Parents campaigning for improvements to Herefordshire’s troubled children’s services say the removal of the department’s director is welcome but doesn’t go far enough.

A joint statement from the A Common Bond support group, the Stolen Childhood (Herefordshire) group and others welcomed Darryl Freeman’s departure earlier this month, saying he had been “slow to understand” his department’s impact on families, while independent reviews he promised “failed to materialise”.

“But the continued failings of this department to improve at pace do not fall on one person's shoulders alone,” the groups said, claiming the department’s two previous heads, Chris Baird and Catherine Knowles, “also left under a cloud”.


“This implies something is still very much amiss in the department and the council as a whole,” they said, and called for its £159,000-a-year chief executive Paul Walker, who “seems still able to dodge any accountability or responsibility”, to also step down, along with the council’s head of legal services Claire Porter, who “bears much responsibility”.

And they restated their call for a judge-led public inquiry into the department’s failings, “to allow those gagged by the family courts to fully speak out”.


The council swiftly moved to appoint former Worcestershire Children First chief executive Tina Russell to succeed Mr Freeman, though she will not take up the position until July, and then only a contract until next March.

Another long-time campaigner for reform of the department Liz Anstey said: “My biggest fear is that the appointment of Ms Russell will be used to gain more time as a ‘bedding-in period’ where more families are ripped apart.”

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She also said the council’s children and young people scrutiny committee, intended to monitor the department, “is also not fit for purpose” and should have agencies and groups from outside the council on it, “to actually scrutinise and hold children's services to account”.

Responding to the calls, leader of Herefordshire Council Coun Jonathan Lester said: “I understand that there are parents who still remain frustrated about Herefordshire children’s services.

“However, we are committed to working with children and families to deliver an improved service, as well as with the children’s commissioner and Ofsted who are highlighting the challenges we still face.”