘requires improvement’ rating from Ofsted in July, in its first inspection since it was hit with the worst possible rating at the start of 2017.

Bosses said the improvements were quicker than expected and the county council was the only authority in the country that had improved its Ofsted rating before setting up a new company.

The county council said it has spent almost £20 million on improving children’s services since the inadequate rating.

Catherine Driscoll, who will remain as director of children's services for the county council as well as taking up the role as chief executive of Worcestershire Children First, said the goal was for the council to be a shining example to other authorities.

She said: "We absolutely have an ambition [in five years] to be seen as a 'top-performing' children's service where other authorities come to us saying 'can you help us and can you share your experience?'"

Asked whether the company would need to exist if the council achieved a 'good' rating, Mrs Driscoll said the council could make a decision once it is out of DfE intervention.

She said: "Even though we are not inadequate we are still under direction to continue to improve and set up the company. When the council is no longer under direction, it is entirely free to make a decision about the future of the company."

Some concerns were raised that the council would be losing its ability to scrutinise children's services at the new company - particularly its budget.

Cllr Andy Roberts, cabinet member for children and families, said he would be keeping "more than a gentle eye" on the new company and made reassurances the council would not be losing its scrutiny role.

He said every councillor continues to be a corporate parent for children in care and it was within his interest for the company to succeed due to his statutory responsibility to ensure children are provided for.

The county council will remain responsible for setting and approving the company's budget.