Issue - meetings

Court Judgements Relating to Children and Families

Meeting: 18/01/2019 - Council (Item 38)


As corporate parents and having regard to the issues identified in the two court judgements of His Honour Mr. Justice Keehan related to fostering and adoption within the county, to receive a report on the actions taken and planned to deliver the required, and associated or related identified improvements.

Additional documents:


Council considered a report from the chief executive which set out the details and issues relating to the recent court judgements of the His Honour Mr. Justice Keehan.


The Leader introduced the report and restated the council’s apology to the young people who were the subjects of the court judgements. The council had accepted the judgements, recognised the failings outlined and expressed deep regret for the impact on the children. The council was very grateful for the work of adopters. It was acknowledged that there had been problems and that when such issues come to light it was easy to assume that there were issues throughout the service.  As councillors and corporate parents it was acknowledged that there would be disappointment in the judgements however it was also important to consider, in totality, the work undertaken by the children and families directorate. The positive impacts of the work of the directorate were evident in the school results which children in Herefordshire had achieved recently. Following the judgements the council was now taking action which included engaging with external providers such as the Doncaster Children’s Trust and were open and honest about the improving services and ensuring that children received a good level of care. The scale of the challenge and the work that was needed required arrangements to be put into place to support those who work with children. As corporate parents all members were required to assist the council to identify the help and support required.


During the debate members made the following principal points:


·         It was queried whether local residents were aware of the pressures that children’s services were under and that there was a growing number of children who had suffered abuse or neglect and required the intervention of the council.

·         There were currently over 300 children in care and those staff at the council who were responsible for administering the procedures around care were under significant pressure. Within a busy and pressurised working environment administrative and supervisory processes could fail. It was important for members to bear in mind the difficult work that many social workers carried out when considering the issues raised in the judgements.

·         The improvements being undertaken to systems and processes and efforts around the recruitment and retention of staff were encouraging.

·         The role of scrutiny in respect of the judgements was raised. It was queried how scrutiny could review such issues effectively if it was not aware until after the judgements had been published. A member contended that the role of scrutiny had been diminished over the last three administrations at the council. The chairperson of the children and young people scrutiny committee explained that the work programme was agreed at the start of the municipal year but if issues arose which the committee were unaware of it could consider those items when they became apparent. There would be a discussion between the cabinet member, chairman of the children and young people scrutiny committee and the director children and families regarding how  ...  view the full minutes text for item 38