A new strategy to reduce the number of Blackpool children being taken into care has been launched by the council.
The Early Help Strategy will involve teachers, police and health workers being given more power to raise concerns before a family situation reaches crisis point.
It is hoped this will ensure those in need of support can access the right help as soon as a problem arises, preventing the need for children to be taken into care.
Blackpool has one of the highest rates of looked after children in the country, with nearly 600 currently in care.
The strategy aims to keep more children with their families
Since April 2019, the council has received 11,800 requests for support for individual children, resulting in 5,300 social care assessments.
Coun Jim Hobson, cabinet member for Children’s Social Care and Schools, said: “The strategy is in place to offer young people and their families the right help, at the right time, in the right place, with the right people.
“This means that early help intervention is everyone’s business, with our final aim being that any worker from any agency, provider or service will be able to respond to those in need.”
Council chiefs say the new strategy will enable social workers to focus on those families most in need.
Coun Hobson added: “We hope that this new way of doing things will reduce the number of families who need higher levels of support, allowing our social workers to focus on those families who really need that higher level of support.”
In February this year the council unveiled a five year strategy to transform children’s social care and take control of its spiralling cost.
Among the aims is to reduce the annual cost of the service from £48m to £33m, and bring the number of children in care down to around 400.
Around 80 per cent of the children’s services budget is spent on children in care. Around 55 per cent of the budget goes on residential placement costs which can be up to £7,000 per week.
The Early Help Strategy will work with agencies and partners including police, health, schools, nursery providers and colleges.
Initiatives include –
* Work in neighbourhood areas with all providers delivering services to children and their families
* Use an early help process of ‘assess, plan, do, review’ to understand and respond to needs early
* Undertake early help assessments that consider whole family’s needs but remain child and young person focused
* Support lead professionals from all agencies to undertake early help work
* Improve the quality and impact of its work to support sustainable changes with families
* Work within the Blackpool Families Rock model of practice
Fylde MP Mark Menzies has called on rail operator Northern to improve Sunday services on the South Fylde line.
Northern currently operates a two-hourly service on the route between Preston and Blackpool South on Sundays.
Mr Menzies is currently campaigning for a passing loop on the line which would allow a half-hourly service and believes a boost to Sunday services would send a message about the importance of the line.
He said: “When the pandemic hit I think everyone could understand reducing timetables, to make best use of the staff available.
Fylde MP Mark Menzies at St Annes station on the South Fylde Line.
“We are now seeing an increase in passengers, particularly leisure travellers. Other lines have got their full Sunday service back but South Fylde lags behind.
More frequent train services on South Fylde Line a step closer
“Without regular trains there is no incentive for people to leave their cars at home and use public transport instead.
“A train every two hours is not enough.”
Mr Menzies continues to work with Blackpool South MP Scott Benton, Fylde Council, Lancashire County Council, Network Rail, Northern and Community Rail Lancashire on a plan to double the number of trains the line can accommodate every day.
A passing loop at Ansdell and Fairhaven is seen as the best option to deliver a half-hourly service to and from Preston and a first business case will soon be submitted to the Department for Transport.
Mr Menzies said: “Scott Benton and I secured funding through the Resorting Your Railway Fund and I’m pleased to see work progressing.
“The passing loop is vital to encouraging passenger growth, giving better connections and a more frequent and reliable service for people living in Lytham, Ansdell, Fairhaven and St Annes.
“There is clearly a strong case and Ministers are looking forward to hearing more about what is proposed.”
Mr Menzies is keen to explore further options to make the line greener and to improve passenger appeal.
He said: “The trains on this route are the oldest Northern operates.
“With brand new electric rolling stock running into Blackpool North we are left with noisy diesel trains, built in the 1980s and reaching the end of their service life.
“I’m keen to explore options for cleaner alternatives which are better for passengers and for the planet.”
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New Covid vaccine rules will make recruitment harder for the care sector, said local agency
Recruiting carers for homes in Blackpool will be even harder now they must legally be vaccinated against Covid-19, a resort agency owner said after 10 ‘good’ long-term workers quit the industry.
