Council’s ‘unacceptable’ failures

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BLACKPOOL Council was today slammed by Government inspectors for how it protects vulnerable children.

Oftsed inspectors turned up unannounced last month to review the authority’s procedures.

After nine days examining 111 case files and reviewing practices Ofsted branded the authority “inadequate” across all areas of responsibility in relation to the protection of children from harm.

Inadequate is the worst rating Ofsted can give.

The report said: “Some children and young people are not adequately protected at crucial points in their journey through life”, adding that poor decisions mean some youngsters “are left at continued risk of harm.”

Other cases have not had the attention they required with “too many referrals to children’s services closed prematurely with no further action” while “some children have not been provided with the help they need in a timely way.”

Children who go missing from home or who are at risk of domestic violence are also not receiving enough support.

The report says: “Some cases of repeat high risk domestic violence incidents, or multiple events of children being missing from home, have led to either insufficient or no action, or premature case closure.”

Social workers are also criticised for a lack of consideration for a family’s background in relation to ethnicity, religion, language or disability.

Ofsted highlights that: “In some cases, for example, inter-generational domestic violence has occurred and professionals do not identify the impact of this when assessing parent’s ability to protect their children.”

Politicians from both sides today admitted the council had failed in its duty.

Poor practices were identified going back around 15 years, covering both Labour and Conservative administrations.

Leading Councillors vowed to work together to put new improved safeguarding practices in place.

An all-party select committee is to be established as part of the council’s own investigation into the failings.

Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn said: “I am as confident as I can be that no child has been harmed as a result of these failings.

“However that is not good enough.

“I need to be absolutely confident that as soon as we become aware of any potential risk to a child, the local authority reacts in a timely fashion and puts the appropriate response in place.”

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A specialist team, led by a newly appointed principal social worker supported by additional social workers from other authorities, is now re-examining all cases from the last six months to ensure there are no outstanding concerns.

Further scrutiny of cases going back 12 to 18 months is expected.

Coun Blackburn added: “There is no hiding how disappointed I am by this news.

“Our children’s services department work incredibly hard in difficult and challenging circumstances to protect and improve the lives of the town’s children. But what this report identifies is we must try even harder.

“As it stands the service we are providing is not good enough and that is something that needs to be addressed immediately.

“I have been shocked by the mistakes that have been uncovered and I fully accept the comments made by Ofsted. I am not looking to offer excuses or to defend past behaviour.

“As a council it is our responsibility to look after our young residents and we have been falling short. This has to change and it will do.

“We now need to look to the future and ensure past mistakes are never repeated and going forward we have a service that fulfils its responsibilities in protecting the most vulnerable members of our community.”

See the special report in Friday’s Gazette

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