Children’s services ‘still inadequate’ head says

By Gavin McEwan   |   Local Democracy Reporter   |
Monday 25th July 2022 6:00 am
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Herefordshire’s children’s services department is still “inadequate” more than a year after being given Government support to improve, its head has admitted.

Writing to county councillors to inform them that the department is currently being inspected by Government watchdog Ofsted, director of children’s services Darryl Freeman said: “In the past I have indicated to you what I expect the outcome of the inspection to be – that we are currently an inadequate service, and this remains my estimation.”

A council spokesperson confirmed that Ofsted will carry out a two-week “standard” children’s services inspection from next week.

Ofsted’s previous inspection a year ago found the council had “made little progress” since a highly critical inspection three years previously. There was “limited supervision” of social workers, and “little understanding of children’s experiences and the impact [interventions] have had upon them”, it said.

This came in the wake of a High Court judgement in April 2021 which detailed long-term systemic failings at the department. A month after this, the Department for Education (DfE) issuing the council with an improvement notice, and appointing Gladys Rhodes White as “improvement adviser”.

The Government also gave the council £5.2 million to fund the improvement programme.

But a former worker at the department, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Ms Rhodes White “is not visible” there.

“If you asked most of the workforce who Gladys was, they would not be able to tell you,” she said.

“The reality is that there is no evidence of improvement and if anything, Herefordshire children’s services have moved backwards since the ‘Improvement Team’ arrived.”

However she stessed that “there are pockets of really good practice in Herefordshire”.

A Herefordshire Council spokesperson said: “The Herefordshire children’s services improvement board continues to work under the DfE advisor to oversee the improvement work in accordance with the ongoing three-year Children and Families Improvement Plan.

“We have been pleased to appoint permanent managers to previously interim roles within Children’s Services to help ensure we implement the much-needed changes as quickly as possible.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “We are seeing early progress in the work to improve Herefordshire’s children’s services, following the appointment of an advisor.

“This includes more stable rates in families being referred for help and increased social worker capacity.”

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