The Commons public accounts committee has said in its second annual social care report that children's social services are still under "intense pressure" amid increasing numbers of young people in need of help, stretched budgets and intense public scrutiny.
Although the [Department for Education] is clearly best placed to provide the leadership required in many cases, it shows an alarming reluctance to play an active role in securing better services and outcomes for children in care.
The PAC study says that the DfE is the government department with policy responsibility for children in care, and oversees local councils, who provide services for these youngsters.
A Department for Education spokesman said: "This report purposefully ignores the very real progress government has made in transforming the life chances of children in care."
The Government has been accused of failing to take action to help the nation's most vulnerable youngsters. There has been an "alarming reluctance" by the Department for Education (DfE) to play an active role in securing better services and results for children in care, according to the Commons public accounts committee.
In a new report, the cross-party group of MPs suggested that the department does "far too little" to support councils before they are declared inadequate by Ofsted, instead leaving them to "fester".
The findings come the day after Ofsted warned that many local authorities are struggling to offer a good standard of care and protection for their most at-risk children.
Rates of conception for under-18s in England and Wales are at their lowest since records began in 1969, new official figures show.
Pregnancy rates for women aged between 15 and 17 were 24.5 conceptions per thousand, according to a report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
- The figures show a 13% drop in the estimated number of conceptions for women under 18 in 2013, down to 24,306 in 2013 compared with 27,834 in 2012.
- For the under-16s, there was also a 14% drop in the number of conceptions - an estimate of 4,648 in 2013, compared with 5,432 in 2012.
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Standards at schools could "go into reverse" unless improvements are made, the head of Ofsted has warned.
Sir Michael Wilshaw said the rate of improvement in many schools is "grinding to a halt", with 170,000 students still at schools rated inadequate - an increase of 70,000 from 2012.
Education Secretary Nicky Morgan said the results of Wilshaw's third annual report was down to a tougher inspection regime.
ITV News Political Correspondent Libby Wiener reports:
Thirteen areas across England have been named and shamed in a new Ofsted report for having the lowest number of students at 'good' or 'outstanding' secondary schools.
In the 13 local authority areas, children have a less than 50 per cent chance of attending one of the better secondaries - meaning more than half end up in schools which need improvement or which have been branded 'inadequate'.
These areas are:
- Tameside: 49% (up 3 points from last year)
- Middlesbrough: 48% (up 6pts)
- Barnsley: 48% (up 25pts)
- East Riding of Yorkshire: 46% (up 8pts)
- Stockton-on-Tees: 46% (down 16pts)
- Derbyshire: 42% (down 13pts)
- Bradford: 40% (down 8pts)
- Blackpool: 38% (down 8pts)
- Doncaster: 37% (down 6pts)
- Oldham: 36% (down 21pts)
- St Helens: 35% (down 12pts)
- Hartlepool: 35% (no change)
- Isle of Wight: 17% (up 3pts)
The report found that only six areas in the country could boast 100 per cent of secondary-age students attending the top schools, five of which are in London - Haringey, Hounslow, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, and Westminster - along with Rutland in the East Midlands.