Parents of disabled children say they are astonished at the appointment of Herefordshire’s new head of children’s services given their previous experience with her.

SEND National Crisis Worcestershire (SNCW), which represents more than 1,200 families of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND), called in February last year for the removal of Tina Russell as head of Worcester Children First (WCF).

This had been set up as an arm’s-length agency to run Worcestershire County Council’s SEND services following a critical inspection in 2018 by Ofsted and the Care Quality Commission.

SNCW claimed last year that Ms Russell had overseen “a culture of delay tactics, unlawful practices, and treating parents and carers as adversaries”.

The group’s spokesperson Tracy Winchester, the mother of two autisitic children, now maintains that Ms Russell “has failed the children, young people and families of Worcestershire for many years, causing trauma and missed education that many will never recover from”.

“It’s not like she turned things around in Worcestershire – in fact they’re worse than ever,” she said, adding: “I can’t believe Herefordshire could be so stupid.”

A parent-carer forum broke up in acrimony and is no longer active, Ms Winchester said, attributing this in part to Ms Russell’s “manner and lack of empathy” with parents.

“It frustrates me a great deal that Tina Russell can just move on after the damage done to so many children and families,” Ms Winchester said.

A further inspection this month is due to look at outstanding issues at WCF – one of which is “improving the fragile relationships with parents and carers”.

SNCW has submitted the results of its own recent parents survey, setting out the many ways they continue to feel let down by WCF.

The survey found 27 per cent felt communication with WCF was “worse than ever”, and only 4 per cent finding any improvement in the past year.

Herefordshire Council’s cabinet member for children and young people Coun Ivan Powell defended the appointment, saying: “In appointing Tina to the role of corporate director of children and young people, we have recognised her wealth of experience and ability to lead and improve children’s services.”