Patients have been handed ear plugs due to noisy building works at Blackpool Victoria Hospital today (Thursday, November 11).
The hospital has apologised to patients, visitors and staff for loud noise levels caused by construction of its new £13 million urgent care centre.
Dubbed the ‘Emergency Village’, the Same Day Emergency Care (SDEC) unit is expected to overhaul urgent care at the Vic.
Integrated Health Projects (IHP), who are building the state-of-the-art care centre, are set to pour the next concrete slab for Level 2 of the new building today.
The hospital has apologised to patients, visitors and staff for loud noise levels caused by construction of its new £13 million critical care centre
They successfully completed the roof pour on Monday (November 8), “with very little disruption to services”, said the hospital trust.
But hospital bosses say today’s pour might be “slightly noisier” due to it being closer to the urgent care wards in the existing Emergency Department.
The work is expected to continue into the evening but should be finished by 10pm.
Dubbed the ‘Emergency Village’, the Same Day Emergency Care (SDEC) development is expected to overhaul urgent care at the Vic
A hospital spokesman said: “Please note that this floor may be slightly noisier due to its proximity to the existing building’s occupied floors.
“The noise element mainly occurs after the concrete has been poured and allowed to set as it will then need to be power floated. This involves a certain amount of noise.
“Once this process starts it cannot be stopped. It is hoped that IHP will be finished by 10pm, but dependant on the weather, this time might have to be extended.”
Signs warning about the works have been created for the nearby wards and ear plugs are available for those affected by the noise, said the hospital.
A spokesman added: “We sincerely apologise for this inconvenience. Please contact the Patient Experience team if the building work is disrupting your, or a loved one’s rest.”
What do we know about the Same Day Emergency Care (SDEC) development?
The new unit will operate from 8am to midnight with the last referral being taken up to 9pm. On arrival at the new location, patients will be registered, triaged and have a preliminary assessment by a senior decision maker.
Any treatment, procedures or diagnostics required will be carried out and patients discharged or booked in for a follow up appointment.
The main aim of the same dayemergency care model is to rapidly assess and treat patients in the same day and avoid unnecessary admission and long waits in A&E.
Residents on a Fleetwood street say they are so frustrated at not being able to park outside their homes they have set up a petition.
They live on Custom House Lane, close to Fleetwood Market, and during market days on Tuesdays, Thursday and Fridays, visitors to the attraction make a beeline for parking spaces on the street, instead of using the paid-for public car park just across the road.
It means that one resident, funeral director Jason Dell, often has his drive blocked, so he can’t get out and sometimes has to ask Fleetwood Market to tannoy car owners to move their vehicles.
Residents on Custom House Lane are struggling to find car parking spaces outside their homes on Fleetwood Market days. Pictured L-R are residents Jason Dell and Michael Bowyer with Fleetwood Market manager Julian Brent and coun Colette Fairbanks.
A few doors down, disabled couple Mike Bowyer and Diane Cowdell are so worried about going out in their car and finding their space blocked upon their return, that they often don’t leave the house on market days and have received abuse when they challenge the car owners.
The residents from the 11 houses on the street have tried to obtain residential parking permits from Lancashire County Council but have been told they are not eligible.
Mike, 59, a former chef, said: “Diane has multiple sclerosis and degenerative disc disorder and I had to have ankle fusion treatment after a motorcycle accident years back.
“On market days, if we go out in the car, you can guarantee that when we get back home later, someone will have parked in front of our house and every parking space on the street is filled up.
Custom Hose Lane in Fleetwood is packed with cars on market days
“We’ve had to park around the corner and we both then struggle to walk back to our house – Diane especially has been in agony.
“We tried putting cones in front of our house and we also put polite signs up letting people know we are disabled.
“But they just move the cones and we’ve been sworn at and threatened.”
The couple tried to get a disabled parking bay set up in front of their house, but at the time Diane’s MS was not so severe and they were unable to qualify.
Mike Bowyer, with signs outside his house on Custom House Lane in Fleetwood
Mike added: “We just want to be be able to park outside our home and all the residents feel the same way – that’s why we set up the petition.”
Their neighbour Jason said: “I always worry that one of these days I wont be able to get to a funeral.
“I shouldn’t have to keep approaching the market to get someone to move their car.”
