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NSPCC and Esmée Fairbairn chief executives receive high awards in New Year Honours list 

04 Jan 2021 News

Fergus Burnett

Peter Wanless, of NSPCC, was knighted and Caroline Mason, from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, was awarded a damehood, in the New Year Honours list. 

The annual list was published by the Cabinet Office on 31 December recognising the contribution people have made to public life and their local communities. 1,123 candidates were selected this year and 65% were recognised for their community work. 

There were also a number of awards for leaders of charity infrastructure bodies, charities that were heavily involved in the pandemic response and volunteers. 

It is the most ethnically diverse honours list yet, with 14.2% of recipients coming from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic background. Several charity recipients said they would add their names to a statement earlier this year calling for the word “empire” to be removed from awards. 

High awards 

Peter Wanless, who has been chief executive of NSPCC since 2013, was knighted for services to children, to young people and to the charitable sector. 

Before joining the children’s charity he was chief executive of the Big Lottery Fund (now the National Lottery Community Fund), and prior to that held senior positions at the Department for Children, Schools and Families (now the Department for Education) and the Treasury. 

He said: “It is a great privilege to lead the NSPCC and I am delighted on behalf of all our volunteers and staff to see our vital work to prevent abuse and neglect recognised in this way. This incredible honour comes as the end of a year that has taken its toll on children. We need to come together to make sure 2021 is a better year for our young people.”

Caroline Mason, chief executive of the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, was made a dame for services to the charity sector, particularly during the Covid-19 response. 

She said: “I am delighted to accept this honour on behalf of all the excellent people that I work with everyday at Esmée and of all the amazing charities and social enterprises that, against the odds, provide so much inspiration and hope.” 

Guy Weston, who has been chair of the Garfield Weston Foundation for 20 years, was also knighted. 

Infrastructure bodies 

The chief executives from the Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF), CharityComms, and Charity Finance Group (CFG) all received awards, as did the former chief executive of NAVCA. 

Caron Bradshaw, chief executive of CFG, was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE). She said: “I am deeply grateful for what I see as recognition of CFG’s work to support amazing people across our social change organisations and civil society.

“This recognition is bitter-sweet for me; the work of our sector is so critical to the health of society and is never more needed than now. However, whilst government has increased its positive language about our contributions, civil society remains an afterthought in policy-making.”

Carol Mack, chief executive of ACF, and Adeela Warley, chief executive of CharityComms also received OBEs, as did Jane Ide, who was chief executive of NAVCA until last November. 

Judy Robinson, chair at NAVCA, said: “Congratulations to Jane! This award recognises Jane's hard work alongside that of NAVCA members during COVID. This work brought together volunteers and vulnerable people so they received support and care. It was all about organised kindness and it showed how local infrastructure really is at the heart of voluntary and community action.

“It’s also a testament to the passion and dedication which Jane has brought to her roles in the voluntary and community sector, as CEO of NAVCA and more recently in her new role as CEO at Creative & Cultural Skills.” 

Covid response 

Two of the British Red Cross’ senior leaders, as well as a number of volunteers received awards recognising the roles they played during the charity’s Covid response.  

Its head of crisis response, Simon Lewis, and chief supporter officer, Paul Amadi, were made Members of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE). 

Five others, Paul Hebborn (Kibworth,Leicester), Andy Bendon (Willingham, Cambridge), Golam Chowdhury (Portsmouth), Richard Stibbles (Perth) and Nicola Stove (Shetland) received the British Empire Medal for their involvement.

Mike Adamson, chief executive of the British Red Cross, said: “Simon, Paul H, Paul A, Andy, Golam, Richard and Nicola are shining examples of the exemplary staff and volunteers we are lucky to have to support the vital work of the Red Cross. They are true humanitarians who work tirelessly to support vulnerable people when they need it most, especially during the past year. I am delighted to see them honoured in this way.

“I would like congratulate them all and thank them for their continued passion for helping to make a difference.” 

Elsewhere, Richard Lee, chief operating officer at St John Ambulance (SJA), was made an MBE. Two SJA volunteers, Deirdre Barr and Hazel Shirley, were also recognised with BEMs.

Fozia Irfan, director of children and young people at BBC Children in Need, and previously CEO of the Bedfordshire and Luton Community Foundation has been awarded the OBE for services to the community in Bedfordshire, particularly during the Covid-19 response. 

Irfan said: “I am really humbled to receive this award and very grateful to those who nominated me.  It was such a privilege to work alongside the local communities in Luton and Bedfordshire for so many years. I’d also like to pay tribute to my friends, colleagues and peers in the foundation and charity sector who do such incredible work: thank you.”

Other recipients

Christian Aid’s former head of humanitarian Nick Guttmann has been awarded an OBE for services to humanitarian crises. He retired last year having worked for the charity since 2001. 

Tenovus Cancer Care’s chief executive Judi Rhys has been awarded an MBE, as did the chief executive of the Centre for Ageing Better, Dr Anna Dixon, and CareTech Foundation chief executive Jonathan Freeman. 

Two members of international humanitarian mapping charity MapAction appeared on the list for services to international development and humanitarian crisis operations. Long-serving volunteer Alan Mills has received an MBE while the charity's chief executive Liz Hughes has been awarded an OBE.

Founders of Black Fundraisers UK Carol Akiwumi, chief executive of Money4You, and Paul Amadi, from the Red Cross, were made MBEs. 

Peter Lewis, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Fundraising, said: “They have been great servants to the fundraising community over the years. Not just a fantastic fundraisers raising millions for amazing causes, but also as long-time volunteers and Fellows of the Chartered Institute of Fundraising, Paul as a former chair and Carol, our current vice-chair. 

“As founders of Black Fundraisers UK and as members of our EDI Committee, they have both driven the agenda on equality, diversity and inclusion within the profession and these honours are hugely deserved and merited.” 

Calls to change the system 

Many recipients highlighted a letter coordinated last year by award recipients calling for the word “empire” to be replaced with “excellence”, saying that they would add their names to this statement. 

Jane Ide, who is now chief executive of the Creative & Cultural Skills, was among the recent recipients to say the system should be changed. 

On Twitter she said: “I also want to acknowledge those who I know cannot celebrate our Honours system, those for whom it is painful, anger-inducing or triggering.” 

She shared a link to a petition calling on Parliament to remove references to empire in the honours system. It has attracted 205 signatures so far and needs to reach 10,000 to require the government to respond or 100,000 to be eligible for debate in Parliament.

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