Number of Blackpool children in care is 'off the scale'

The number of children taken into care in Blackpool is 'at a different level', councillors have been told
The number of children taken into care in Blackpool is 'at a different level', councillors have been told
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Blackpool has a higher rate of children in the care of the local council than any other part of the UK.

The number of 'looked after' children topped the 500 mark between July and September, a committee of councillors was told.

Blackpool Council's director of people, Delyth Curtis, described the town as being at 'a different level'.

She said although numbers had risen elsewhere, Blackpool was always shown as being 'off the scale'.

The authority's Resilient Communities Scrutiny Committee was shown figures revealing that the council also has the highest number of open social work cases, currently standing at 2,050. In September alone, the authority had to assess over 1100 'contacts' with social care, of which 350 became official referrals.

But Ms Curtis said the council could never 'close the door' because of its legal responsibilities. She said the figures were a 'worrying spike' but added that numbers of looked after children had dipped to below 500 once again in recent days.

"Whatever has worked elsewhere, we will try it here, because what we have tried isn't having a significant impact in terms of demand," she added. "Our ultimate aim is to ensure better prevention."

She said the transient nature of Blackpool's contribution is likely to have contributed to the problem.

The committee heard it was proving difficult to recruit social workers, because many were choosing better paid agency work. But children's services in Blackpool are still managing to achieve better than average performance in the time it takes to arrange initial case conferences and make statutory visits.

In a report presented to councillors, the system was described as operating under a level of anxiety. The most urgent investigations - where significant harm is suspected - leapt by more than a hundred between March and August.

The council is now working on a new Early Help plan to be delivered from children's centres and also the development of a vulnerable adolescent hub. It is also exploring a new model of support for parents where a child has previously been removed in an attempt to prevent future 'vulnerable' pregnancies.