Herefordshire families who reached out for help from county’s children’s services were first ignored, then met with hostile responses that amounted to “witch hunts” against them.

This was among the findings of a panel convened by children’s commissioner Eleanor Brazil to hear from families affected by the department as part of her review into its failings.

Ms Brazil, who has already published a highly critical initial report earlier this year, was approached by several families in the course of preparing it, prompting her to set up a three-strong independent panel to hear and record their concerns.

Following ten day-long sessions with families in Hereford and Leominster during March and April, the panel’s report has now been published and makes for more grim reading for the council.


The panel found their cases showed “core failings in the system”, which is “particularly concerning as most cases are still open with children’s services”.

Families “felt that the professionals’ responses exacerbated and escalated” initial problems. And when then complained to the council, they found procedures were “inadequate, not least because, where they have had their complaints upheld, the promised actions have rarely materialised”.

The panel itself “experienced delays and poor-quality communication when following up issues directly with children’s services”, which “suggests that the issues are significant and systemic”.

It calls for “major cultural change” at the council, requiring “all the workforce to understand and work to the basic principles of good practice”.

The panel “also heard of poor practice in other services and departments, including Adult Social Care, NHS settings including mental health provision, and the police”, the latter having been found to be “judgemental and abusive to family members”, the report added.

What are your thoughts?

You can send a letter to the editor to have your say by clicking here.

Letters should not exceed 250 words and local issues take precedence.

One parent, Eddy Parkinson said the report was “damning but nowhere near damning enough”.

“It doesn’t address the criminality or numbers of unlawfully taken children, the unqualified staff who masqueraded as social workers from agencies, or the false statements to courts and parents deliberately misled to gain control of children,” he said.

For the council, director of children’s services Darryl Freeman said the report was “a hard read”.

“I apologise to all the families for what they have been through,” he said. “We will now look at the questions it raises, and explore with families how we can better work with them and meet their needs.”

Newly-appointed cabinet member for children’s services Coun Ivan Powell said: “I am committed to ensuring that every aspect of children’s services learns from what the families has told the panel.”