New Year Honours: Dunstable woman's 'big surprise' at CBE for her contribution to children’s social care

CBE is the third-highest of the order's five ranks

Monday, 10th January 2022, 9:23 am
Updated Monday, 10th January 2022, 9:24 am

A Dunstable woman has been awarded a CBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours for her contribution to children's social care.

Jenny Coles, a qualified social worker, took up the children’s services role at Hertfordshire County Council in 2010 – and retired just a few months ago, in August 2021.

Between April 2020 and April 2021 – as the Covid-19 pandemic took hold – she was also president of the Association of Directors of Children’s Services.

Jenny Coles has been awarded a CBE

And it is in recognition of her contribution to children’s social care that she is to become a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).

Ms Coles says she is “thrilled” to have been recognised with the award, which she says ‘came as a big surprise’.

And she told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “It’s still a bit over-whelming, but I am really excited and my family are really proud as well.”

Ms Coles says that she has ‘always had a real passion for working with children and families’ – working with a whole range of professionals to support children.

And she told the LDRS: “I have just really enjoyed working alongside families and children and young people who face adversity and looking for ways to support them.”

Ms Coles qualified as a social worker more than 35 years ago, in 1986, after working in residential children’s homes.

And before taking up the top children’s services job in Hertfordshire, she worked in Luton and in Bedfordshire.

Among her successes as director of children’s services she counts the development of a ‘family safeguarding model’ in Hertfordshire.

That model brings together social workers, mental health workers and domestic abuse workers into one team to support families – in recognition of the factors that often have an impact.

And it has been so successful that it has already been replicated outside of the county.

Following her retirement Ms Coles, aged 61, continues to contribute to children and family social work in a number of independent and voluntary roles.

That includes being chair of the board of trustees of What Works for Children’s Social Care and as a trustee of Coram.

Going forward she believes the toughest hurdle facing children’s services is the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I think the current biggest challenge, as we move into a different stage of the pandemic, is the impact that that has had on children and young people – and therefore how professionals work at an individual level with children and at a broader level to mitigate the impact,” she said.

Meanwhile the announcement of Ms Coles’ CBE has been welcomed by Cllr Teresa Heritage, Hertfordshire County Council’s executive member for children, young people and families.

“I am absolutely thrilled to hear of Jenny Coles’ award,” said Cllr Heritage.

“She has certainly done so much in the service of children and young people – both in Hertfordshire and throughout the country.

“And I know that from her efforts many children and young people have had improved chances in life. I wish her well for the future.”