Herefordshire councillors have been told of the impact of failings by the county’s children’s services department on families at a specially convened meeting today (October 20).

The department was last month given an across-the-board “inadequate” rating by inspectorate Ofsted. But the meeting heard that many of its failings are of long standing.

In all, 17 of the county’s 53 councillors attended, including cabinet member for children’s services Coun Diana Toynbee. Director of children’s services Darryl Freeman and chief executive Paul Walker did not attend.

Co-chair of the meeting Coun Terry James, who has long sought to highlight the issue, said: “Most of the families affected have been unable to attend because of the legal situation they find themselves in.”


Also chairing, Angeline (we are not using her surname for legal reasons), the founder of the A Common Bond support group which organised the meeting, said her group represented 394 families and individuals adversely affected by the department.

Giving one of several impact statements to the meeting, she asked councillors present to “look at the parents” in the room.

“All they have needed was a bit of support, but their children have been removed,” she said. “Over 70 per cent could be returned home with the right support.”

Many of those who have had children taken away “are hanging on by a thread, and blood is going to be on Herefordshire Council’s hands very soon”, she said.

She added that social workers in the department “are coming to me rather than to their bosses” with concerns, and said that there would be an opportunity in future for councillors to speak to concerned social workers and other professional also.

One father told the meeting that his experience was “so typical, it is almost a cliché”.

Council social workers had been “desperate to provoke a reason to take the child”, testimonies had been mislaid, and his child coerced, unsuccessfully, into making false statements against him, he said.

“My child’s education is ruined, her future perverted by callous acts by people I believe gained sadistic pleasure from the harm,” he said. “Senior council staff need to pay with their pensions and comfy homes.”

A former social services employee at the council told councillors: “You have no idea of the bullying, the lies, and everything that happens after that.”

Coun James said that while a judge had recommended disciplinary action against four social workers involved in one particular case, “the council sent one on maternity leave and kept the others on the case”.

One foster carer of 23 years’ experience said the council’s social services “needs to be completely overhauled” and should prioritise “help for the struggling, not witch-hunts”.

A mother paid tribute to “amazing” foster carers in the county, “who don’t get the support”. But she added: “I have also come across so many mother-hating foster carers, because Herefordshire produced that – they only give them one side of the story.”

A neighbour of a Hereford property used by an agency to which the council refers teenagers in care said the department showed no accountability for the threatening behaviour, not only from the teenagers but also the constant stream of care workers, which had driven her family out on more than one occasion.

Recently appointed children’s commissioner Eleanor Brazil, who will decide by the end of the year whether control of the service should be taken from Herefordshire Council, said at the meeting: “I’m deeply upset by what I’ve heard today.

“I can’t do justice to everything that’s been said here, but we have to move forward. It won’t be a quick fix though, given the recruitment problems we face.”

Angeline replied that one “quick fix” was at hand, given that “most of the social workers’ names that are put forward, are the same ones”.