Young Inspectors checking up on Blackpool children’s homes

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Young people who have grown up in care are helping ensure the next generation get the best experience from the places they call home.

 

Supported living accommodation in Blackpool is being visited by young people who have experienced the care system themselves as part of an innovative Young Inspectors scheme to monitor quality.

So far four volunteers have been recruited to the council-run programme, with another five waiting to join.

They are all aged over 16 and have experienced living in care themselves.

Young Inspectors are visiting children's homes on behalf of the councilYoung Inspectors are visiting children’s homes on behalf of the council

Their role is to visit children’s homes and speak to the young people living there as well as the staff, using their own experiences to help them assess the quality.

Two of the young inspectors joined a meeting of the council’s Children and Young People’s Scrutiny Committee to tell them how the scheme was working.

Councillors heard this included visiting homes, chatting to the children and the staff and following up any problems that were raised.

The committee was told: “What it shows is, it’s possible to do well in life and being a young person growing up in care doesn’t stop you doing anything you want.”

A report to the committee added: “A Young Inspector is a volunteer aged 16 plus who has experienced living in supported accommodation and has been or is one of our children.

“Young Inspectors support the quality monitoring of accommodation by visiting the homes where our children live , speaking to young people living there and assessing how safe and how well cared for our children are.

“They get a feel for how welcoming and homely the homes are and used their own experiences to help them assess the quality.”

All the young inspectors are fully trained in consultation skills, questioning skills , confidentiality and basic safeguarding, and are supported by the council’s commissioning team.

Mum disgusted after being given parking ticket while her son went into shock in Blackpool

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Gemma said she was only away from her car for minutes, looking after her diabetic son when she was given the penalty charge.

 

Gemma and her husband took their boys to Sandcastle Waterpark in Blackpool and parked at on site car park
Gemma and her husband took their boys to Sandcastle Waterpark in Blackpool and parked at on site car park

A mum has been left ‘disgusted’ after she was reportedly issued with a penalty charge notice as her disabled child fell suddenly ill.

Gemma Leary, 36, from Liverpool, brought her family for a two-night-stay in Blackpool at the end of May where she and husband John Leary, 39 took their 10-year-old twin boys to Sandcastle Water Park.

The twins, Lewis and Ryan, both have autism and Ryan also has type one diabetes meaning he has to wear a pump on his stomach that connects to a cannula providing insulin.

When arriving at the park, the parents said they decided to pay for a full day knowing that his pump would usually have to be replaced multiple times when going swimming.

Throughout the day, Gemma drove Ryan back and forth from the water park to their hotel to change his pump but on their last trip back, when the family were getting ready to leave, Ryan started feeling low due to low blood sugar levels.

Gemma said: “I would normally have walked (to the hotel) but because he’s diabetic, if he walks, he drops really fast.

“I thought it would be easier to have a base for the day and go back and forth hence why i paid for the full day instead of taking the three hours free disabled parking.”

During her rush to help Ryan during a hypoglycaemic shock, Gemma parked back in the disabled bay she had been in the whole day but said she had not been able to pick up her blue badge which fell into the foot well of her car.

Within minutes of leaving the car, a traffic warden arrived and issued Gemma with a PCN despite Gemma reportedly explaining her situation and showing the warden her badge.

Gemma said: “I said sorry my son’s just been having a hypo, I’ll get it for you so I got it for her and showed her, she checked it and checked if the right person was on it.

“She said to me I’ll take a picture of it and note it but I’ve already issued it so you’re going to have to challenge it.”

After speaking with the warden, Gemma said she was sure that challenging this penalty wouldn’t be an issue, but in doing so, claims she has found it to be the complete opposite.

“It was hard work and no one gets back to you at all,” she said “I eventually got an email saying they know that the lady has seen the valid badge but they’re not willing to overturn it which I think is disgusting, absolutely disgusting.

“I understand that you’ve got to put your blue badge on display which I had done throughout the day because I’m sure that the wardens would have been around all day, it was just unfortunate that it fell.”

When providing evidence towards appealing the PCN, Gemma had included images of her ticket for the day, her blue badge and images from her son’s glucose tracker, proving he had suffered a hypoglycemic shock.

Despite this the council then contacted Gemma to ask her to repay the reduced fine of £35 from £70.

A letter from the council, seen by LancsLive, says: “I am writing to confirm that I have received your challenge in relation to the above Penalty Charge Notice. After careful consideration of the circumstances, unfortunately it has been decided the reasons given are not grounds for the cancellation of the charge.

