Hertfordshire’s retired director of children’s services Jenny Coles has been made a CBE in the New Year Honours.

Ms Coles, a qualified social worker, took up the children’s services role at the county council in 2010 – retiring just a few months ago, in August 2021.

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

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).

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Ms Coles – who lives near Dunstable, Bedfordshire – says she is “thrilled” to have been recognised with the award, which she says "came as a big surprise".

She told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “It’s still a bit overwhelming, 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.”

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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.

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

Following her retirement Ms Coles, 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 children's charity Coram.

Going forward she believes the biggest challenge 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.”