Ilona Vincenti from Zillian Healthcare, in Church Street, which supplies staff to nursing homes, care homes, and private hospitals up and down the Fylde coast, fears the future following the new rule, which came in on Thursday – and will hit frontline NHS medics from next April.
She said: “We just can’t afford to lose more staff.”
Zillian Healthcare Agency has lost staff because of the new vaccine rules for care workers
The National Care Association warned the move to make two courses of vaccinations compulsory for carers unless they are medically exempt would lead to a crisis during the critical winter period, with 4,000 quitting nationally since September and vacancies topping 100,000.
Retention is also a struggle, with industries such as hospitality and retail offering better pay and hours.
While many of the 24 resort care homes contacted by The Gazette declined to comment on the impact of the new law, just seven said all staff had been vaccinated.
Tim Wood, manager at the Thornlea Rest Home in St Annes Road, South Shore, said: “It’s okay for us now but we will have to wait and see.
“There could be a threat for new staff but it’s too early to say.”
Andy Havlin from Quantum Carers, which is based in nearby Preston and supplies staff throughout the county, added: “All we can do is follow guidelines. We can’t employ anybody now who isn’t fully vaccinated.”
Ms Vincenti, who launched her agency a decade ago, said her departing staff ‘feared they would be pressured to take the jab’, adding: “We respect their choice and we can only try and accommodate them.”
And she said her agency, which is fighting to compete for the shrinking supply of talented care workers, faces extra work when they self-certify for medical exemptions without a formal diagnosis.
She said: “Agency staff will always come and go so we are constantly recruiting – it’s become harder than ever now as the hospitals, care homes, and other agencies are all in need.
“We lost so many workers due to Brexit – then the pandemic. This is the last thing we need. It’s getting harder to provide a good service when we can’t get the right people.”
Blackpool had the best vaccination rate for care home staff in the country, The Gazette revealed last month, with 98.4 per cent having their first dose, while almost 94 per cent had received both.
All elderly care home residents have had at least one jab, with the figure for those who have had both slightly under 100 per cent due to the time required between jabs.
Karen Smith, director of adult services at Blackpool Council, told a meeting of the adult social care and health scrutiny committee: “We have achieved vaccination rates that are the envy of the rest of the country.
“As we head towards mandatory vaccinations, our rates are the best in the land for our residential staff and care at home staff.”
But nationally, tens of thousands of care home staff faced quitting or being sacked as the mandatory jabs policy kicked in.
More than 56,000 staff had not had two doses just four days before the deadline, NHS England figures showed, though several thousand were understood to have self-certified as exempt or applied for formal proof. Health officials expected the number of vaccinated staff to have risen in the remaining four days and it was unclear how many staff had already quit.
According to analysis, there are nearly 9,000 fewer staff in older care homes since the Government announced jabs would become mandatory in mid June, although this is likely due to multiple reasons.
Care home providers can choose to redeploy staff into non-frontline roles to save their jobs, if they are available, or place them on paid or unpaid leave until they receive both doses.
As late as Wednesday, care groups were calling for the deadline to be delayed to next April, saying the “no jab, no job” policy would amount to “no staff, no care”.
Care groups have said the shortages mean some homes are unable to accept hospital patients ready for discharge, while burnout is on the cards for staff who are being put under increased pressure as winter nears.
One care worker who has lost his job due to the requirement said he feels “let down, abandoned, betrayed” and worried for the future of the care sector.
Nadra Ahmed from the National Care Association said: “Taking away our ability to retain experienced staff during the critical winter period shows a lack of understanding about the value of social care for those who access our services.
“The NHS will struggle to discharge out of the acute sector into safe environments where people can be supported at a critical time in their lives.”
Dr Jim Gardner, medical director at Blackpool Victoria Hospital and the Clifton Hospital in St Annes, recently told of ‘real pressure now in social care as well’.
He said: “There are patients in hospital who are really waiting now to go home or go back to care homes and we really need as much help as possible from the whole community – friends, family – to look after each other and get people out of hospital and back to where one would assume they would like to be, either in their homes or in a care home to move forward.”
Another membership group, the National Care Forum (NCF), said care homes were embroiled in disciplinary proceedings, managing appeals and forking out for specialist legal advice over the requirement.
Members reported spending an “enormous amount of time” implementing the policy, with almost all holding extra staff briefings and needing additional HR resources.