“In this instance, the PCN was correctly issued. The civil enforcement officer observed your vehicle parking in a designated disabled bay without a disabled blue badge and time clock clearly displayed in the vehicle.

“Disabled bays are for the sole use of disabled badge holders to enable easy access to local facilities. For the disabled concession to apply, it is essential (and a legal requirement) that the badge is displayed so that all the details on the front of the badge (the side with the hologram) and the time clock set to display the time of arrival (if required), are clearly visible from the outside of the vehicle in accordance with the blue badge scheme handbook.

“Although you showed the disabled badge to the officer who has confirmed that the badge holder was present, unless the badge is displayed at the time of parking a concession cannot be given.”

A Blackpool Council spokesperson said: “Although the penalty charge notice was issued correctly at the time we understand that circumstances led to the valid blue badge not being on display and the notice will be cancelled.”

Blackpool Houndshill Shopping Centre talks with retailer over Debenhams store takeover at ‘advanced stage’

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Negotiations are at an “advanced stage” with a retailer interested in taking over the former Debenhams department store in Blackpool town centre’s Houndshill Shopping Centre.

 

Last month, The Gazette revealed how council bosses were in talks with a major brand to takeover the department store, which closed its doors on May 8.

Officials are remaining tight-lipped on what firm it may be, but one council source said it’s a “big name”.

Following the closure of Debenhams a council spokesman said: “We have obviously been aware of the impending closure of the Debenhams store within the Houndshill for some time.

The Debenhams store closed in MayThe Debenhams store closed in May

“During that period, we have been working closely with our agents to identify suitable alternative anchor tenants for the unit.

“We are currently in negotiations with a retailer to take the whole unit and we hope to be able to make an announcement in the near future.”

Following a request from The Gazette, an authority spokesman said on Thursday that talks with the retailer are “at an advanced stage” but no further update or fixed timescale for an announcement were provided.

Debenhams opened in 2008 and was the flagship store for the Houndshill.

Meanwhile, earlier this month, Marks and Spencer (M&S) confirmed that it was planning 30 further store closures as part of a shake-up of 110 of its shops, with the majority of sites set for relocation.

M&S said the impact of the pandemic has provided it with an opportunity to purchase new locations, with the group currently targeting six new stores in former Debenhams units.

It didn’t reveal if one of the stores it is targeting is the former Debenhams unit.

Police investigate Snapchat account accused of sharing naked pictures of 13-year-old Blackpool girl

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A Snapchat account linked to the resort is accused of sharing naked pictures of a 13-year-old girl from South Shore.

 

She’s not thought to be the only victim – with parents and teachers reacting with shock and horror.

A Snapchat account which urges schoolchildren across Blackpool to embarrass each other is being investigated by police after allegedly posting pictures of a 13-year-old girl getting changed.

The group, which The Gazette is not naming, is said to encourage youngsters in Blackpool to out-do each other by sending in shots of their compromised pals – such as girls wearing no make-up. But it was accused of veering into the illegal after images of the girl in a state of undress – said to be screenshots taken from a video call with a friend – appeared over the weekend, leaving the young teen distraught and her mum furious.

Police are investigating a Snapchat account which allegedly encourages the sharing of embarrassing shots of resort children – and is accused of posting naked images of a 13-year-old girlPolice are investigating a Snapchat account which allegedly encourages the sharing of embarrassing shots of resort children – and is accused of posting naked images of a 13-year-old girl

Her mum said: “I feel absolutely disgusted. Nobody wants to see their children treated like this. I want to make sure it doesn’t happen.

“She was upset, obviously. It has ruined her friendship. She was worried about going to school. There have been boys shouting things at her in the corridor.”

Another mum said “rude” pictures of her daughter, also 13, were posted on the same account and warned: “My daughter isn’t the only one.

“Some of these are naked pictures found on the internet that have been put up with children’s names attached, shaming them. My daughter went to school this morning and she didn’t even get through the gate before she started getting bullied.

“From what I saw there has been over 50 pictures posted. I’m lucky my kids can come and tell me things but there are going to be kids out there who this is happening to and they can’t do anything about it.

“It makes me feel physically sick.”

