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Council to hold ‘extraordinary meeting’ to investigate failings in children’s services

Herefordshire Council will hold a special public meeting in order to investigate the failures of its children’s services which recently led to two damning judgements from the High Court.

Last month, a High Court judge slammed Herefordshire’s “woeful” children’s care after failing children in two cases – a pair of twins and a pair of sisters – on a “serious and serial basis.”

Senior council officers briefed councillors in secret about the two scandals, but the Independent Group has requested that an ‘extraordinary meeting’ be scheduled at Shirehall on 10am on 18 January.

Independent councillor Chris Chappell said he was delighted that the council would be holding a public meeting to scrutinise the failures.

He commented: “It’s the first time in my 26 years as a councillor that I can remember an extraordinary council meeting being called.”

A statement from his group welcomed the council’s announcement, reading: “We strongly believe that it is in the public interest that, whilst respecting the privacy of the persons subject to the judgements, an open and transparent explanation of all matters the subject of Justice Keenan’s damning judgements are presented and that the council and the public can be sure that measures now in place or soon to be put in place will fully respond to the extremely serious criticisms.”

The damning High Court cases involved a set of twins being put up for adoption separately after a social worker “misquoted” a psychologist’s assessment, following on from “incompetence and serial failings of the local authority.”

In the case of two young sisters, Mr Justice Keehan declared that independent reviewing officers had “failed them on a serious and serial basis.”

He said that the care provided amounted to breaches in their rights after the children’s care plan was changed from adoption to long-term fostering “for reasons I do not begin to understand,” a decision Keehan called “profoundly regrettable.”

Herefordshire Council fully accepted both judgements of the High Court judge and stated that “the standard of service fell below where it should be, we deeply regret this and we’re sorry for the impact this had.”

The council met on 20 December to discuss the court judgements, although the information was shared with opposition group leaders and the scrutiny committee chair and vice chair prior to the judgements being published.


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