A damning report published today warns Blackpool Council is failing to help some of the town’s most vulnerable children who are living in "chronic neglect".
The council’s Children’s Social Care Service has been rated inadequate by Ofsted inspectors for the second time in six years.
It comes on the back of the resort’s Youth Offending Team (YOT) also being branded ‘inadequate’ only last month following an inspection by HM Inspectorate of Probation.
Leadership has come in for heavy criticism in the latest report which focuses on a raft of deficiencies meaning some children are living “in neglectful circumstances for longer than they should, resulting in their needs often becoming more complex”.
The response to young people who are homeless means some teens must resort to sofa-surfing or living in B&B accommodation, with the report warning this “increases their exposure to risk”.
Concerns are also raised about child sexual exploitation, children who go missing and youngsters being absent from school.
But council chiefs said there was no indication in the report that children in Blackpool are not safe, which had been the case in 2012.
However leadership, the experiences and progress of children who need help and protection, and overall effectiveness were all given the lowest “inadequate” rating by Ofsted, which carried out its inspection between November 26 and December 7 last year.
The experience of children in care and care leavers was rated slightly better as “requiring improvement to be good.”
Placements did lead to “stable adoptive families being identified”, inspectors said.
The overall inadequate rating is a step back from 2014 when Blackpool’s Children’s Services was rated “needs improvement”.
In 2012, the council was also rated inadequate and was put into special measures.
The immediate response to the latest report will include the appointment of a Children’s Commissioner for Blackpool by the end of February who will work with the council for three months to help turn things around as well as carrying out a review of "service control".
Blackpool Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn admitted it was unacceptable to have overseen two ‘inadequate’ reports during his time in charge at the town hall but said he had faith in director of children’s services Diane Booth, who has been in post 18 months, and cabinet secretary for children’s services Coun Graham Cain.
He also said it would be "wrong" for him to resign and said he believes he is the best person to fix the problems at the town hall.
Inspectors say since the 2014 inspection “the pace of progress has been too slow, and there has been a decline in strategic leadership”.
Although there has been a focus on improvement since the appointment of Ms Booth “it has not led to the level of improvement required”, they added.
Children in need of protection are dealt with inconsistently with some “not receiving the help they need at the right time”.
Some youngsters in care receive too many placement moves and there are “missed opportunities to explore wider family alternatives earlier”.
However members of the fostering team are “knowledgeable and experienced”, health needs are routinely assessed and 68 per cent of children in care have a personal education plan now compared to only 14 per cent a year ago.
Ms Booth said many steps were already being implemented to improve the service.
She said: “When I took this job, I knew what I was coming into. We are working in the most deprived town in the country and we have more families needing support in more difficult circumstances.
“The number of children in care has increased dramatically at the same time as resources have decreased for the police, NHS and voluntary sector.
“However I accept the contents of the report and that we do need to improve.
“We have over 150 children’s social workers, and an additional £1.2m has been committed towards improving the pace of change.
“Training development plans are in place for our social workers and our plans to help retain our social workers are beginning to reap rewards.”
Dr Amanda Doyle, chief clinical officer for the Blackpool Clinical Commissioning Group, and Linda Clegg, chairman of the Blackpool Improvement Board, have both pledged to support the council.
Ms Clegg said: “Despite progress being made in some areas, we have not achieved this across all services, nor has it been done quickly enough.”
There are currently 563 children in care in Blackpool, and 321 children subject to child protection orders.