Gill Smith, a safeguarding expert at Montgomery Academy, a secondary school in All Hallows Road, Bispham, said she became aware of pictures and a list of names being distributed on Facebook. She said: “Straight away I alerted the staff to this list and to contact the families straight away and make them aware. We have offered our support to the family and the pupil and we have informed them that the police are involved.

“Any bullying that goes on at all in school we take very seriously. As a school, our pupils do lessons about online safety and we do assemblies in which we talk about inappropriate and appropriate behaviour online, online safety, and the seriousness of sharing images. We go into a lot of detail about that because we want our pupils to be safe online and to educate them.”

John Topping from the Fylde Coast Academy Trust, which runs several schools across the Fylde coast, said he understood parents’ concerns – and said: “What [children] access with mobile phones and other devices in the privacy of their own homes over the weekend will ultimately overspill into life in school on Monday morning as a result of poor choices made.”

He added: “Schools are working with the relevant safeguarding authorities including the police to assist in taking down these sites as quickly as possible.

We have strong and powerful lines of communication with parents to nip incidents in the bud hopefully before friendships between children are damaged by their actions.

“All staff have more training in these areas than in past years and The Fylde Coast Academy Trust schools are currently looking at how we can further support students with their learning about relationships, particularly as they grow up in a digital world.

“Parents and carers certainly need to be vigilant at home and to work with the police, the schools and other agencies in guiding young minds towards making better choices in their use of new technologies.”

A police spokesman said: “We are aware of the report and an investigation is underway.”

Snapchat, which allows users to post images and videos which delete themselves – unless they are screenshotted and saved – after a matter of seconds did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.

Blackpool schools opt out of ‘One Britain One Nation’ singing amid Covid guidance confusion

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Blackpool school leaders have said their resort pupils won’t be joining in with the Government’s call for children to sing a patriotic song tomorrow, because singing “still isn’t allowed” in schools.

The Government is encouraging school children to sing a patriotic song which celebrates a “strong Britain great nation.”

The move is part of One Britain One Nation Day on Friday, June 25 – which is a government-backed campaign that aims to instil pride in Britain.

In a post on social media, the Department for Education said: “We’re encouraging schools across the UK to celebrate One Britain One Nation Day on 25 June, when children can learn about our shared values of tolerance, kindness, pride and respect.”

The OBON website describes its vision as to “create a strong, fair, harmonious and a proud British Nation, celebrating patriotism and respect for all our people”.

But leaders in schools across the resort said their pupils will not be participating in the event, largely due to guidance set out by the Government itself about singing.

A spokesman for Fylde Coast Academy Trust (FCAT), one of the resort’s biggest trusts which runs schools including Montgomery Academy, Gateway Academy and Westcliff Primary Academy, said: “The answer is going to be no, largely because [they’ve] only just heard about it, and the other thing is, singing still isn’t allowed in schools.

“Assemblies haven’t been held for ages, so it’s not been approved as yet.”

One Britain One Nation 2021: Blackpool school leaders say they won't be participating in OBON Day tomorrow - because they were not told about it soon enough by the Department of Education, and singing restrictions still aren't lifted in schools. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)One Britain One Nation 2021: Blackpool school leaders say they won’t be participating in OBON Day tomorrow – because they were not told about it soon enough by the Department of Education, and singing restrictions still aren’t lifted in schools. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Government guidance around singing in schools during the pandemic outlines the “additional risk” of singing in schools – but allows for music lessons to continue to take place.

It says: “There may be an additional risk of infection in environments where singing, chanting, playing wind or brass instruments, dance or drama takes place. Singing, wind and brass playing should not take place in larger groups such as choirs and ensembles, or assemblies unless significant space, natural airflow and strict social distancing and mitigation can be maintained.

“You should take particular care in music, dance and drama lessons to observe social distancing where possible. Additionally, you should keep any background or accompanying music to levels which do not encourage teachers or other performers to raise their voices unduly.”

A spokesman for the Department of Education said: “The department has not asked people to sing songs or endorsed any specific materials for One Britain One Nation day.”

But on June 3, it shared a Twitter post from One Britain One Nation, which said: “Inspiring a generation. Urging all schools to join us on 25th June for #OBONDAY2021 campaign supported by @educationgovuk to spread the message of #Pride #Unity #Love #Respect for all through a song composed by @StJohnsCE.”

The Musicians Union also advises music teachers to “avoiding singing, wind and brass playing in larger groups unless there is sufficient space and ventilation, or the activity can take place outdoors.”