The petition has been forwarded to Lancashire County Council.
The car park at Custom House Lane
The County Council says the residents are not eligible for parking permits because there is a car park directly opposite and because there are only 11 houses on the street.
As things stand, visitors to the market and market traders are legally entitled to park anywhere on the street.
But Mike added: “Why should residents here have to use a car park and pay when we are in our own homes, as the county council suggests? We shouldn’t have to do that – it should be visitors who use the car park.”
The residents are being supported by Fleetwood MP Cat Smith, Wyre councillor Colette Fairbanks and even market manager Julian Brent.
Julian said: “I have asked our market traders not to park on the street and in fairness, most of them have conformed, but I can’t force anyone.
“It is mainly customers who do it and unfortunately people will always go for free parking. I feel for the residents here and we as a market have tried to support them as much as I can.”
Coun Fairbanks said: “It’s terrible that disabled people dread it every time it’s market day.
“I think the County Council is being pedantic.”
And Ms Smith, the Labour MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood, said:” Having met with local residents and seen for myself the problems they are experiencing, I’m disappointed Lancashire County Council has been unable to offer a solution to the parking issues.
“While LCC seems to have shut down the possibility of resident parking being considered at all, my understanding is that Wyre Council did make consideration for resident parking as part of the ‘pocket park’ plan. With this in mind, I’ll be raising this matter with Wyre Council and encouraging them to engage with LCC to find a parking solution that meets everyone’s needs.”
Lancashire County Council has been approached for a comment but has so far not responded.
Will Strictly Come Dancing be heading to Blackpool?
It’s not Strictly Come Dancing without a week spent under the lights of Blackpool.
At least, that’s what we have come to know and love about the annual celebrity dancing competition.
Usually, the last seven contestants in the show head to the seaside resort’s Blackpool Tower Ballroom; a place known for being the home of dancing competitions for decades on end.
But just like in 2020, Blackpool will not be visited by the dancers for 2021.
Unsurprisingly, Covid-19 is the reason why the much-loved week has been axed once again.
While some may be worried this could mark the end of the week on the Lancashire coast, fear not, with show bosses saying they ‘can’t wait’ to return in the future.
Producer Sarah James said earlier in the year: “We are all so sad that we won’t be able to get to Blackpool this year but can’t wait to be back dancing at the one and only Blackpool Tower Ballroom in the future.”
There are currently nine celebrities still in this year’s showing of Strictly.
This includes Blackburn’s AJ Odudu and Chorley’s John Whaite.
Strictly Come Dancing continues Saturday and Sunday on BBC One
Along with Alan Carr, they spoke to the man and helped him back onto the pier
Legendary actor and entertainer, Lionel Blair, sadly passed away the age of 92.
The mega star was known as a showbiz legend gracing British television screens since the 1970s and in turn becoming a household name across the country.
His management company told PA that he died surrounded by his family.
Lionel had a glittering career and in more recent years, appeared on Celebrity Big Brother and The Real Marigold Hotel.
But it was in September 2006 that Lionel made headlines in Blackpool alongside presenter and comedian, Alan Carr, after helping to save a man about to fall off the end of Blackpool’s North Pier.
The television stars had finished filming a pilot programme together when they heard a man was about to fall from the iconic structure over the Irish Sea.
The entertainers headed up to the end of the pier where the man was described to be “holding on by his fingertips” before they managed to grab him. Police at the time said the man was unharmed and returned home to his family.
At the time, the pair were filming Alan Carr’s End-of-the-Pier Show in North Pier’s Sun Lounge.
Mr Blair told the BBC at the time: “The guy that looks after the pier came running into the bar where we were having a drink and said, ‘Can anybody help me?’.”
Mr Carr added: “We got there and there was a man clinging on.”
Mr Blair continued: “We got his hand and said, ‘Come on, you don’t want to die. You can’t do that. Listen to us’.
“He did a double take, but then said, ‘No I want to go’.
“So I got one arm and you [turning to Alan Carr] got the other.”
They both were said to have pulled the man up from the edge as the police arrived at the scene.
The man was arrested by Lancashire Police and then returned uninjured to his family.
Lionel appeared on a number of variety shows in the 60s that shot him into the spotlight. He also features in The Beauty Jungle and A Hard Day’s Night, both in 1964.
