A North Yorkshire County Council manager who has championed the cause of children in care, has received an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours.
Howard Smith has worked for the last 30 years with vulnerable children and young people including children in care, young people in trouble and young people who have left care. Most notably his work has had significant impact in improving life opportunities and security for young people in care at some of the most difficult times in their lives – when they are leaving care and moving into adulthood.
In 2001 Mr Smith helped implement the Children (Leaving Care) Act in North Yorkshire and established the offer of employment and work experience opportunities with the county council to young people both in care and leaving care.
At all times he has sought to give young people in care responsibilities and opportunities to make a mark. For example, whenever possible he employed young people who had been in the care of North Yorkshire in the county council’s Leaving Care team. One of these young people went on to become the director of ‘A National Voice’, a campaign group that advises government on care policy issues. Moreover, Mr Smith became the godparent to the child of a young person he had worked with.
He also helped to secure pilot status to enable North Yorkshire to test out the arrangements for children in foster care on reaching adulthood to be able to stay with their carers. He is particularly passionate about the provision of safe and affordable accommodation to young people who have left care.
Over the last seven years he has been involved in organising regional events in Yorkshire and the Humber to share and celebrate good practice for children and young people in the care system. As part of this he has been involved in the commissioning of a number of films produced by young people in care to raise awareness as to how their life chances can be improved.
His current role involves the commissioning of placements for looked after children and he works with a range of statutory, voluntary and private providers to make sure that children needing care have the best possible placements made available.
Mr Smith said: “Throughout my career I have been privileged to work with colleagues in a local authority that has allowed me to be part of making a difference. I am very proud to receive this honour.”
Cynthia Welbourn, director of North Yorkshire’s Children and Young People’s Service said: “Howard has been involved in seriously important work for this authority, bringing opportunities and seeking security for some of our most vulnerable young people at the most vulnerable stage in their lives – when they are leaving care. Above all, he has made a lasting impression on the young people with whom he has worked and to whom he remains committed. This honour is in recognition of his integrity and the important role he has played in the lives of the young people in our care.”
County councillor Carl Les, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Children and Young People said: “As well as this well-deserved recognition Howard Smith deserves our communities` thanks for his dedication to this crucial work of supporting young people who are placed in the care of this authority.”