Focus is on Blackpool's neediest children - including free visits to Santa

Support aimed at improving the lives of Blackpool’s most vulnerable children is being focused on the resort’s most deprived areas, a new report says.

Wednesday, 15th December 2021, 4:30 pm

Blackpool Better Start has produced an action plan to monitor how its programmes are focusing on the poorest parts of the town.

It comes in response to criticism earlier this year over the way resources had been targetted .

A council scrutiny report of the £45m Lottery funded scheme warned in June some vulnerable families might be missing out on help.

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Better Start's community connectors transformed themselves into 'elves' as they offered support to families

It revealed more than half of those benefitting from the 10-year project lived outside the seven wards originally identified “to exclusively be in receipt of funded intervention.”

When Better Start was launched in 2015, its aim was to target funding in the seven wards of Bloomfield, Brunswick, Claremont, Clifton, Park, Talbot and Victoria where families were in most need.

A Better Start action plan presented to members of the council’s children and young people’s scrutiny committee said the way funding was distributed throughout the town was being monitored.

It also said key services were being delivered exclusively in the seven Better Start wards including support given as part of a baby feeding programme, and the community connectors scheme .

Jersey-Hope meeting Santa at a Better Start festive grotto

Around three quarters of participants in a project to protect babies from the threat of domestic abuse also live in the Better Start wards, while funding for Family Nurse Partnership is only for mothers in those wards.

The action plan adds: “The access to services is closely monitored to ensure those with the highest need are receiving the support they need.”

* Blackpool Better Start has helped more than 160 children aged under four to enjoy free festive grottos in December.

The mobile Santa visited Revoe Family Hub, Mereside Freedom Church and @The Grange with story telling, crafts and a free book from Santa.

Better Start ‘elves’, made up from the community connectors team, were on-hand to chat with families about organisations which can help with issues of food and fuel poverty.

Clare Law, director for the Blackpool Centre for Early Child Development, said: “We knew lots of families in Blackpool may struggle to pay £10 to £15 to see Father Christmas this year and this can put a lot of pressure on parents.

“We hoped that by providing our community with a free Better Start grotto, we could give local children a magical experience they will remember for a long time.”

Jayde Cunliffe, who took her two-year old daughter Jersey-Hope to the Mereside grotto, said: “Jersey-Hope had such good fun and it was made magical by all the team interacting with all the children so nobody felt left out.

“It really was like a Christmas Wonderland and Santa made it special by not rushing anyone. It was an amazing experience for her and the lengths all the staff went to to provide this for free to the children in the community was fantastic.”

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