PRIME Minister Rishi Sunak could be set to join efforts to tackle Herefordshire's children's services battle.

The under-fire department was put under a regime of close official inspection and guidance after it was been hit by a highly critical High Court judgement and then an “Inadequate” Ofsted inspection in September 2022.

Progress in improving the department has been slow, with children's commissioner Eleanor Brazil, who was appointed to oversee the department’s turnaround saying in December that she and others have found working with it “frustrating”.

Herefordshire Council did retain control of the the department however, with Ms Brazil's report going on to say that “whilst progress has been slower than we would want, there has been positive developments that hopefully can form the basis for quicker and more sustained improvement”.


But now North Herefordshire MP Sir Bill Wiggin, who has been vocal about the failings of the department, has called on the Prime Minister to meet with him to discuss what more can be done... and Mr Sunak has agreed.

In an address to the Prime Minister at Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday (March 20), Sir Bill asked Mr Sunak if he agreed that progress to improve the department is still "far too slow" and to meet him to discuss what more could be done.

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Mr Sunak said a "significant intervention" has been mounted into Herefordshire children's services, including expert improvement advice, a commissioner with statutory powers to direct the council, and a two-year improvement partnership with Leeds, promising that the Department for Education is "closely monitoring" the council's progress.

"I am concerned to here that children in Herefordshire are not receiving the level of service that they should expect, and I know that ministers have revisited the commissioner's latest reports," he said.

"While some improvements have been made, I agree with him that it's also very clear that the pace of change is not what it should be.

"I will be happy to meet him to discuss his concerns further."

A Herefordshire Council spokesperson said, after the Prime Minister's comments: "It remains our number one priority to improve our children’s services from what was a very low base and we share the general view that the pace of overall improvement needs to increase. Since the inspection in 2022 we have focused on doing what was urgently required to safeguard children and on building the systems and processes that will enable more improvement going forward. 

"We’re proud of the significant performance improvements that we’ve achieved since April 2022, such as reducing the numbers of Herefordshire children in our care; significantly improving the timeliness of completing assessments so that the wait time for families to receive a service is reduced, and reducing the workloads of our social workers so that they are able to focus on their relationships with families.

"We have more to do and we will continue to work tirelessly to achieve our ambition of providing excellent children’s social care services in our county."