At the beginning of the 70s, he appeared as a team captain on Give Us A Clue which continued to air through to the 1990s. He leaves behind wife Susan Davis and their three children and grandchildren.
Samaritans (116 123) samaritans.org operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you’re feeling, or if you’re worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at firstname.lastname@example.org, write to Freepost RSRB-KKBY-CYJK, PO Box 9090, STIRLING, FK8 2SA and visit www.samaritans.org/branches to find your nearest branch.
You might be forgiven for thinking that growing up as a mixed race young lad in Blackpool, a town which doesn’t have the significant Afro-Caribbean and Asian communities of neighbours like Preston, might have left artist Brendan Bunting bitter.
But that is far from the truth. While his new exhibition does look at issues surrounding race and identity, it also focuses on the immense pride he has in his resort home.
My BLACKpool has been commissioned by the Grundy Art Gallery, in partnership with the Resilience Revolution.
It explores the Artists identity and pride in Blackpool from the perspective of a mixed race man growing up in a predominantly white working class town.
Brendan Bunting is hoping his exhibition at Blackpool’s Grundy Art Gallery will inspire young people to explore their identity and pride in the resort
The artwork, which heavily features the techniques of collage and frottage, is the start of a process of collaboration with the Grundy Art Gallery and will be shown in the gallery’s forecourt presented on the exterior glass panels there until December 11.
The aim is to use it to generate a series of workshops for young people living in Blackpool, to explore their own identity and pride in the town and to foster a sense of resilience and community.
Brendan, 42, a youth worker for Lancashire County Council and with Blackpool Council, said he wanted the youngsters to develop their own work and have a platform.
He said: “There is a series of eight panels a mixture of collage, frottage and portrait drawings as well, exploring my upbringing in Blackpool.
Brendan uses collage and frottage techniques in his mixed media work
“They are in the outer courtyard of the Grundy.
“They are all in black and white and I use newspaper articles in the work.”
He said growing up in Blackpool was enjoyable but he did come across some problems
“We do not have massive black community in Blackpool although that has started to change over the past 20 years.
The work also features newspaper archive stories
“It was challenging at times but always welcoming.
One of the pieces in the work is a little bit of satire.
“I have been compared to everybody from footballers Trevor Sinclair to Ian Wright!
“Every pub I have gone in there has always been one guy in there saying it. They just say it.
The exhibition will be followed by workshops with young people
“They are not being rude or aggressive, in fact I suppose it is quite complimentary, but I always think What?
“I have always found it hilarious. I have a list as long as your arm. So that is incorporated into my artwork.
“I have experienced racism, not something frequent, but there has been some.
“But I don’t want to focus on the negatives. Blackpool gets a bad press, people demonise us – its a place that voted leave (in the Brexit referendum) and everyone’s racist, and questions are being asked about the asylum seekers at the Metropole at the moment, but in fact we are a welcoming community.
“We are a community built on transience.”
He said that so many people have come to Blackpool over the years to work in the tourism industry or as a result of that seaside connection, that it is used to welcoming outsiders.
His own family were in that category. His father is from Blackpool and mother from Northern Ireland who came to work in the holiday season.
He said for him transicence, which can be looked on by some as a negative term, is in fact a positive for him.
The former Hawes Side and Highfield pupil said that things can still be challenging for young black people.
“The Black Lives Matter movement has brought the debate about racism to the fore and people don’t like to be challenged on their views.
“There are complaints about being ‘woke and so forth.
“Things are changing. I went into an African shop in town the other day to get some ingredients for cooking and I was chatting with the lady there.
“I thought this is amazing, years ago I would have had to travel to Manchester for these things. She was telling me how she does hair too.
“I remember getting dreadlocks when I was 14 and I struggled to get them done in Blackpool!”
He said when the sessions start he hopes to get the young people to look first at their own identity and the positives about the town too.
He added: “I don’t want to look at the negative stuff, like how we feature on all the wrong lists for social problems. I want to focus on positivity.”
He said he studied art at night school as it was something he always enjoyed as a child.
“I specialise in portrait drawing on social issues.
“I like to look at people who are marginalised in society and that is why I use newspaper articles as part of the works.
“I have three filing cabinets of material, newspapers stories. They are in wallets with themes, homelessness poverty. The number of Gazette stories is amazing! It is like an archive.