They estimated on average 3.5 per cent of their staff had already resigned or been dismissed, and estimated a further 4.4 per cent might have to leave this week – a loss the NCF said the sector could “ill afford”.
The Department of Health and Social Care said it was its “responsibility to do everything we can to protect vulnerable people”.
A spokesman added: “We consulted and worked closely with the sector to encourage take-up of the vaccine ahead of the deadline.
“Since the consultation was announced, uptake of the first dose amongst care home staff has risen from 80 per cent to 94 per cent.
“We are working closely with local authorities and care home providers to ensure there will always be enough staff with the right skills to deliver high-quality care.”
Earlier this month, Victoria Hospital director James Wilkie said eight per cent of workers there remain unvaccinated, adding: “Translate that to numbers, that’s several hundred people.”
He warned that, when the jabs become compulsory for patient-facing medics who aren’t medically exempt, bosses ‘could be looking at dismissals’.
Health secretary Sajid Javid said: “Allow me to be clear that no one in the NHS or care that is currently unvaccinated should be scapegoated, singled out or shamed. That would be totally unacceptable.
“This is about supporting them to make a positive choice to protect vulnerable people, to protect their colleagues. And of course to protect themselves.”
Jane Ireland was found dead exactly one month after her 17-year-old son Marshall died in Blackpool
A mum was found dead at her home in Lytham exactly one month after her teenage son died from a fall.
Marshall Metcalfe, described by his sister Holly as a popular boy who loved fishing and football, died after suffering catastrophic internal injuries when he fell from a building in Blackpool town centre on May 7 of last year.
The 17-year-old, who was being treated for schizophrenia, had “retreated into himself” after two spells at a mental health hospital in Heysham and had told a therapist at The Cove that he intended to take his own life.
One month later, on June 7, Marshall’s mum Jane Ireland, who had been hearing voices, was found dead at her home in Heeley Road, Lytham.
At a joint inquest into the deaths of the mum and son, which started today (November 15) at Blackpool Town Hall, Senior Coroner Alan Wilson heard from Marshall’s sister Holly who was highly critical of the support both her brother and her mum were getting from mental health services.
Miss Ireland, 26, revealed that her mum’s mental health began to deteriorate after she was assaulted by her then partner in 2010 when they family lived in Burnley. The injuries she sustained resulted in her losing part of her nose.
“I was there when it happened,” Miss Ireland told the inquest.
“It had a massive impact on her. She just couldn’t get her head round why he did it to her. I begged her to move away but she began to distance herself from her friends and started to communicate with angels. She relied on his family when he was in prison for what he did to her.
“She had no nose, she had to go through so many operations, and she found it so hard just walking through the streets looking like that.”
In 2015 the family relocated to Lytham with Jane’s mum Patricia Ireland also moving to the Lancashire coast to remain close to her daughter and grandchildren. In late 2017 Marshall’s mental health also went downhill and, aged just 13, he began to make himself sick because he was paranoid about putting on weight.
“He stopped playing with out with his friends and isolated himself,” Miss Ireland said.
In May 2018 Marshall was admitted to The Cove, an in-patient unit in Heysham for young people suffering with mental health conditions. He spent four months in hospital during which time his family said he was simply “drugged up” and not given any therapy.
“He absolutely hated it in there,” Miss Ireland said.
“There was only one person in there who could get down on his level. He shut himself off to everybody; he was really poorly. I was constantly ringing The Cove but would a doctor speak to me? No. ”
Miss Ireland confided in staff at The Cove, which is run by Lancashire and South Cumbria NHS Foundation Trust, about her concerns at Marshall being discharged into her mum’s care, given her own mental health issues, but her worries were “ignored”, she said.
By Christmas 2018 Marshall “wasn’t there at all” and his mum had begun to hear voices telling her to kill herself, Miss Ireland added.
“Mum was very good at hiding her illness but she was really unwell and she wasn’t getting any help. At one point we were driving to somewhere for something to eat and she was just screaming and shouting in the back of the car. She said she was hearing voices telling her she was disgusting and she was screaming ‘leave me alone’.”
