£400,000 to fix failures at council

Blackpool Town Hall
Blackpool Town Hall
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TAX payers face a bill of more than £400,000 to pay for failures by Blackpool Council’s child protection staff.

Town hall chiefs have agreed to dip into reserves to find the £418,000 needed to put right the mistakes uncovered by Government inspectors.

Coun Sarah Riding, cabinet member for children's services.

Coun Sarah Riding, cabinet member for children's services.

A damning report last month branded children’s services in Blackpool “inadequate” and Ofsted inspectors demanded immediate action to rectify the situation and ensure vulnerable children were safe.

The bill equates to a cost of up to £5.88 for every one of the resort’s 71,000 council tax paying households.

Funding will be used to support a case-by-case review of vulnerable children and to bring in additional social workers.

The total includes £54,000 for an interim chief officer for 90 days, £84,000 for case reviews and £90,000 to employ additional social workers.

The money will initally be taken from the Strategic Investment Reserve, although the council hopes to secure between £50,000 and £70,000 from the Department for Education

Coun Sarah Riding (pictured), cabinet member for children’s services, said: “This funding is required to bring in some of the additional expertise so we can dig deeper and have a look at the systematic issues and problems.

“It is to give some clarity and expertise. This isn’t about who is to blame, it is about what to do to move forward.

“In the long term, in potentially getting a better service, hopefully we will end up saving money. If we get things right now, we will have a better service for families and children.

“I see it as a very positive investment. It will take pressure off staff because what we don’t want is a demoralised workforce.”

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The action to address the failings in children’s service has cross-party backing – but some think even more cash may be needed to bring the service up to scratch.

The opposing Conservative group leader Coun Tony Williams told The Gazette: “Almost half a million pounds is a lot of money but this is a huge issue and it may not be enough.

“However I am sure this is not just a case of throwing money at the problem. The council will need some expert help and it will take several months to get this back on track and up to a ‘good’ classification. “Other problems may be unearthed as the work begins and these will have so far unknown financial demands.

“The council needs to be willing to spend whatever is necessary in an effective manner to ensure all areas of our children’s services reach a standard which provides the very best possible delivery and instils absolute confidence and trust from the public.”

The Ofsted report, published on July 13, found children had been let down by a series of failings in the system designed to protect them from harm.

Inspectors discovered social workers did not understand their roles, some cases were closed while children were still at risk, and care bosses had not attended vital meetings.

However, they did not blame a lack of resources for the short-comings in the service.

Immediate action in response to the report has included double checking all cases from the last six months, the appointment of an interim assistant director of children’s services as well as a principal social worker, the bringing in of additional social workers and recruiting of new staff members to review case files.

A new programme of training and development will also be introduced.

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