“Storytelling is at the heart of the artist’s practice. Through supporting others to showcase their own story I hope to nurture and show that civic pride.”
Rubbia Ullah, the education officer at the Grundy said: “Brendan and I have been working together over the past few months to develop workshops for local young people.
“We wanted to highlight Black History Month and the forecourt commission was a great opportunity to showcase some of the concepts Brendan will be exploring in the workshops.
“The work we’ll be doing with local young people will go well beyond this month. It’s been great to work with Brendan and exhibit the work of a brilliant local artist and youth worker.”
The way schools spend their Covid catch-up funding will be monitored in order to ensure resources are used in the best way to help Blackpool pupils emerge from the Covid pandemic.
All schools in the resort have been eligible for the Catch-up Premium from the Department for Education (DFE) of £80 per pupil, and £240 per pupil for special schools and pupil referral units (PRU).
There will also be a recovery premium allocated for the school year 2021/2022, with the rates being £145 per pupil for mainstream schools and £290 per pupil for PRU and special schools.
Schools and academies must publish details on their websites of how the money is spent.
Councillors intend to monitor how catch up funding is spent by schools
Members of the council’s children and young people’s scrutiny committee have agreed to carry out a comprehensive examination of the information to monitor how it is spent.
At a recent meeting of the committee, councillors called for an emphasis to be placed on improving and maintaining literacy standards.
Coun David Owen said: “I would like to see a lot of this additional expenditure spent on very basic stuff which is getting children leaving primary school able to read.
“It is at the very heart and soul of preparing them for life.”
Committee chairman Coun Paul Burdess also called for schools to focus on children who are struggling to read.
She suggested some of the catch-up funding could be used to purchase more books or bring in specialist reading assistants, and added it was clear the committee “would like to see how this money was being spent.”
It was agreed to carry out a detailed review of how the funding is used by all schools in Blackpool in order to provide a consistent approach across the town.
This will include examining the information published by the schools and inviting representatives from all maintained schools to justify their use of the funding.
Information already published on school websites shows it being directed towards additional staff, small group tuition, the purchase of additional technology such as laptop computers and enhanced pastoral care.
Pupil attendance across Blackpool was above the national average throughout the first half term of the school year.
Attendances in Blackpool have been above the national average
Despite Blackpool being a COVID-19 hotspot with some of the highest rates in the country, attendance rates saw 93 per cent of pupils in school which is higher than the national average of around 90 per cent.
The figures were revealed after the data was recently published by the Department for Education.
The strong attendance figures for Blackpool’s schools reflects well on school staff and the relationships they have developed with their communities, says Coun Jim Hobson, Blackpool Council Cabinet Member for Children’s Social Care and Schools.
He said: “It is remarkable to see attendance rates so high.
“It’s a real testament to all our schools and early years settings for their ongoing hard work and commitment to make sure a day at school is as safe as can be for everyone. We appreciate your continued support and dedication to our young people.
“When families needed help and support, our schools stepped up. The relationship between school and home has been strengthened and we are now seeing strong attendance rates despite the obvious challenges.
“We’d also like to thank all parents and carers for your support with settling pupils back into school and making sure that children continue to attend.”
Schools in Blackpool appear to be bucking the trend for attendance rates so far during the new school year.
Despite the many challenges the pandemic has brought, regular attendance at school has been a high priority for schools and families.
Working closely with schools, Public Health and the Department for Education, Blackpool Council says it has been helping to ensure relevant support is in place to provide a safe and secure environment for all children, teachers and support staff.
Parents and carers of school-aged children are encouraged to help prevent COVID-19 spreading in schools by taking a PCR test even if they only have very mild symptoms.
PCR testing is free, accurate and can be ordered to a home address.
Visit nhs.uk/Get-Tested or call 119 to find out more.
A Blackpool hairdresser who styled mullets and mohawks in the Eighties,pixie cuts and Friends-inspired ‘Rachels’ in the Nineties, and elegant mermaid waves in the 2000s is about to close the book on a beauty career spanning more than three decades.
For twenty years, hairdresser Jayne Sherwin, 49, watched surrounding businesses come and go from her salon, Solo Scissors, on Caunce Street.
Now, due to the rising costs of the Covid-19 pandemic, the mum-of-one is being forced to close the doors on her decades-long legacy.