In January 2019 Marshall was admitted to hospital after he stopped eating and drinking. Miss Ireland said this was “the worst” she had seen her brother and said it was like he was “not on this planet”.
In February 2019 he was once more admitted to The Cove despite his family’s concerns that the unit had failed to help him in the past.
“They just drugged him up, he didn’t have any therapy, but he was sectioned so it was like we didn’t have a voice,” Miss Ireland said.
“I fought so hard to save them both but they’re not here anymore. The Cove turned him into a zombie.”
On May 7, 2020, police visited the family home in Lytham and revealed a boy matching Marshall’s description had fallen from a building in Blackpool.
A post mortem revealed Marshall died as a result of a a number of injuries including a number of lacerations to his liver, broken ribs, a contusion to his heart, contusions to his lungs and significant blood loss. Although he was still breathing when paramedics were called he went into cardiac arrest on the way to the Royal Preston Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
One of Jane’s friends, Russell Wilding, was with her shortly after she was informed Marshall had died.
“It was absolutely horrendous,” Mr Wilding told the inquest. “She was like a wounded animal. I’ve never seen anyone in that much pain.”
Mr Wilding revealed he had met Jane “by chance” while he was walking past a pub in Lytham.
“I heard her offer some tobacco to a homeless man who was rummaging through a bin and I stopped because I thought that was such a nice act of kindness,” he said.
“I noticed her amazing smile immediately.”
In a statement Patricia Ireland described her daughter Jane, a talented make-up artist and reiki healer, as the “apple of her father Benjamin’s eye”.
“She was so kind and generous and full of life,” Mrs Ireland said.
“When she was horrifically attacked in 2010 that had such a big impact on her and in 2012 Benjamin died which she found so difficult.
“About five years ago she became obsessed with angels and wanted to become an angel. She said she knew where Madeleine McCann was and she was going to rescue her and take her to Australia.”
After Marshall’s death the voices in Jane’s head “became meaner”, her mum revealed, and on June 7, one month after her son died, Jane was found dead in bed at her home.
Mr Wilding, who discovered her body, said in a statement: “I hadn’t been able to get hold of her so I went round. The front door was locked so I went round the back and the back door was wide open. That wasn’t unusual as she would often sit in the garden.
“But as I went up the stairs I started to feel that something was wrong. I miss Jane terribly; she was a wonderful person.”
Post mortem toxicology tests revealed Miss Ireland had fatal levels of methadone in her system which caused her death.
The inquest, which is due to last two weeks, continues tomorrow
A pair of Albanian men will be deported from the UK after they were convicted of running a cannabis farm worth nearly £1million in Blackpool.
Frrok Zefi, 42, and Aldi Gjetani, 27, were arrested for production of cannabis and immigration offences after police raided their secret drugs farm in Coronation Street in September.
Police said the building, at the junction of Hull Street, was heavily fortified when officers carried out the drugs warrant following a community tip-off.
But after forcing their way inside, police found a sophisticated set-up with around 950 cannabis plants and thousands of pounds worth of growing equipment.
After forcing their way inside, police found a sophisticated cannabis set-up with around 950 plants and thousands of pounds worth of growing equipment
Lancashire Police said the street value of the grow had been estimated at around £950,000 or £1,000 per plant.
On September 13, the Albanian pair were arrested and the building placed under a prohibition order by Blackpool Council due to the electrical connections posing a “significant fire risk”.
The pair had been living inside the building whilst overseeing the grow, with their sleeping quarters found in a cramped room with no windows or ventilation.
Electricity Northwest engineers were called to make the building safe after the men illegally connected the electrics to the mains supply in Hull Road, around the corner.
Police said the building, at the junction of Hull Street and Coronation Street, was heavily fortified when officers carried out the drugs warrant following a community tip-off on September 13, 2021. Pic: Google
The mains supply had to be disconnected whilst it was fixed, leaving one side of Hull Road without power for hours.
Zefi and Gjetani were sentenced to two years in prison for production of cannabis when they appeared at Preston Crown Court on October 20.
The pair were also handed a Section 32 UK Borders Act notice, which means they face automatic deportation to Albania for their crimes.
