The failings at Herefordshire Council's children's services department, and the impact this has had on children and families in the county, go back over a decade.

Here is a recap of what happened when.

September 2012: Herefordshire Council’s protection of children rated “inadequate” by Ofsted, which finds “systemic failures in management oversight, decision making, performance management and quality assurance”.

April 2014: Ofsted’s next inspection says the council “requires improvement” and “is not yet delivering good protection and help and care for children, young people and families”.

June 2018: Ofsted’s inspection again returned an overall “requires improvement” rating, with the impact of leaders on social work practice rated “inadequate”.


“Senior leaders acknowledge that insufficient progress has been made in key aspects of their service, and many weaknesses found during this inspection mirror many of those identified in 2014,” its report says.

February 2019December 2019July 2021: Successive “focused visits” by Ofsted inspectors find “the quality of practice remains too variable and is not yet good”, with “little progress in improving the quality of practice for children in need”.

March 2021: In a damning High Court judgment, Mr Justice Keehan says he had “rarely encountered such egregious and long-standing failures by a local authority” as in a case where a fostered child’s life support machine was turned off at the council’s behest before her natural mother could visit her.

April 2021: In response, an extraordinary meeting of Herefordshire councillors concedes that “as corporate parents, [we] take full accountability for the failings of our children’s social care services” and vows to implement “much-needed changes in our culture and practices”.

May 2021: Also in response to the High Court judgment, and to “a lack of pace and progress to improve children’s services since the 2018 Ofsted inspection”, the Government issues Herefordshire Council with an Improvement Notice, its progress to be overseen by “improvement adviser” Gladys Rhodes White.

May 2022: A BBC Panorama investigation finds “a culture of bullying and control” at the department which was “not safe for social workers or families”.
In response, senior council figures issue a joint statement “apologis[ing] again for the serious failings that have occurred in Herefordshire Children’s Services over many years”.

September 2022: Ofsted’s most recent inspection of Herefordshire children’s services rates the department “inadequate” across the board. “The quality and impact of social work practice has significantly deteriorated since the last judgement inspection in June 2018,” it concludes.


The Government then directs the council to cooperate with children’s commissioner Eleanor Brazil, who it appoints to investigate the department’s failings and propose remedies.

January 2023: Ms Brazil’s initial report, not made publicly available until March 1, and backed by Minister for children and families Claire Coutinho, concludes that Herefordshire Council “doesn’t have the capacity to improve the service in a reasonable timeframe by itself” and must continue to work to this end with Government appointees and other local authorities.

June 2023: A spin-off report from Ms Brazil’s investigation, produced by a panel of experts convened to hear directly from families affected by the department, finds it regularly exacerbated rather than addressed the problems which prompted families to seek help in the first place.

July 2023 (expected): Follow-up investigation by Eleanor Brazil to determine whether Herefordshire Council has progressed far enough to be left in control of its children’s services department.