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Herefordshire Council to retain control of Children’s Services as improvements continue

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Minister backs Children’s Commissioner’s recommendation


Herefordshire Council will retain control of children’s services in the county as it continues to deliver a far-reaching improvement programme.

Minister for Children, Families and Wellbeing, David Johnston OBE, has today approved a recommendation by Children’s Commissioner Eleanor Brazil for the service to remain under council control with no further consideration of any alternatives.

Ms Brazil – who will continue to work alongside the council – made the recommendation in a progress report on improvements to the service since her original review was published in February this year.

She said: “There have been positive developments that hopefully can form the basis for quicker and more sustained improvement.

“I do not think that any further consideration of an alternative delivery model is required as it remains my view that supporting the council and its partners to deliver quicker and better improvements is the best way forward.”

Ms Brazil’s report says that progress has been made or is under way against all the key recommendations she made in her original review, including a strengthening of the leadership team, increasing the number of permanent front-line team managers, reducing the levels of agency staff and finalising a new strategy for the SEND service.

The council had formed a ‘well-received’ long-term working partnership with children’s services experts from Leeds who had identified some strengths to build on, and three monitoring visits by Ofsted had also highlighted areas of progress.

But Ms Brazil said the pace of change continued to remain too slow and too many areas in the council’s improvement plan had not yet been addressed quickly enough.

The quality of practice and assessment remained inconsistent, children were still experiencing too many changes of social worker, figures for statutory intervention remain high and 50 per cent of staff are still agency.

Figures for the number of care leavers in work or education had also fallen and there were high rates of looked-after children and children with a child protection plan.

Director for Children and Young People, Darryl Freeman, welcomed today’s decision and thanked Ms Brazil for her detailed report.

“This is a significant moment for the council on our improvement journey. The Commissioner has recognised that improvements are being made and that the council, working with our partners, remains best placed to drive the progress outlined in our improvement plan.

“This is a vote of confidence for both our workforce and the work we have done together to build the improvements the Commissioner has recognised. I am particularly pleased that she recognises that staff like working at Herefordshire Council and welcome the changes which are under way.

“But we accept the Commissioner’s view that the pace of change needs to quicken and share her assessment of the work we still need to do to deliver the service that we all want to see. We have an ambitious three-year improvement plan in place and delivering a service which meets the needs of the whole county remains our number one priority.”

Councillor Ivan Powell, Cabinet member for children and young people, said: “The Commissioner’s report is fair and balanced, and I thank her for all her work since her appointment.

“It is also pleasing that she acknowledges that scrutiny meetings are now more focussed, and that the political leadership brings both knowledge and commitment to the improvement programme.

“We know that there is much work still to do but I believe it is absolutely right that responsibility for delivering these improvements remains with the council.”

Children’s Services were judged to be inadequate during an Ofsted Inspection last July. Eleanor Brazil was appointed in September 2022 to help the council deliver improvements. She will review progress again in another six months.

You can read the Children’s Commissioner’s report in full on the Government’s website 

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