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Judge Criticises Herefordshire Council's Past Practice


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Council receives judgment from Family Court

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Herefordshire Council has received a judgment from Family Court, which highlights specific past failures in the application of section 20 of The Children Act 1989 (which applies to Looked After Children and their parents). Herefordshire Council deeply regrets these past failings and has changed its practice to reduce the likelihood of similar cases occurring in future.  Herefordshire continues to work to keep children in Herefordshire safe and give them the best start in life.

Director for Children’s Wellbeing, Chris Baird said:

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“In the past, Herefordshire Council has lacked a consistent focus in achieving permanency for children held under section 20 of The Children Act. We undertook a comprehensive review of our practice during 2016/17 and developed new guidance and processes to ensure children's needs are appropriately met.

“Herefordshire Council now has a clear approach to managing and reviewing children admitted to care under section 20, which involves legal advice at the start and ensures children do not remain under section 20 for extended periods.”

Mr Justice Keehan acknowledged the recent changes in our approach which should reduce the likelihood of similar cases in future and was positive about the current approach in Herefordshire.

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In The Guardian 16th March 2018
 

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Council kept boy, 9, in care for whole of his life, judge reveals

Herefordshire council used section 20 orders to keep children in care without seeking court approval

A boy was kept in local authority care for nine years, the whole of his life, on a stopgap basis that should never have continued beyond a few months, a high court judge has revealed.

Mr Justice Keehan revealed the case in a damning family court judgment that accused Herefordshire county council of “dreadful failures” for keeping 14 children in care for “wholly inappropriate” periods of time without court approval. The judgment also revealed that another boy had been kept in care between the ages of eight and 16 on a stopgap basis.

In the judgment, Keehan, family liaison judge for the Midlands, said he had never before encountered a situation in which a council had “so seriously and serially failed to address the needs of the children in its care, and so seriously misused, and indeed abused” its statutory powers.

The children were all put into care under section 20 orders, which are intended to be used as an interim voluntary arrangement between a parent and a local authority when there is a short-term issue with a child’s wellbeing. If a local authority believes a child should be looked after in the longer term it must seek judicial approval.

Keehan said Herefordshire council accepted that it had “wrongly and abusively” kept the children in care without judicial approval by using the section 20 orders, which have garnered vocal judicial criticism in recent years. In a 2015 judgment, Sir James Munby, the president of the high court’s family division, said of the abuse and misuse of section 20: “It is wrong and is a denial of the fundamental rights of both the parent and the child. It will no longer be tolerated and it must stop. Judges will and must be alert to the problem and be proactive in putting an end to it.”

While accepting that Herefordshire children’s services had recently appointed a new senior management team, Keehan noted in his judgment that he had himself written in February last year to all directors of children’s services within the scope of the Midlands circuit which he oversees, telling them: “It is wholly inappropriate and an abuse of section 20 to accommodate children or young people as an alternative to the issue of public law proceedings or to provide accommodation and to delay the issue of public law proceedings.”

In advance of the critical judgment, the director of children’s services in Herefordshire attempted to prevent publication of the local authority’s name, on the basis that it struggled to recruit social workers and solicitors, and that adverse publicity would be damaging to the council. Keehan refused the request.

Herefordshire council said it deeply regretted the failings and that it has changed its practice to reduce the likelihood of similar cases occurring in future.

Chris Baird, director for children’s wellbeing, said: “In the past, Herefordshire council has lacked a consistent focus in achieving permanency for children held under section 20 of the Children Act. We undertook a comprehensive review of our practice during 2016-17 and developed new guidance and processes to ensure children’s needs are appropriately met.

“Herefordshire council now has a clear approach to managing and reviewing children admitted to care under section 20, which involves legal advice at the start and ensures children do not remain under section 20 for extended periods.”

For the whole of his life. Did he die?

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It's Our County shared John Harrington's post.

9 mins · 

This is Herefordshire Council in 2018.

John Harrington

17 mins · 

Herefordshire Council in 2018!

This is Herefordshire Council in 2018, mired in secrecy and incompetence, failing badly to protect those most in need. A judge yesterday ruled that Herefordshire Council must be named, despite the Council instructing their lawyers to figh to prevent this from coming into the public domain, when he criticised them for "dreadful failures" in the handling of kids in their care.
How is the Hereford Times not all over this national story yet - favours called in by our top tier incompetent council officers? How are our MPs not all over this - despite the shame they must feel for voting to starve the Council of desperately needed central government funding? Come on Jesse Norman, where is the political courage you so admire in Smith and Burke when this is happening under your nose by a council led by your party and a Cabinet of men who trust implicitly whatever senior council officers feed them.
It's not good enough for the Council to issue a statement, having failed in their desperate attempt to mute the story, that they have now "recognised that 14 (of the 42 children in care) have wrongly and abusively been the subject of section 20 accommodation for a wholly inappropriate lengthy period of time" and that Herefordshire Council" deeply regrets these past failings" when almost all the same people responsible for those failings, Conservative County Cllrs and Council officers, still sit in their revamped offices in Plough Lane whilst vulnerable children, who have been so badly let down, struggle to get the care and stability theyneed in their lives.

This really is an occasion where it seems senior heads must roll..this is simply, not bloody good enough.

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Herefordshire Council Agenda / Employment Panel / Monday 19 March 2018 10.00 am

7. Appointment of director for adults and wellbeing

* View the background to item 7.

To make interim arrangements to fill the post of director for adults and wellbeing following the resignation of the current post holder.

Not much to read in here.

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Latest information from Herefordshire Council website:

Senior management team

Director for adults and wellbeing

Director: Martin Samuels
Email: martin.samuels@herefordshire.gov.uk

The Director for Adults and Wellbeing oversees:

*  Adult social care
*  Strategic housing and homelessness
*  Public health
*  Communities
* Safeguarding and transformation

 

Director for children's wellbeing

Director: Chris Baird
Email: cbaird@herefordshire.gov.uk

The director for children's wellbeing oversees:

* Safeguarding and social work services including child protection and looked after children
* Children with disability social work services
* Adoption and fostering services
* Learning and achievement services for schools and colleges
* Schools admissions and strategic commissioning of transport services
* Special educational needs services
* Early years services including children's centres
* Integrated youth support
* Parenting and family support

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