Herefordshire’s new rulers should reach out to the county’s voluntary groups to help solve its social problems, a senior figure in the sector has urged.

“We are at the heart of a lot of the issues facing Herefordshire and its council,” according to Rob Thomas, Lead Executive at Vennture, famous for its city street pastors but involved in many other forms of social help.

“There is a huge opportunity to grow the third sector in Herefordshire,” he said, pointing to other groups in the county such as Cart Shed, which provides rural occupational therapy, counselling charity the CLD Trust, and Home-Start which supports young families, as “credible groups making a huge difference”.


The council’s role with children and families is under particular scrutiny following damning reports by Ofsted and then a government-appointed children’s commissioner, to which a follow-up is due shortly.

“The ambition in the county has too often been not to fail. The goal should be to work together to become outstanding,” he said.

“The opportunity is there, but it needs someone in the role of cabinet member for children and families who understands children’s services, and who will hold people to account to make things better for children.”

The county is struggling financially. Yet there are some 433 children currently in care in the county, at great expense.

“A large proportion have ended up there because intervention was left too late,” Mr Thomas said. Indeed many 999 calls “have social root causes” that could have been addressed more easily and cheaply earlier on, he added.


Herefordshire Council has frequently said it struggles to recruit social workers and other key staff, resorting to paying out-of-county workers instead.

“So they need to ask, ‘who else can help families?’” he said, adding that funding local voluntary groups to employ and develop local people would also benefit Herefordshire’s low-wage economy.

Councils have duties under the law not just to meet needs but drive prevention, as do the police and health authorities, he acknowledged.

“Prevention is always better than cure. Being on the edge of the system, we can do things agencies often can’t. We are more free to innovate.

“But we can’t do it for nothing.”

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