A CHILD protection specialist has been honoured for his work ensuring the safety of vulnerable youngsters arriving at Heathrow.
Paul Hewitt, Hillingdon Council’s head of child safeguarding, was named as this year’s Children’s Champion by the organisation ECPAT UK.
The award recognises his commitment to meeting the needs of young people who have been trafficked into the borough.
Mr Hewitt has played a key role on the Local Safeguarding Children’s Board, and has been instrumental in implementing a round-the-clock response service for anyone suspecting child trafficking, and fortnightly multi-agency meetings to address the needs of unaccompanied children at Heathrow airport.
He leaves his post tomorrow (Thursday) after 25 years with the council, to go travelling in South Africa with his wife.
Last August, the Children’s Commissioner for England, Dr Maggie Atkinson, visited Hillingdon and endorsed the work of Mr Hewitt and his team as being a model of best practice.
Mr Hewitt said it had been the ‘proudest moment’ in his career.
“As the practice lead for Child Trafficking, I have taken personal pride in this recognition from the Children’s Commissioner, as it represents many years of my professional work with partner agencies, especially UK Border Force. I felt privileged at winning this award, on behalf of all the committed professionals who have helped to make Heathrow a safe port of entry for vulnerable children.”
Councillor David Simmonds, Hillingdon’s cabinet member for children’s services, said: “Safeguarding children is one of the most important roles of our council and one that we take very seriously.
“Paul has shown exemplary leadership in protecting vulnerable children and has forged strong links between the council, police, schools, health professionals and the UK Borders Agency through his work on the Local Child Safeguarding Board.”
Bharti Patel, chief executive of EXPAT UK, added: “Paul was the most outstanding candidate for the ECPAT UK Children’s Champion 2013 award.
“ECPAT UK staff have been particularly impressed with his enduring dedication to supporting trafficked children. We would like to express our deepest thanks for his contributions in this area.”
Paul’s successor, Gail Hancock, joins the Children’s Services team from the London Borough of Hounslow.