Social care leaders hailed in New Year Honours

Provider, council and central government heads honoured as adult social care battles winter crisis, while directors of children's services behind Ofsted success stories also receive gongs

People clapping
Photo: Sanele Gobinduku/ Stock

Social care leaders from across local and central government and provider bodies have been recognised in the New Year Honours as the sector battles one of the toughest winters in many years.

Leaders of two of the main provider organisations, Nadra Ahmed, of the National Care Association (NCA), and Jane Townson, of the Homecare Association, were awarded a CBE and OBE, respectively, in the annual list.

There were also CBEs – the second most prestigious mainstream honour below damehood or knighthood – for Local Government Association deputy chief executive Sarah Pickup, a former adults’ services director, and Deborah Sturdy, chief nurse for adult social care within the Department of Health and Social Care. All four were honoured for services to social care.

Severe winter pressures

The recognition comes amid severe pressures on the sector driven by workforce shortages, linked to poor pay for care staff, longstanding funding challenges and unmet need – characterised by high waiting lists for assessments and care. Social care needs are also likely to be increasing as a result of the huge challenges facing the NHS, including high levels of hospitalisation, driven by flu and Covid-19, mounting waits for emergency care, staff shortages and pay disputes.

Ahmed, Townson and Pickup have been among those raising significant concerns – with government, politicians and the media – about the situation facing social care. Sturdy has been at the sharp end of the DHSC’s response, including in relation to its latest social care recruitment campaign and in promoting flu and Covid vaccinations this winter for staff.

Fellow social care leaders, including National Care Forum executive director Vic Rayner, chief social worker for adults Lyn Romeo, Association of Directors of Adult Social Services joint chief executive Cathie Williams and Clenton Farquharson, chair of Think Local Act Personal, paid tribute to the four following their awards:

Care staff ‘showing utmost compassion and commitment’

Townson said her honour was “humbling” and that supporting and representing home care through the pandemic and beyond had been an “absolute privilege”.

She added: “May the spotlight shine on all home care workers, managers, and leaders, who dedicate themselves to improving the lives of others with the utmost compassion and commitment. During the pandemic, despite risk to themselves, they continued to go out every day to ensure older and disabled people could live safely and well at home, acting as a lifeline for many.”

The NCA said that, as its chair and, latterly, executive chair, Ahmed had, over 20 years,  “[worked] tirelessly” for the good of its members and the wider sector, by representing providers’ efforts to “look after some of the most vulnerable people in society through these challenging times”.

Jacqui Old

Jacqui Old

There was also a CBE for Jacqui Old, in recognition of her contribution to services in North Tyneside, where she worked for 13 years and was director of children’s and adults’ services until last year.

Old, now director of education and children’s services at Lancashire council, led the team that improved North Tyneside council’s Ofsted rating for children’s services from good to outstanding, from 2017-20.

One person ‘nothing without a team’

“Whilst I feel honoured to receive this award and incredibly proud of the reasons behind it, I must pay tribute to the team I worked with in North Tyneside to achieve such results,” she said. “One person is nothing without a team.”

Ofsted progress was also recognised in the MBE awarded to Wakefield council director of children’s services (DCS) Victoria Schofield, for services to children and young people.

As service director for children’s social care, from 2018 until her promotion to DCS last year, Schofield oversaw its improvement from ‘inadequate’ to ‘good’.

The authority said that Schofield and her predecessor as DCS, Beate Wagner, had been “instrumental” in driving its improvement, which was reflected in the authority being rated outstanding for leadership by Ofsted following its November 2021 inspection.

Pride in making a difference

Vicky Schofield, interim director of children's services, Wakefield Council

Vicky Schofield

Schofield, who was also part of the leadership team behind Rotherham council’s journey from ‘inadequate’ to ‘good’, from 2014-18, said: “I consider myself very lucky to have a job that can make such a positive difference to the lives of children, young people and their families, which in itself is a great reward.

“I am very proud to be part of a great team of practitioners, colleagues and partners here in Wakefield, and in my previous roles, which enables us to achieve the best outcomes for the children we support.”

Others honoured this year include:

  • Paula Hudgell, foster carer with Kent council (OBE for services to children);
  • Andrea Street, deputy director at the Welsh Government (OBE for services to health and social care);
  • Shadim Hussain, chief executive, My Foster Family (MBE for services to equality and the foster care system);
  • Sarah Johal, strategic leader, regional adoption agencies (MBE for services to adoption and fostering);
  • Martin Jones, chief executive, Home Instead UK (MBE for services to older people);
  • Jan Thurgood, former corporate director for adult social care at Bournmouth Christchurch and Poole council (MBE for services to people with learning disabilities);
  • Godfrey Young, who was designated officer for child protection in Omagh, Northern Ireland, from 2009-20 (MBE for services to social work and education);
  • Jane Cook,  foster carer, Birmingham Children’s Trust (British Empire Medal for services to fostering);
  • Martyn Davies, care home manager, Urmston Manor (British Empire Medal for services to care home residents in Manchester);
  • Christopher Hall, foster carer, Birmingham Children’s Trust (British Empire Medal – for services to fostering);
  • Javaid Iqbal, foster carer, Birmingham Children’s Trust (British Empire Medal – for services to fostering);
  • Samina Iqbal, foster carer, Birmingham Children’s Trust (British Empire Medal – for services to fostering);
  • Gloria Swanston, foster carer, Hertfordshire County Council (British Empire Medal for services to fostering).

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