Public servants who turn lives around

18 May 06
This year's big winners at the Public Servants of the Year Awards work in very different parts of the public sector, but they share a commitment to helping disadvantaged young people turn their lives around.

19 May 2006

This year's big winners at the Public Servants of the Year Awards work in very different parts of the public sector, but they share a commitment to helping disadvantaged young people turn their lives around.

Anthony Vanterpool, generally known as Swifty, was named as Outstanding Public Servant of the Year for his work with the Connexions service in Skelmersdale, while the staff of Sighthill Library became the Outstanding Public Service Team of the Year.

They were presented with their awards at a high-profile ceremony at London's Grosvenor House Hotel on May 17, which was addressed by Cabinet secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell. Broadcasters Sir Trevor McDonald and Felicity Barr hosted the event.

Swifty was recognised for his efforts, as a personal adviser and key worker, in helping youngsters gain qualifications and find employment. Stories abound of his dedication to the job, including on one occasion spending a weekend on a fruit-picking work placement to bolster the confidence of a client with learning difficulties. His fellow workers describe him as 'inspirational'.

According to Sir Michael Lyons, the chair of the judging panel and interim chair of the Audit Commission: 'Of all the nominations we read through, this was the one in which the personality and commitment of the nominee leapt off the page. Swifty was a very clear and worthy winner, someone who represents the very best that we find in public service.'

Sighthill Library in Edinburgh has had a similar impact. Having faced incidents of vandalism, graffiti and generally disruptive behaviour by local youths, the staff took an unusual approach. They welcomed the young people into the library and tried to provide services that would be of interest and use, including computer classes, a literacy project and drama sessions.

The end result is that antisocial behaviour in the building has all but disappeared, while the library has become the focus for a range of activities that seem to be inspiring the local young people to look for a better life.

'Sighthill's library team should be applauded for the way they have tackled the problems associated with unruly youngsters,' said Lyons. 'Rather than pursuing an Asbo route, with all its complications, they tried to engage young people and find ways to get them more involved in the community. The end result is a safer neighbourhood and a library that is a vital resource for all sections of the community.'

The Public Servants of the Year Awards are in their sixth year and are run by Public Finance in partnership with CIPFA, the Cabinet Office, the Office of Government Commerce and Ipsos Mori. They aim to recognise and reward the vitality, commitment and determination of teams and individuals across the public services.

Swifty and Sighthill were two of 450 entries to the awards. They initially triumphed in the Raising the Standard (frontline worker) and local government categories respectively. A 'People's Panel' of public service users then chose them to be the overall winners on the night.

There were 11 other category winners, covering individuals, teams and projects, including head teacher David Seddon, innovative prison worker Sharon Berry, Richmond's estate services team and the West Yorkshire 'My Bus' project (see below).

At the ceremony, Lyons praised the range and quality of all the winners. 'They illustrate just how many examples there are within the public services of individuals and teams that go beyond their job definitions and bring creativity, care and extra value to their work,' he said. 'I am extremely proud of what they have achieved and congratulate each of them.' More details on the winners can be found in the features section beginning on page 18. Next week's issue of Public Finance will include full coverage of the ceremony

The winners

Top awards
Outstanding Public Servant of the Year

Anthony 'Swifty' Vanterpool, youth worker, Connexions Skelmersdale, Lancashire

Outstanding Public Service Team of the Year
Staff team, Sighthill Library, Edinburgh

Individual awards
Breaking New Ground — the innovator award
Sharon Berry, project manager, Storybook Dads, Dartmoor Prison, Devon

Inspiring Success — the turn-round management and leadership award
David Seddon, head teacher, Baxter College, Kidderminster

Raising the Standard — the frontline worker award
Anthony 'Swifty' Vanterpool

Team awards
Central Government
Hartlepool action team for jobs, Jobcentre Plus, Hartlepool

Health care team, Ashfield Young Offenders Institution, Bristol

Estate services team, Richmond Housing Partnership, Richmond upon Thames

Staff team, Belmont School, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire

Local government
Staff team, Sighthill Library

Uniformed services
Gold zone team, Merseyside Police

Project awards
Creative Solutions — the award for better regulation
Commercial vehicle operator regulatory service, Vehicle and Operator Services Agency

Improving Working Lives — the award for putting people first
Occupational health, safety and welfare team, Lancashire Constabulary

Unlocking the Potential — the award for enterprise
Community safety academy, Northumberland Fire and Rescue Service

Working Together — the award for progress through partnership
'My Bus' project, West Yorkshire Passenger Transport Executive


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