Shropshire Star

Director of 'inadequate' children's services at border council leaves with 'immediate effect'

A director of children's services will be leaving a Shropshire border council with immediate effect as Ofsted inspectors rule progress to improve an 'inadequate' service has not been fast enough.

Last updated

Watch more of our videos on Shots!
and live on Freeview channel 276

Darryl Freeman is leaving Herefordshire Council after two and a half years as corporate director for children and young people services, following discussions.

The MP representing the Leominster area has welcomed the new Conservative run council's decision to "remove" Mr Freeman.

Mr Freeman joining the council in September 2021 and has been in charge of the day-to-day running of children’s services as well as overseeing much needed improvements, says Herefordshire Council.

The service has seen the number of Herefordshire children in care reduce, families are now waiting less time for a referral outcome, and resources and support for the reunification of families has increased.

Paul Walker, chief executive at Herefordshire Council, said: “Darryl Freeman joined Herefordshire Council at a time when children’s services were found to be needing improvement.

"Throughout his time as corporate director Darryl diligently led our children’s services day-to-day while steering significant service transformation.

"I thank Darryl for his efforts and professionalism during what has been an extremely challenging time. He is leaving children’s services in Herefordshire in a better place than when he started.”

Interim management arrangements have been put in place while the process of selecting and appointing a new director for children and young people services is underway.

Ofsted's fourth monitoring visit letter and the news of Mr Freeman's departure was published today.

The monitoring visit is the fourth in the last 10 months and focused on older young people in care aged 16 and 17 and care leavers aged 18 to 25.

Inspectors undertook the monitoring visit in February as part of a series of visits put in place following the service being judged inadequate in July 2022.

Inspectors said some improvements have been made across the service but that the pace of change needs to improve and that the quality of service remains inconsistent.

Inspectors said that the improvements have not yet led to sufficient positive impact however, with too many older children having experienced a change in social worker and some older children in care and care leavers with complex needs not being sufficiently prioritised, including by key agencies.

Councillor Ivan Powell, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: “This is the fourth Ofsted monitoring visit which again recognises some developments in the service, but reinforces that there is still much to do and we must work at increased pace to improve the quality of services and improve outcomes for our children and young people.

“The council’s single biggest priority is to build a service which continues to improve with ambition to become outstanding.

“We are committed to providing services for children and families which are supportive and they have confidence in, and that the whole county can be proud of.”

North Herefordshire MP Sir Bill Wiggin MP, who represents the Leominster area welcomed the announcement.

Sir Bill said: “Whilst I do not blame all the issues within the Children’s services department on the last director, I am hugely encouraged by the new Conservative council’s decision led by Councillor Jonathan Lester to remove him with immediate effect.

"For too long I have long fought for the safety of our vulnerable children. I had to call in Ofsted, I asked the Government to appoint a Children’s Commissioner, and now I have agreed to meet the Prime Minister to discuss this situation.

"Progress has sadly been too slow, but I am now pleased to see the improvements that the Conservative councillors and the Chief Executive, Paul Walker, have made”.