She said: “I have days at the salon where I have been crying my eyes out, telling people I’m shutting down and I won’t be able to do their hair any more.
Jayne Sherwin at Solo Scissors
“It’s a hard decision for me because most of my clients have been with me for over 30 years. I’m not just their hairdresser to them, I’m a friend.
“These are people who have been with me since I was 15 years old.”
Jayne ventured into the beauty business when she was just 13 years old, working a Saturday job at Panache on Caunce Street in the Eighties, and later training there as fully-fledged hairdresser.
In 2001 she set up her own salon, Solo Scissors, just a few doors down, and over the years established a loyal group of clients, many of whom supported the business from day one.
Stacey Logan and Vicky Johnstone with Jayne Sherwin
From its opening, the salon worked in partnership with Blackpool and The Fylde College to train up and coming young hair stylists, with more than 20 beauticians earning their qualifications through work experience there.
In 2012 she won first place in the college’s Ambassador of Industry award, and in 2010 the salon was named runner-up for the North West Micro-Employer of the Year award.
She said: “It has been an amazing 30 years. I have enjoyed every minute of it. I’ve taken on so many girls and so many apprenticeships. It’s heartbreaking to come to this point, where we have to close down.
“These last 18 months have been hell. We were a really well-established salon before Covid-19, with regular customers who came in every week. After reopening with lots of restrictions in place that we didn’t previously have, we couldn’t take on as many customers.
“Two thirds of my income has gone. Before, on an average day, we’d serve 25 or 30 clients in a day. Coming back from Covid-19, we’re looking at seven or eight. We can’t fit people in, and when you can’t fit people in who’ve been coming to us for twenty years, they will start looking elsewhere.
“For example, hair colouring can sometimes be a two or three hour job. Sometimes it can take all day. Normally in a salon we would put the colour on, and while it’s developing we could get started on someone else.Now, because of social distancing, we can’t do that.
“We’re earning almost nothing because we can’t get any clients in, and we’re still very conscious that Covid-19 is ongoing and people are still anxious of places being too busy.
“Losing two thirds of our customer base, we just can’t afford to keep going.
“What makes a hairdressers unique from a barbershop is that it’s not just a hair cut. It’s a social event. It’s getting out of the house. Rain or shine, they will come, sit and chat and have a cup of coffee. They want to gossip about their children and their grandchildren and what they’re getting up to next week. But Covid has destroyed all that.”
As a result of ongoing losses and her own struggles with osteoarthritis, Jayne made the difficult decision to close Solo Scissors this December.
The salon used to employ seven hairdressers, however, only two now remain besides Jayne, who will go on to run their own studio, Victoria J’s, which is due to open on Highfield Road when Solo Scissors shuts down.
Jayne said: “Things have changed so much over the years. In the eighties we would spend all our days doing perms and mullets and high-built hairstyles with 20 tonnes of hairspray. Clients were there twice a week and wouldn’t think of going out without having their hair blow-dried.
“Now, they come in every six or eight weeks.
“Blackpool has changed a lot. There’s not a lot of established hair salons left. They’re all pop up one day, close the next.
“I have absolutely loved every minute of my hairdressing career. I started as a Saturday girl, worked 12-hour shifts and loved every minute of it. Not just the hairdressing, but everything that comes with it. I have met some amazing people, trained some amazing staff. I have loved everything about it.”
Vicky Johnstone, 36, trained as a hairdresser at Solo Scissors when she was just 16, and has worked at the business ever since. She said: “It has been a brilliant 20 years. We’re like a family here. Our clients have come to know us and our life stories, and they get to meet other clients and it’s a big thing for them really.
“With Covid-19 it has been difficult, it has been hard adapting to all the changes and we’ve had to fight to stay afloat. We’ve been lucky enough to still have clients coming in, but it has been tough.
“It’s sad, it’s upsetting to see the salon close. There has been a lot of tears. But it’s a new beginning for me as it’s time I started my own salon.
“Jayne has been brilliant I wouldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for her.”
Jayne added: “If I was younger and fitter, I would try to carry on. But I can’t carry on like I was. We have been locked down three times these last 18 months and I can’t afford to move anywhere else.
