North Herefordshire MP Sir Bill Wiggin has issued a strongly-worded statement on Herefordshire Council’s children’s services department, after today's damning inspection report by Ofsted.

Two months ago the MP pressed the council’s chief executive Paul Walker on several contentious cases of children being taken into care in the county, based on what parents had told him.

Today he writes:

The Ofsted report into Herefordshire Council’s Children’s Services makes for grim reading.

However from my own experience, the testimonies of numerous families are far worse and so I believe that Ofsted has, if anything, been generous to Herefordshire Council.

This report follows the non-statutory Improvement Notice from the Department for Education in May last year.

The Council accepted the appointment of Gladys Rhodes White OBE, an Improvement Advisor from the Department. Six months later the Council was given £1.7 million to help improve their services.

Sadly it appears that since then things have not improved, indeed after all this external support it is possible that they have become worse.

A few days ago I had a conversation with the Minister of State, Kelly Tolhurst MP, who shared my concerns and who has now issued the Statutory Improvement Notice.

This is very serious, as it is an order from Government to improve else the Council will have the responsibility for children’s services taken away from them.

The Minister has now imposed a Commissioner on Herefordshire Council Children’s Services who comes highly recommended. I hope that this will lead to a significant improvement for all those who have been affected.

Never in my 21 years as an MP have I witnessed such collective misery from both parents and children. I was therefore grateful to the Government for sending in Ofsted when I asked for their help.

I shall continue to fight on for parents and families up until Herefordshire Children’s department delivers the standard of service we might all expect for our own children, should they ever be in need.

This subject is almost never discussed on the doorsteps, yet we all pay for this vital safeguarding service so we have a right to expect the highest standards.

It is so important never to forget that it is always the vulnerable children who suffer the most.

Often people write to me about animal welfare, but possibly think nothing of the cruelty to children dragged from their families. This needs to end now!

We must also not forget how difficult it is for carers, foster parents and the good social workers. This report shows that they have been let down too.

Going forward, we want the best social workers to live and work here, with a Children’s Services that helps rather than confiscates those young people who are in need.

Herefordshire Council is running out of excuses and it will be an incredible humiliation if Children’s Services has to be handed over to another authority because the council couldn’t cope.


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Our live report of today's events

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Councillors criticised a culture of lying, delay, and misdirection in the department during an extraordinary meeting called after the publication of the damning judgement.

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Sweeping changes were promised in a bid to address the long-established failings and culture in the service, while a new, separate, cabinet role for children’s services, safeguarding and corporate parenting was filled by Councillor Diana Toynbee.

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