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Herefordshire Council Issue Statement in Response to Court Judgment


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Statement from Claire Ward, Acting Deputy Chief Executive and Head of Paid Service, Herefordshire Council

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Claire Ward 

I am upset by this judgment and deeply sorry that we have failed this family. We have neglected the needs of the children and their Carers and deprived the parents of their rights. I am saddened that our actions deprived a Mother of her right to say goodbye to her child and my deepest sympathies are with the family on their loss. We will provide the family with any required support and care to rebuild relationships and to help repair some of the damage we have done.

I have taken immediate action to address the serious issues highlighted by this judgment. There is a clear need for an urgent and thorough external review of Herefordshire Children’s Social Care Services. The attitudes, culture and professional practice demonstrated in this judgment is shocking and well below the standards we expect. Appropriate action will be taken on the conclusion of our investigations, in accordance with the council’s HR procedures, any relevant professional body requirements, and the law. It is evident that our previous commitments to improve our social care services for children have fallen sadly short of the standards expected and we have failed to provide the expected and appropriate support to this family. This is indefensible.

The incoming Chief Executive, Paul Walker, has been working closely with the senior management team to ensure we make real and sustainable changes to our Children’s Social Care services. We have appointed Cath Knowles as Interim Director of Children’s Services, who is a qualified and registered Social Worker, to provide professional experience, leadership and assurance for the coming months. Our Social Workers continue to do their best, often in very difficult circumstances, to support families and protect vulnerable children in our community. We will ensure our staff have the support they need and the confidence and commitment to report any concerns as we make significant and lasting improvements to Herefordshire Children’s Services.

We have notified Ofsted and we are working closely with regulators and partner agencies to ensure we protect and safeguard the children of Herefordshire. We have added further reassurance measures within Children’s Services to ensure appropriate checks are undertaken for decisions relating to children in our care. The judgment also identified incorrect legal advice being given to management. This advice was plainly wrong and there have been significant changes made to the management and staff within the Children’s Legal Team to ensure processes are observed and advice is sound.

I requested a Department for Education review of our Children’s Social Care services to assess whether children in care are safe in Herefordshire. This review took place last week and found no immediate actions were required on the cases they reviewed but clearly further external reviews will be required to make sure our service is fit for purpose. While we seek to understand the full extent of past decisions made within Children’s Services, we regret that we may find further instances that do not meet the required standards. If you have any concerns about the way you or your family have been treated by Herefordshire Children’s Social Care services, you can contact us at www.herefordshire.gov.uk/careconcerns or email careconcerns@herefordshire.gov.uk

If you are a child or young person and need someone to talk to Childline is free, private and confidential. Call 0800 1111 or visit Childline.org.uk

The Samaritans are also available any time of the day or night - call 116 123 or visit Samaritans.org

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