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David Cameron will condemn some services for failing to protect the 'most vulnerable children in our society' iStock

Failing children's services which are putting the lives of young people at risk will be taken over by authorities and charities as part of landmark reforms announced by Prime Minister David Cameron. Children's services that have persistently failed in the past will be taken over immediately in the plans that mirror the approach for under-performing schools.

The triggers that would activate an emergency Ofsted inspection will also be established under the new reforms, including complaints from whistle-blowers or evidence of poor leadership. If the local authority's children's services fail to improve within six months of their Ofsted inspection, a new service leader (commissioner) will be put in place and high-performing local authorities, experts in child protection and charities will be brought in.

The changes will already be taking place in Sunderland, after an Ofsted inspection in July found "widespread failure of leadership" in their children's services. There are also plans for commissioners to go into Norfolk and Sandwell children's services immediately with a view to taking them over within a year.

Cameron said: "Children's services support the most vulnerable children in our society. They are in our care; we, the state, are their parents; and we are failing them. It is our duty to put this right − to say poorly performing local authorities: improve, or be taken over. We will not stand by while children are let down by inadequate social services.

"This will be one of the big landmark reforms of this parliament, as transformative as what we did in education in the last. And it shows how serious we are about confronting state failure and tackling some the biggest social problems in our country. Together we will make sure that not a single child is left behind."

Secretary of state for education Nicky Morgan said: "Every single day our most vulnerable children and young people are supported by dedicated, expert social workers – support that changes their lives for the better. But in too many towns and cities across the country, children in the most desperate of circumstances are being allowed to slip through the cracks. This simply isn't good enough and every single child failed, is a child too many.

"This is why we want to see excellent child and family social work at the heart of the child protection system. We are creating new partnerships, which will see experts working hand in hand to raise standards in struggling local authorities, we're investing more to ensure the best and the brightest get into front-line social work and we're driving innovation across the system so that every child has the best possible start in life."

NSPCC chief executive Peter Wanless said: "Tackling child abuse is the greatest challenge of our generation. So an increased government focus alongside these reforms, to help reduce the risk of harm to vulnerable children, are very welcome.

"Child protection is often a huge and complex area but too frequently some services have failed in this crucial duty. When this happens swift action is an absolute priority to prevent tragedies that shame us all. And we need to ensure that if tragedy does befall a child, that we then learn the lessons from serious case reviews, something that year after year is not done."