HEREFORDSHIRE Council's top boss has apologised for children's services failures ahead of a BBC Panorama exposé.

The investigation into Herefordshire Council’s troubled children’s services department, aired on BBC One at 8pm this evening, will give those harmed by its shortcomings the chance to have their say for the first time, its presenter has said.

Investigative journalist Louise Tickle has been following developments at the department since three highly critical High Court judgments on it were handed down by Mr Justice Keehan in 2018, as reported by the Hereford Times.


The council said then that “stronger supervision and decision-making arrangements have since been put in place across children’s services”.

But in March 2021, Mr Justice Keehan published another strongly-worded rebuke to the council after the death of a child in care, identifying “significant and systemic failings” in how it looked after children.

A subsequent Ofsted inspection in July found the council “has made little progress” in the three years between the judgments.

And now Paul Walker, chief executive of the council since May 2021, apologised for the failures.

“We failed children in our care over a number of years. We are acutely aware of the impact these failings had, and continue to have, on children and their families in Herefordshire," Mr Walker said.

"I am sorry this happened. We have made heartfelt apologies to all those affected and we urge anyone who has concerns to raise them with us so we can investigate further.

"I have made it my top priority to make sure we deliver the changes required so that children and families in Herefordshire get the support they need now and in the future.

"We have a new management team in place, under new leadership and our social workers continue to do their best, often in very difficult circumstances.

"This is a long journey, we are one year into a three-year improvement plan and we know there are challenges ahead. But we are committed to change."


In 2019, and as reported by the Hereford Times, Herefordshire Council acted on “incorrect legal advice” when it gave permission for a child in care’s life support to be switched off, a full council meeting has heard.

Mr Baird had given permission for the child, who was being cared for at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, to be removed from life support after seeking legal advice from the department’s lawyers on June 6, 2019, Mr Justice Keehan said.


Councillors at an extraordinary meeting of the council in April 2021, covered by the Hereford Times, hit out at the failings of the department’s legal services after the judge found the decision should not have been made by the children’s services director but instead by a court.

That same meeting also heard council staff were too worried for the future of their careers to whistleblow.

Herefordshire Council has also recently backed £11.5 million spending on children’s services in the current financial year, paying for more than 80 new staff.