Despite this, a promotional video for OBON Day showed children waving flags and singing the lyrics: “We are Britain and we have one dream, to unite all people in one great team.

“Our nation survived through many storms and many wars.”

The campaign was founded by retired police inspector Kash Singh, who said the concept was “born from my dream as a police officer” after coming to the UK as a six-year-old boy who “couldn’t speak a word of English”.

He said he set up the campaign in Bradford, West Yorkshire, in 2013 after retiring from the police force in 2012.

But Anchorsholme Academy headteacher Graeme Dow said although the One Britain One Nation song was a “jolly little tune,” he was not aware of the campaign being promoted locally.

He added that despite calls for singing nationally, the Government still had not fully permitted the activity in schools.

Mr Dow said: “It has certainly not been promoted to schools locally, not that I am aware of. It is a jolly little tune and it is always lovely to hear children singing.

“As this is the first I have really heard about it, that would not be enough time for us to prepare the children to sing it. As such, we would not be able to take part, even if we were asked to do so (and nobody has asked us).

“I’m not sure how the government is expecting schools to sing when they haven’t as yet fully lifted the restrictions that have been placed on singing in schools.”

Blackpool makes new £20m funding bid to government

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Blackpool is bidding for £20m from the Government’s Levelling Up Fund for schemes including investment in the Winter Gardens and former Abingdon Street Post Office.

 

A third element of the bid is for town centre road improvements including to ease congestion and improve the public realm between the Winter Gardens, the Houndshill extension and the Blackpool Central leisure development.

Boutique hotel hope for former Blackpool post office could be part of new fundin…

But hopes of including a scheme to regenerate the Bond Street/Waterloo Road area of South Shore were dashed because plans could not be worked up in time for the deadline.

The former Post OfficeThe former Post Office

However the council has said it hopes to include the neighbourhood in a future bid for funding.

Blackpool South MP Scott Benton welcomed the £20m bid but called for priorities to include areas other than the town centre.

He said: “As far as I’m concerned, the obvious place in need of capital spending on regeneration is South Shore, and specifically Bond Street/Waterloo Road.

“I live not far from this area and regularly use the shops and facilities there. The decline in the area over many decades has been noticeable and it’s in urgent need of investment.
Blackpool South MP Scott Benton
Blackpool South MP Scott Benton

He said it was “incredibly disappointing” there was not enough time to prepare a bid for South Shore before the June deadline.

Mr Benton added: “However, to ensure we can put forward the area in any future bids for capital investment, the council are bidding for Government money so they can draw up comprehensive proposals for regenerating the area and consult with residents on this.

“This will ensure that a ready-made scheme can be worked up and discussed with local residents and traders, and that money could be brought in to deliver this scheme in the future.”

Blackpool Council said schemes for the first round of the Levelling Up fund had to be ready to start by next March, and be linked to the themes of transport, regeneration and town centre investment, and culture investment.

A spokesperson added: “We are delighted Scott Benton has supported the bid and we fully understand his concerns about the limitations of the fund criteria.

“Having said that, we have included in our submission for the Community Renewal Fund a bid to prepare a masterplan/feasibility study for the Waterloo area to support the regeneration of the Waterloo ward, determining local needs, the priorities for intervention and potential solutions to support commercial and residential development, as well as creating green and safe community spaces.

“If successful, the project will fund a consultancy team, a website, pop-up events and a ‘week of action’ to engage with the community about the plans for the area.

“Together with the Revoe and Claremont Masterplans which are already in place, we will aim to seek funding through future opportunities that we hope will be presented by a second Levelling Up Fund bid and the Shared Prosperity Fund, the criteria for which we anticipate will be published by the Government later this year.”

The three schemes included in the initial Levelling Up Fund bid are

* The refurbishment and conversion of the Post Office for a branded boutique hotel, which missed out on support from the Future High Streets Fund.

* Redevelopment work and creation of a new convention space with retail within the Olympia area of the Winter Gardens, including facade improvements directly opposite the £21 m Houndshill extension.

* An active travel/town centre access scheme to reduce congestion on the approaches into town centre while reducing carbon emissions. The scheme also includes Adelaide Street public transport improvements, new public realm from Adelaide Street to Hull Road to support an enhanced entrance from the forthcoming Blackpool Central development. Also public realm works along Coronation Street down to Albert Road, with provision of new cycle ways whilst framing the Houndshill extension and the Winter Gardens.