Parents who say their children were wrongly taken from them by Herefordshire’s children’s services department have demanded action from the council’s leader.

The department is currently being inspected by Ofsted, and is expected to be once again found inadequate.

To coincide with this, around 20 members of local group A Common Bond staged a protest at the council’s Plough Lane headquarters yesterday.

Its organiser Angeline (she has asked not use her surname for legal reasons) told them: “We have all experienced the department’s failings – our children removed when all parents needed was a bit of support.”

Angeline has waged a prolonged campaign to keep her children at home. “I was told by three different social workers, ‘I am here to build a case against you’,” she said.

“A succession of strangers come into your child’s life. They say, ‘I can do what I want – I can say you have hurt your baby, and I will be believed.’

“When they come through the door, straight way you are scared, then you are told you’re too emotional. You jump through so many hoops, but the reports on you are still negative.”

Children have on occasion been taken away from parents with just 20 minutes’ warning, she claimed.

“In the past month, one mother – her friend is here today – drank herself to death in despair.”

She said there are already 360 families in the A Common Bond network – “ but most are too frightened to come forward”.


One parent said: “My three children were taken into care. My ten-year-old son can’t see me, and now I barely recognise my daughters. I have done everything they asked, even paid for courses. My children belong at home, not in care.”

Another parent said: “Legally, we can’t -even talk about these cases. I was told if I complained, the police would be at my door.”

Council leader David Hitchiner told the protesters: “I know what a difficult job social work is. But you are asking about their motivation – it is to help children and society.”

To which Coun Jennie Hewitt, vice-chair of the council’s children and young people scrutiny committee, said: “That’s not what they [the protesters] are experiencing.”

Angeline told Coun Hitchiner to “stop making excuses” for council staff, including head of children’s services Darryl Freeman and chief executive Paul Walker.

Coun Hitchiner asked: “How do we move this forward, in terms of people here having a voice?”

To which Angeline said: “We want a public meeting between parents, senior council staff and councillors. We want evidence of change, we want an explanation, and an apology – no one has had an apology.”

Coun Terry James, a long-standing critic of the department, said: “This has been going on for many years but has got worse in recent times. It’s unforgivable and has destroyed the lives of many families.”

He said he had passed details of a small boy currently housed in unsuitable foster accommodation in the county to the council’s directorate and chief executive, “but nothing has happened”.

Angeline said this case and others like it in the county were “a ticking time-bomb” that could end up like recent cases in other authorities where shortcomings in social care were found to have contributed to deaths of young children.

Herefordshire Council said in a statement afterwards: “We encourage families to let us know about their experiences and how we can work better together.

“We want children and families in Herefordshire to be able to trust that we will get it right for them and provide them with the support they need and are entitled to, when they need it.

“We know a great deal of work still lies ahead of us and we are fully committed to achieving this.”