TOWN hall bosses have rubber-stamped plans to spend than half a million pounds employing extra social workers as part of their response to a damning Ofsted report.
Blackpool Council’s children’s social care service was labelled “inadequate” by inspectors in June, and cabinet members pledged their commitment to vulnerable children and families during the meeting to give the spending plan the go-ahead.
The council’s executive approved the employment of a further 15 social workers to reduce workloads and improve standards, aiming to create an outstanding service.
By spending around £569,000 on the new staff the council commits to protecting the most vulnerable and reducing its spending on the number of children needing to go into care.
Council leader Simon Blackburn said: “In response to our Ofsted and all of the fantastic work that has gone on since and recognising that one of the key financial pressures is the number of looked after children, the way we feel we can confidently and safely reduce is to take on 15 new social workers.”
In taking on the new staff workloads of existing social workers will be reduced from around 27 cases each to between 16 and 20 each, in line with other local authorities in the North West and recommended levels.
Bringing in more social workers is part of a long term strategy by the council to reduce the number of children needing to be taken into care.
Blackpool Council currently employs 64 social workers and six newly qualified staff. Between them they carry out the work of 67 workers.
The numbers will now be upped to 82 social workers.
The council has already spent £90,000 on additional staff in the department since the report was released in June as part of £418,000 dedicated to improve the service.
Bosses said that to continue with the status quo was not a safe option and could have left children vulnerable.
Coun Tony Williams, Conservative leader of the opposition on Blackpool Council, said: “This is an enormous amount of money to engage a rather large amount of new social workers.
“The Conservative group offered our full support to addressing the serious situation relating to looked after children after the recent disastrous Ofsted report.
“However I am disappointed the number of children in care continues to rise and we now have more cases than in any other North West location. We have a total of 544 looked after children in all age groups with almost half of these being placed outside of Blackpool.
“The cost of taking care of these children is more than £14m pounds per year – that’s more than £1m per month of Blackpool taxpayers’ money.
“I have argued we need to invest in more facilities in the town to keep these costs controlled but so far my pleas have been ignored.”