A council officer who was crowned The Guardian's Public Servant of the Year has thanked Bucks Herald readers for their support.
Buckinghamshire County Council's Commissioning Manager for Young People, Helen Backus, won the prestigious award following a public vote organised by the national newspaper as part of its Public Service Awards 2016.
Helen set up Bucks’ Life Skills Centres in response to a staggering 90% of disabled young people having to leave the county to continue their post-16 education. Five years later the figure is just 10%, with the centres having helped more than 200 young people.
She said: "I'd like to say a huge thank you to Bucks Herald readers who took the time to vote for me after reading about the Life Skills Centres when I made the shortlist in September. It was utterly humbling for me to win this award, particularly as I was up against some really brilliant people who all embodied what public service is all about.
"I'm very proud of how the Life Skills Centres have changed the lives of hundreds of young people, but they wouldn't have got off the ground without the support of so many people both at Buckinghamshire County Council and our wider partners such as the colleges. The young people and their families who took the brave steps with me when the centres were set up have also been incredible and I can’t thank them enough for their support."
The Guardian said a record 6,000 people voted in the public servant poll. Its public services editor, David Brindle, wrote that Helen had 'transformed the way that young people with disabilities or support needs are regarded and treated, both in her home authority and farther afield'.
Wendy Mallen, Deputy Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing, said: "Congratulations to Helen on this well-deserved award. Thanks to her hard work, hundreds of disabled children have been able to stay in the county to continue their education rather than having to move to a specialist residential college many miles from their families."