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'It is a team effort,' says British Empire Medal recipient Ken

20 June 2017

Ken Harvey

Our Head of Children with Disabilities and Children's Health, Ken Harvey, has been awarded the British Empire Medal in The Queen's Birthday Honours List.

Ken, 61, who has been involved in social work since the mid-80s, has been recognised for his services to children and young people.

He said: "It was a bit odd when it came through as it's not one of those things you expect. It was a nice surprise but not something you expect for just doing your job."

Ken started his social work career in 1985 with Hertfordshire County Council, working with adults with learning disabilities. He qualified at the start of the 1990s, not long after the Children Act 1989, including a volume on children with disabilities, was published.

He said: “Bedfordshire County Council was one of the first councils to set up a specialist disabled children’s team in response to this, and I first came to Bedfordshire in 1993/94. I moved through posts relatively quickly as a social worker; transition worker; senior practitioner; team manager of children with disabilities; back to Herts as principal officer and then head of service; and then returned to Bedfordshire in 2005 when two former line managers of mine who were working here offered me the opportunity to join as head of children with disabilities.”

That was more than a decade ago, but Ken says: “My passion is disability and it’s that passion for doing the job which I do that gets me up in the morning. I am passionate about improving the lives of disabled children and their families, delivering change and creating bespoke services and we have done that with the hubs in Biggleswade and Dunstable. It sees us working with schools and families and organisations like SNAP to offer joined-up services.

“The British Empire Medal is a very hands-on community award. I have been very fortunate that Central Bedfordshire Council is very committed to children with disabilities and making positive change. I have also been very fortunate at Herts and Bedfordshire and Central Bedfordshire Council’s to work alongside some brilliant and very committed people. Although it is my name on the piece of paper you are only as good as the team you work with.”

Ken’s involvement with disability started two or three years before he began working as a social worker. He volunteered for the Westbourne Centre, in Bedford, helping at evening classes for adults with learning disabilities who attended the Biggleswade Day Centre.

At the time he was working at Waresley Park Stud, in Cambridgeshire, starting in the racing industry when he was 15. Hopes of becoming a flat race jockey were dashed when a rapid growth spurt took him from 4ft 3in to 5ft 10in, so instead he went in to breeding racehorses.

However, Ken said: “Even when I was working in breeding I always thought that if there was one other job I would like to do it would be working with disability.

"I’ve been incredibly fortunate to have had two jobs in my life I have really loved; and to have had people alongside me to encourage me to progress. I’ve always said that if the job interested me and motivated me then I will continue to do it.

"Obviously you have difficult days, but the good ones outweigh those and remind you why you do the job. I may be coming up to 62 but I’ve certainly got no plans for retirement yet as there is still so much that I would like to do."

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