We are delighted to announce that Helen Johnson, who is Head of the Refugee Council’s Children’s Services, has been awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to refugees in the New Year Honours 2019.
For over 20 years Helen has dedicated her professional life to supporting some of the most vulnerable in society – the children and young people who are forced to flee their homes and take perilous journeys in a desperate search for safety, and arrive in the UK completely alone.
As Head of Children’s Services, Helen oversees the only national service of its kind offering asylum and welfare support to separated young people seeking asylum, as well as trafficked children, children who are age disputed and those who are desperately in need of social support. Helen has overseen the successful delivery and significant expansion of this service during her time at its helm, ensuring that the vital support and advice it offers best reflects the changing needs of children and young people who come to the UK in search of safety.
Inspired to work with refugee children after witnessing the desperate plight of children in Africa who had been forced by conflict to flee their homes, Helen’s career with the Refugee Council began in 1997 as a Project Worker, in which role she supported teenage refugees with claiming asylum, accessing education and adjusting to life in the UK. Prior to joining the charity, Helen worked as a teacher and as a social worker.
Responding to this news, Helen said:
“I am delighted to be honoured, but I am just one of many people who deserve recognition, both within the Refugee Council and elsewhere. I hope that all those who dedicate their time to helping refugees feel that their work is appreciated. Working with refugees has been incredibly rewarding. I hope that this honour helps to raise awareness of the work the Refugee Council does to support children and young people who have faced unimaginably difficult situations, and help them overcome their past and build a future in which they feel safe and have hope.”
Maurice Wren, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council, said:
“Helen’s singular contribution to advancing the rights and best interests of young people seeking refugee protection in the UK over two decades has been simply monumental. She is an inspirational leader whose deep knowledge and empathetic understanding of what young refugees need and deserve is matched only by her unswerving commitment to the fair, just and compassionate treatment of all young people in the UK asylum and immigration system.”
To read more about Helen’s work with refugee children, see her Q and A blog.