Multi-million pound investment in the future of Blackpool children as fostering service is relaunched

Millions of pounds are being invested in Blackpool’s fostering service to ensure more children have a loving home to grow up in.

By Shelagh Parkinson
Friday, 15th January 2021, 3:30 pm
Updated Friday, 15th January 2021, 3:34 pm

The council has launched the Fostering in Blackpool Rocks campaign to recruit more foster carers, in particular to enable children to remain living in the town.

Coun Lynn Williams, council leader and cabinet member for children’s services, said: “There are hundreds of children who need a loving family as they grow up, and it is such an enriching thing to do.”

Currently out of the Blackpool children in foster care, only 28 per cent are placed with Blackpool foster carers

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The council has launched the Fostering in Blackpool Rocks campaign

It is hoped increasing that figure will create more stable environments for children by preventing them from having to switch schools, and maintaining connection with family members and their communities.

The new campaign aims to attract local people and families to come forward and find out more about fostering.

Shelley Smith, 50, has been a short-term foster carer for Blackpool Council for seven years looking after babies and toddlers.

She is urging other people to consider the role.

Foster carer Shelley Smith, who is urging other people to sign up

She said: “We have got a great need for local children to stay with local foster carers.

“This enables them to continue going to their school and their nursery, and to continue to have a positive relationship with their family.”

Investment includes £1.1m towards foster carer payments, and £1.2m per year for two years for specialist foster placements for children who will be brought out of residential care via a therapeutic children’s home.

Another £300,000 has been put towards reorganising the service.

Children need to be cared for in their own communities

Coun Lynn Williams, council leader and cabinet member for children’s services, said: “Our foster carers often tell us that fostering is one of the most rewarding and fulfilling things they have ever done.

“As lucky as we are to have our current group of foster carers in Blackpool, there are still many children out there in need of a foster home close to their local community and we urgently need more foster carers to look after them.

“Our children here in Blackpool deserve a family and the opportunity to be brought up within one, either on a short-term basis whilst they move on to permanence or on a longer term basis until adulthood.”

There are currently 110 fostering households registered with Blackpool Council, plus 80 ‘connected carers’ who are relatives, friends or have some other connection to the child or young person they look after.

Generally around three quarters of all children in care live with foster families, with around 350 Blackpool children currently with foster care families that are outside their birth family and family network.

Coun Williams added: “We’re proud of what we offer at Blackpool Council – friendly support, attractive allowances and full training.

“If you’ve thought about fostering in the past, our supportive team can help you make it a reality.

“If you think that you could help make a difference to a young person’s life, please do get in touch with us.”

Case study

Shelley Smith had been widowed not long before applying to become a foster carer, and after discussing the possibility with her daughter decided to start the process.

She admits going before a panel was ‘nerve wracking’, but she was encouraged by the amount of support she received.

Speaking at the launch of the campaign, she said: “The children that come into our care are often quite traumatised and at their most vulnerable.

“They have been removed from their families, their parents, their friends and their home.

“Everything that is normal and familiar to them has been taken away.

“Once these children come into your care, they are going to be really upset. Some of them will settle very quickly, and others will take a little bit longer.

“But once these children start to trust you, and feel safe and secure with you and your family, the rewards are just heart-warming.”

Shelley, who has five grown-up children of her own and four grandchildren, has fostered more than 20 children, some just for a few weeks and some for much longer.

She added: “Some of these children have gone home to their parents, some have gone to other family members and some have gone for adoption.

“Anyone considering becoming a foster carer, I would really recommend fostering for Blackpool.

“I have had lots of support and built up a really good support network with other foster carers.”

How it works

The council’s children’s services has developed a new way of working, ‘Blackpool Families Rock’, which is about strengthening and supporting families, underpinned by three values.

These are represented by the heart (how people feel and behave), the head (how people think) and the hands (how the council works with people).

Support includes the council’s own fostering team, in-house psychology team and a therapeutic approach to parenting training.

Foster carers receive a full training and support package, including enhanced allowances, regular support groups, peer mentors for new carers, an out of hours support and advice line, and a dedicated supervising social worker.

Allowances have been increased with newly approved foster carers receiving an allowance per child, per week of between £232 and £443.

For more information about becoming a foster carer, visit www.blackpoolfostering.com or call 01253 420222.

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