MBEs have been awarded to two members of Croydon Council staff in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, announced overnight.
Val Burrell-Walker, 57, who has been the council’s fair access manager for school pupils for the past 15 years, and Rashida Baig, the council’s head of social work with families since April 2019, can both look forward to a visit to Buckingham Palace for their investiture.
Member of the Order of the British Empire, the MBE, is given for “an outstanding achievement or service to the community” that “will have had a long-term, significant impact and stand out as an example to others”.
Burrell-Walker, who lives in Croydon, has been married to Neville for 30 years and has four children, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
She said she could not believe the news when she got the call for Buck House.
“When I spoke to the guy on the phone, I asked ‘Are you joking?’. I didn’t have any expectation that little me would be nominated for something like this.”
She said that it was important for her to accept the award both to inspire other black people and because it underlined the importance of her career that has helped reduce inequalities in society.
Hundreds of young people have gone through the secondary fair access panel which she set up, ranging from children moving into the borough for the first time to children being given a second chance at mainstream schooling after time in a pupil referral unit.
“I build a relationship with the kids and it is about getting them to like school again,” Burrell-Walker said.
“I would say this is recognition for hard work and commitment over a long time to making a difference to as many young people as I can. It’s for the people of Croydon, really.”
The royal announcement will make today, her 57th birthday, cause for a special celebration for Baig.
She is a mother of three and grandmother of three who went into social work after doing an Open University degree 20 years ago.
She said: “I was startled by the nomination, and wasn’t expecting it.
“I’ve been really humbled by the recognition for social work and the work that’s done with vulnerable children and their families. When you deliver improvements for children, it’s a team effort.
“Social workers are key players who build relationships to help families bring about positive change. As a leader I believe if you give people the right environment with the right values and support, they flourish and do the job they need to.
“Throughout my career I have been committed to equality of opportunity in the way we design and deliver services. Tackling racism in all its forms has been central to everything I have done as a social worker including valuing children’s heritage and identity and making sure where possible they remain in their family and communities whether in the UK or elsewhere.”
The Birthday Honours announcement this year was delayed because of coronavirus, which will also have an impact on the way that the investiture is conducted. Baig said, “With the necessary precautions, it would be great to go to Buckingham Palace; it’s an amazing opportunity!”
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