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Lancashire Police said the street value of the grow had been estimated at around £950,000 or £1,000 per plant
Sally’s was overjoyed when her ‘little prince’ was born, after a doctor said she couldn’t have children
After battling anorexia since being a teenager, Sally Cox feared she would never fulfil her dream of becoming a mum.
But she defied the odds when her ‘little prince’ Carter was born this year.
The 25-year-old had been told she would never be able to have children after being diagnosed with anorexia in 2012, which her doctor said had left her infertile in 2018.
Bispham mum gave birth to her ‘little prince’ after being told she couldn’t have children
So she was overjoyed when Carter was born a small but healthy 6lb 6oz on August 20 at Blackpool Victoria Hospital.
Sally, who lives with her partner Ryan Matthews on Knowle Avenue, Bispham, said her dream of being a mother inspired her recovery.
“People kept telling me to stop trying and it will happen, and in the end that’s what happened,” said Sally. “It was a total surprise. The only change was my mental state, as I was a lot happier in life.”
The 25-year-old has challenges with her mental health, but she says Carter motivates her to keep getting better.
Sally had issues with food as a child, which escalated around 12. She was diagnosed with anorexia at 14, and had weekly therapy sessions.
Children turning to medical help for eating disorders in Lancashire
But the turning point came when Sally sought help around two years ago, when she realised the long term damage she was doing to her body.
The supermarket worker and part-time actress was told there were hormone drugs that could help, but she’d first have to gain weight, which she found impossible due to her physically active job.
Anorexia is often a serious life-long mental health disorder, and the physical changes during pregnancy can be triggering.
She added: “I tried my hardest to eat for the sake of the baby but it was very hard when I saw the changes to my body. The weight gain wasn’t even noticeable to other people, but to me it felt a lot.”
Sally described pregnancy as ‘hard on her fragile body’.
She said: “Walking was agony and I was in a wheelchair for the last two months.
“My hips and pelvis struggled with the weight of the baby, and I kept fainting as my little prince took all my energy and nutrients.
“I’m trying really hard to eat more so that I can be healthy for my son. He really is my inspiration.”
Sally puts her recovery down to Ryan’s support.
She added: “It’s soppy, but he is like my personal therapist.
“Even when I hated the way I looked he was always saying how perfect I was. It really helped.”
Rosie Tadman is a nutritional therapist who specialises in helping women with fertility issues. She is based in Manchester and runs one to one clinics via Zoom.
She said: “A positive mindset and support from friends and family will lead to the best outcome. The focus should be on recovery first. For someone who is currently anorexic, there is still a chance of getting pregnant but there is more risk of complications that can pose significant risks to both mother and baby.”
For help with an eating disorder visit seedlancashire.co.uk
A variety show in Bobby Ball’s memory in Blackpool could become an annual event.
Bobby’s widow Yvonne says the idea is certainly being looked into after the overwhelming success of the Rock On -The Variety Show event at the Opera House on Friday.
The show, which featured Bobby’s long-time comedy partner Tommy Cannon among a host of star names, and the Bobby Ball dance event which followed in the Empress Ballroom 24 hours later, raised a total of around £150,000 for the Bobby Ball Foundation set up by Yvonne to support local charities which were close to Bobby’s heart.
The proceeds will be split between the Blue Skies appeal at Blackpool Victoria Hospital and the Love Lowther fund at Lytham’s Lowther Pavilion, where Bobby was a patron, as well as providing enough to ensure the statue in Bobby’s memory intended for Lowther Gardens will be unveiled next summer.
Tommy Cannon on the Blackpool Opera House stage with Bobby Ball’s sons Robert and Darren at Rock On -The Variety Show.
Review: Bobby Ball Rock On Variety Show in Blackpool – ‘Songs, tears and lots of…
“I’m just so grateful to everyone for their support,” said Yvonne.
“It was an incredible weekend at the Winter Gardens – everything I wanted it to be and much, much more.
“There was so much love for Bobby – among the performers, the audience, everyone. It was marvellous.
“It’s wonderful to raise so much money for such good causes and we are looking at keeping it going with a show in his name becoming a regular event.
“We have this wonderful venue – why not?
“We want to help other good causes too and are looking at hopefully raising money at future events for mental health charities to help young people.
“That’s a really important cause and I think the need to support it is there more than ever after lockdown.”
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