“We have always been at the centre of Caunce Street. Ive been there so long, everyone knows me. I’ve seen hundreds of shops around me set up and shut down. The area has changed, and it’s not such a nice place now, but we have always been here.
“It has been an extremely rewarding career. I’ve met some amazing people, had some great achievements and made friends for life.
“My main girls, I couldn’t have run the salon without them, and I’m so proud that they’re going on to start their own salon – as heartbreaking as it is for me.”
What’s the difference between the north west towns of Poulton and Bolton?
Seemingly the Prime Minister was not so sure when he got the two mixed up during a debate in the Commons with Fleetwood’s Labour MP Cat Smith.
And that left Ms Smith insisting he knows nowt about towns oop north.
Lancaster and Fleetwood MP Ms Smith was tackling the Prime Minister about return of the Fleetwood to Poulton rail link when he made the slip, even though he isn’t a complete stranger to Poulton, having visited the ancient market town in December 2019 when he made a pre-election pledge to help restore the link.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared to mix Poulton up with Bolton
Ms Smith said in Parliament: “Two years ago the Prime minister visited Poulton, and announced his commitment to reopen the railway line to Fleetwood.
“So can he tell my constituents what progress he’s making with that, and when they can expect to catch the train from Fleetwood into the entire national rail network?”
Boris responded: “What we’re doing is a general programme of Beeching reversals around the country. I will get back to her as soon as I can about what is happening in Bolton, but this is the biggest investment in rail for a century or more.”
Rail campaigners have complained that there has been little progress on the pledge, and Ms Smith said afterwards: “Now I wonder if our funding for this has been going to Bolton instead of Poulton?
Cat Smith during the debate
“Does he even know where Poulton is? Or does it not matter as we’re all just ‘oop’ north?
However, businessman Coun David Henderson, left, the leader of Tory-led Wyre Council and who lives in Vicarage Road in the town, said: “Poulton sounds very similar to Bolton and unless you know the area well or differentiate it by calling it Poulton-le-Fylde, it’s easy for people to make a slip of the tongue.
“When I speak to some of my printing clients they often ask me if I’m referring to Bolton, not Poulton – and they come from Lancashire.”
He added: “Cat Smith is wrong in any case because the £100,000 pledged by Boris Johnson was forwarded to Lancashire Council and the county council has initiated the feasibility study and it is being looked at to take it to the next stage.”
Boris Johnson on his visit to Poulton – not Bolton
Coun David Henderson said it was easy to make a slip over two similar sounding names
The shocking case of a Blackpool dad who ‘injected toddlers with heroin to make them sleep’ has led to powerful criticisms of social services.
Social workers prioritised the mental health and substance abuse problems of the neglectful parents over the safety and wellbeing of their four children, one-year-old ‘Chloe’, two-year-old ‘Harper’, nine-year-old ‘Lucas’ and 16-year-old ‘Ava’, according to a child safeguarding practice review.
All four children were found to have suffered ‘chronic neglect’ from both of their parents, with things coming to a head in November 19 when the father was accused of injecting Chloe and Harper with heroin to make them sleep
The toddlers tested positive for opiates following a medical examination, though there was ‘no evidence of an injection site’. However, when one of the children attended nursery three days later, a potential injection bruise to the thigh was seen.
A review found that social workers may have been desensitised to the abuse suffered by the four children, whose parents had been known to authorities since 2006
All four children have now been taken into care.
Independent safeguarding advisor Amanda Clarke, investigating the case, said: “The lifestyle of the mother and father in this case was described as ‘mostly chaotic’ and affected by their own personal needs. This overshadowed the needs of the children and professional responses to concerns within the family often became focussed on issues relating to the adults, such as their substance misuse and mental health.”
She added that some professionals believed ‘if the parents could be helped this would in turn help the children’. However, ‘positive outcomes for the children were mostly not evident even after extensive efforts at supporting the mother and father’.
The report, by the Children’s Safeguarding Assurance Partnership, heard extensive evidence of the struggles faced by the family dating all the way back to 2006. Issues within the family included neglect, domestic abuse, parental mental health problems and substance abuse. The children were sometimes looked after by their maternal grandmother, who was also known to have problems with mental health and substance abuse.
In 2018, concerns were raised about the 34-year-old mother’s drug use during her pregnancy with Chloe. The baby was born with neo-natal abstinence syndrome, which causes newborns to go through drug withdrawals after being exposed to them in the womb, and nurses feared the mother would be unable to look after her.
