Children’s care will improve with help

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COUNCILLORS have pledged to “shine a light” on the dark recesses of council business as it bids to improve children’s care in the resort.

A joint executive and scrutiny panel, set up to oversee children’s care services in light of a damning Ofsted inspection which branded Blackpool Council’s children’s services “inadequate”, is calling on all care providers to help.

The cross-party group of councillors and senior council staff have met for the first time.

The panel has been established to ensure the proper implementation of recommendations made in the Ofsted report.

Coun Ivan Taylor, chair of the panel, said: “The council has the primary role but there are other agencies that have an important role to play. If people have something to say, a contribution or a suggestion, I think it would be useful to listen.”

Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn said: “Some light needs to shine into some fairly dark recesses of council business.

“I have never seen an authority criticised for sharing too much information.”

Coun Taylor suggested members of other organisations, such as police and NHS staff and safeguarding board members, are called as witnesses to allow the council to ask questions, gather intelligence and see others’ viewpoints on care services.

Mr Taylor said this would be carried out behind closed doors so as not to deter people from attending.

It was also stressed the council would not be seeking to apportion blame.

Since Ofsted made its recommendations two more posts have been opened for experienced social workers in Blackpool at a cost of £90,000, money taken from the council’s core budget.

Currently filled by temporary staff, councillors agreed it is vital to fill them with permanent staff in order to meet the needs of families better.

Social workers are to be consulted on a draft Family Support Strategy,

£84,000 has also been spent on case reviews, where 12 per cent of cases were reopened and reassessed, leading to a rise of children in care to 452.

Sue Harrison, director of children’s services, said: “We do expect this number to go up but it will start to reduce when the early intervention strategies come into place.”

The council is now focussing on early intervention strategies, finding ways to support families and prevent the breakdown of family units to avoid children being sent into care. A review will also be carried out into the Children’s Trust and the Safeguarding Board.