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Herefordshire’s children’s and family services directorate – the group of directors responsible for managing children’s social services in the county – have been trying to cover up the troubled council’s failures, according to a report by the Hereford Times published on Friday.
A senior councillor for the county and Green Party politician Diana Toynbee has accused the directors of trying to cover up the true scale of poor practice at Herefordshire’s children’s and family services, the report said.
Toynbee wrote a review which found that the culture within the directorate did not have “a focus on children and their needs”.
The review also outlined improvements needed to be made by the council, but was met with resistance by councillors who deemed it too critical and warned the findings would further damage morale inside the service.
Speaking to the Hereford Times, Councillor and Liberal Democrat Terry James welcomed the report and said, “most of the staff, and the families that are being dealt with, would be appalled at this debate, given the true state of the service.”
“We are not being told the legal and financial implications of what has happened. We are paying out substantial sums of money that members are not aware of, and are incurring phenomenal legal costs (resulting from) the way staff have been treated,” James added.
The report follows a damning judgment in the High Court in April, in which Judge Keehan said the child services oversights at Herefordshire council were some of the most “egregious and long-standing failures” he had ever come across while working as a family lawyer.
Keehan questioned whether the service was fit for purpose, after children in its care had suffered significant emotional and psychological harm resulting directly from the council’s negligence.
Responding to Keehan’s judgment, the Department for Education (DfE) then issued the council with an improvement notice in May, citing concerns that the voice of the child was not being heard within its service provision.
Council leader David Hitchiner said social workers had been “critical but positive” about change inside the service. Another councillor from the county also questioned whether the directorate and those rolling out children’s services had been “too soft” on themselves when confronted with concerns.
Chief executive of the council Paul Walker said that the interim director for children and families had resigned “for personal reasons”, and had been temporarily replaced by children’s improvement director Darryl Freeman.
Researching Reform believes this kind of cover up is not isolated to just one local authority. There are several judgments in the public domain which show that children’s social services around the country are lying and concealing critically bad practice inside children’s social work teams. We will be looking into this.
You can read the May agenda for the meeting of the Children and young people scrutiny committee and Toynbee’s review here
Many thanks to Tum Mum for alerting us to this development.