An initial child protection conference failed to consider ‘the whole spectrum of neglect’, and Chloe was put on a child protection plan, which was ended 10 weeks later ‘despite evidence of the parents’ ongoing substance use’.
In September 2018, a violent domestic incident was reported, in which both the mother and father sustained serious injuries, and were noted by attending police officers to be under the influence. Weapons were also recovered from the home address.
In September 2018, a violent domestic incident was reported, in which both the mother and father sustained serious injuries, and were noted by attending police officers to be under the influence. Weapons were also recovered from the home address.
Just a few days later, further concerns were raised when the 37-year-old father attended Lucas’ school ‘significantly under the influence’.
According to the report, both Ava and Lucas had made concerning remarks about their ‘chaotic’ home life, but these were not taken on board, and the opportunity for them to share their thoughts was not consistently provided to them.
Ms Clarke said: “On a child protection visit to Ava at her aunt’s address, she is clear about mother keeping her off school to care for her siblings. She spoke of her mother’s ongoing heroin use and that she would “rather go into care than return home”.
“Ava disclosed that her stepfather has been talking about hanging himself in front of mother, and Ava had witnessed her mum overdosing. When the family had a sudden move to a new address, Ava states she has been to the address and said ‘it is a hovel’ and ‘social workers should take her brother and sisters into care’.”
Neglect of the children was evident throughout the review timeframe, and before. School records obtained for the report showed Lucas had been late for school, and that he told staff it was because he was looking after his siblings. A few weeks earlier, the nine-year-old had told his teachers that his mum did not get up in the mornings, and that Ava got him ready and took him to school.
In the two months leading to the alleged injection of Harper and Chloe, records showed several indicators of worsening neglect, but there was ‘no evidence’ that steps had been taken to address this.
Ava’s school attendance declined and she had no money for the bus to school. Lucas required several dental extractions due to tooth decay, and was seen to be upset at school but would not say why. Both Harper and Chloe appeared ‘grubby, with wet soggy nappies’, and their parents reported no money for nappies and food.
The house was cold and the parents admitted to using drugs at home.
Ms Clarke said: “The existence of neglect within the family and in particular for the children is clear, throughout the entire review timeframe. The local area is known for its deprivation with several families living with poverty. Previous research has identified that some professionals working with families living in areas of high deprivation come to accept lower standards.
“Professionals become accustomed to working in areas with large numbers of children and high deprivation. As a result, there may be a normalisation and desensitisation to the warning signs of neglect. ‘Poverty blindness” may occur where professionals are working in these types of areas.
“However, in this case the associated desensitisation to warning signs such as poor hygiene and poor home conditions may have run concurrently with desensitisation to substance misuse and its impact on families, lack of emotional warmth and a general stability for children. Professionals may regularly see families living in these environments and facing similar challenges but that should not become the expectation which then becomes the norm.”
She concluded: “Looking back on some of the specific experiences of the children, the participants could clearly see the unacceptable environment in which the children had been living. However, the cumulative harm with which they lived had not always been apparent at the time of services being involved, as professionals responded to each crisis point in isolation. The ways in which professionals reacted and shared their collective concerns did not lead to substantial positive action for the children.”
RECOMMENDATIONS MADE TO CHILDREN’S SAFEGUARDING ASSURANCE PARTNERSHIP
1. Examine the current position relating to neglect in the local area… to reaffirm the Partnership’s responsibility and priority to respond more effectively to children and families
2. The Director of Children’s Services should provide assurance that processes are being conducted in a timely way and any delays and risks are addressed immediately.
3. Consider opportunities to ensure a partnership approach is the aspiration in supporting families involved in public law outline proceedings and related matters
4. A multi-agency audit should be undertaken to address the content and quality of family relationships and safety plans for families, in order to inform decisions for emergency short term placements.
5. Public Health should revisit the substance misuse service commissioning arrangements to provide further training to multi-agency staff
6. Promote the use of the ‘Resolving Professional Disagreements’ protocol and the role of the child protection conference chair as a point of reference for any professional who is concerned about the progress of a child protection plan
7. Ensure that all multi-agency training programmes reference the need for professionals to be alert to possible desensitisation
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