Blackpool council has said it will invest an extra £14m in its beleaguered children’s services by axing up to 75 jobs and raising council taxes.
Since 2012, the council has received several “inadequate” ratings from Ofsted. The most recent inspection raised concerns vulnerable children were being left at risk of “significant harm” including from sexual exploitation and going missing.
Figures show the cost of all social care in Blackpool accounts for more than three-quarters of local authority spending. Budget proposals for the forthcoming financial year show cuts of £5m, which mean savings of £19.6m must be found across all services when the funding for children’s services is factored in.
The council has announced that up to 75 jobs will be lost, while council tax is expected to rise by the maximum 4% allowed by the government.
In January last year, children’s social care in the Lancashire resort was deemed inadequate because of “key weaknesses” in support services. The inspection report also found that some children were left to “live in situations of chronic neglect for long periods of time”.
Although the findings of a recent monitoring visit, published last week, said the council had made “some improvements” to the service, it noted that staff shortages, coupled with an inexperienced workforce, had held it back.
Blackpool, which has been forced to reduce spending by £150m since 2011, is the seventh most deprived local authority area in England.
The town has a higher number of children in care per capita than anywhere else in the country – 184 out of 10,000. It also has three times England’s average of young people subject to child protection plans.
The council leader, Simon Blackburn, who previously revealed he had considered resigning over the failings, said the council would increase spending on children’s social care from 48% of its budget to 76%.
He told the Blackpool Gazette: “It is absolutely right that we spend money that is needed to protect and care for our most vulnerable residents but that does come at a price.”
Analysis last year by the Guardian and the Local Government Association (LGA) found that almost nine out of 10 local authorities in England overspent on children’s social care in 2017-18, as the rising number of children taken into care put extra pressure on budgets.
Councils went over budget on children’s services by an estimated £807m in that financial year, while the number of children being taken into care stands at a 10-year high.