On tonight’s (Monday) Panorama on BBC1, investigative journalist Louise Tickle exposed failings at Herefordshire Council’s children’s services department.

She uncovered that:

Tiffany had her three-year-old son and 13-year-old brother taken into care after Herefordshire Council suspected her of being responsible for the death of her baby Noah – though a post-mortem examination three months later found this was not the case.

Police took the two boys away from the family home without explanation, and the boys were kept in care due to social workers’ concerns over cleanliness and Tiffany’s mother Liz’s drinking. It took 10 months for Tiffany to get her son back.


Herefordshire Council took 'Jemma' (not her real name) and her younger sister into care and put with a foster mother. After four years, the council overrode a court’s opinion and declined to allow the two to be adopted by their foster mother.

Jemma, by then 14, was separately moved to live in a caravan 250 miles away, and was moved five more times, always separate from her sister. A High Court judge found the council had preached the girls’ right to a family life.

Twins 'Brady' and 'Grace' (also not their real names) were removed from an abusive home and separately adopted. But the council prevented the two from seeing each other, and took Brady back into care. Again this was only undone at the High Court – at which the council was found to have deleted a key piece of evidence.

Herefordshire Council accused Angeline of inventing or exaggerating illnesses in her two children, and sought to take them from her. The family court found no evidence against her – though the accusations against her were to resurface later.

Meanwhile, former social workers at the council said, anonymously, that: They were nearly twice the ideal number of family cases, yet “the support wasn’t there”.

Managers oversaw “a culture of bullying and control” which was “not safe for social workers or families” – leading to exodus of staff and their replacement with short-term agency workers.

Recent tragic high-profile cases of young children’s deaths has led to a fear among authorities that not removing children from their family could result in tragedy, leading to a sharp rise in families being investigated, Ms Tickle said.

Yet almost half of English local authority children’s department are rated “inadequate” or “requires improvement”, she found.


There is also lack of continuity in senior management, with many councils relying on interim heads – on which Herefordshire Council spent £133,000 on two interim senior managers in the first two months of this year alone.

Herefordshire Council's chief executive  Paul Walker said: “I would like to apologise to children and families affected by the very serious failings in our Children’s Services.

“Since my arrival I have made it my top priority to ensure we make urgent changes so that children and families in Herefordshire get the quality of support they need.

“We are one year into our three-year plan to improve services for children and families, by reducing caseloads for social workers, recruiting more staff for home visits, providing better leadership and supervision for our staff, and by modernising our systems.

“We are committed to supporting families and protecting vulnerable children in our community.”