DUDLEY Council says the number of children in care in the borough has fallen by nearly nine per cent over the last two years.

Statistics for 2014/15 listed 737 youngsters as being in the council's care but authority bosses say that at the end of the latest financial year the figure was down to 674 children in care - a drop of almost nine per cent.

Council chiefs say caseloads for social workers in the borough have also eased.

In April last year 65 workers were handling more than 21 cases at a time, the authority said.

But by April this year, there were only 52 workers with a caseload of 21 or more - a drop of 20 per cent - and only six with caseloads of 26 or more.

Council bosses say the number of social workers leaving or switching jobs has also reduced significantly - with the turnover rate dropping from 16.4 per cent in April last year to just 2.4 per cent in April 2017.

The authority has released the figures after it was praised for having made "positive progress" in improving social care services for children and young people in the borough earlier this year after being hit with an earlier “inadequate” rating in April 2016.

Reducing the number of children in care and easing the workload of under-pressure social workers were identified by Ofsted as key areas requiring improvement.

Tony Oakman, Dudley's strategic director for people, said: “The figures are a very encouraging sign that we are continuing to move in the right direction.

“We recognise, of course, that there is still a long way to go and we will always strive to continue making improvements to the service we offer.

“If social workers have less cases to deal with, they are likely to be under less pressure and can put more time into each one.

“We want to reduce the number of children and young people being taken into care for their wellbeing and safety, where it is safe and appropriate to do so.

"Our aim is that all children living in Dudley grow up safe, healthy and in a loving environment.”