Champion of children-in-care receives MBE

This story was published 29 December 2018

North Yorkshire County Council's champion of children-in-care receives MBE

James Cliffe with young people from the No Wrong Door hub in Scarborough.

James Cliffe, North Yorkshire’s manager of one of the most innovative services in the country for children and young people in the care system, has become a Member of the Order of the British Empire in the 2019 New Year’s Honours.


James is in charge of No Wrong Door, a nationally acclaimed service which supports young people aged 12 to 25 who are either in care, on the edge of care or supported in independent accommodation. 


A former soldier who served in Basra and an ex-prison officer, he is determined to give the children in his care – some of society’s most vulnerable – the good life they deserve.


No Wrong Door


No Wrong Door was created by North Yorkshire County Council and serves the county’s most vulnerable children and young people through two hubs – one based in Scarborough, the other in Harrogate.  James is involved in the leadership of both.


Last summer Ofsted rated the No Wrong Door service as outstanding in every category and James as “an outstanding role model for staff, young people and other professionals.  Young people are left in no doubt that the registered manager and staff will go all out to help them.”    


“I love my job and look forward to many more years developing this work and pushing forward,” said James. “I am very proud of this honour which is also a tribute to the great team I work with.


“A lot of the kids who come to us through No Wrong Door have given up hope. When you come from a family background where there is substance misuse or alcohol dependency and poor mental health, the future is too unknown, you don’t have aspirations.  Our job is to build up relationships and build up their confidence and we have a whole team dedicated to that, doing whatever is necessary to keep them safe and give them a future.” 


A dad and foster parent 


As well as being a lynchpin for the operation and hugely respected by the young people supported by No Wrong Door, James also fosters with his wife Sarah, a teacher.


Along with their birth sons Jack, 9, and Sam, 7, James and Sarah have four foster sons: James, 20, and Daniel, 18, who are brothers; Dan aged 19 and Kyle, 17 who have come through the No Wrong Door service.


James and Sarah Cliffe took the brothers in when their previous foster carer retired. The older brother James is now studying for a degree in nursing at university. “They are both incredible young men and doing well and growing as confident adults”, said James Cliffe.  


Dan’s young life had been very hard and risky and Dan freely admits that if it wasn’t for James, Sarah and the No Wrong Door service, he could be in prison.  He said: “James is an incredible man.  He’s just always there for you.  You don’t cross him, you know where you stand with him, but he’d do anything for you,”


Government support for No Wrong Door


The Government has recently backed a recommendation that No Wrong Door is rolled out to other authorities. Sir Martin Narey, former director general of prisons for England and Wales and former chief executive of Barnardos, has said that the programme stands out for the ambition, innovation and high expectation in the support it offers to the most troubled and challenging young people.


Sir Martin said of James Cliffe “There is no more deserving recipient of an honour his year. Children’s homes have a frequently undeserved reputation. And yet in Scarborough, there is, in a children’s home, care of high quality, high ambition and great optimism. And much of that is because of James Cliffe’s outstanding leadership.”


“James Cliffe is completely committed and dedicated to giving our county’s most vulnerable children and young people the highest standards of care” said County Councillor Janet Sanderson, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for the Children and Young People’s Service. “He believes passionately in providing them with the best possible opportunities to achieve in life.  He is an inspirational role model for us all and we are proud and delighted that he has been so deservedly honoured this year.”


No Wrong Door was introduced just over three years ago to replace traditional council-run care homes. Instead, two hubs cover the county and combine residential care and fostering with on-site support from clinical psychologists who act as life coaches, from speech and language therapists and a supportive police role.


Each hub includes residential care home beds; emergency residential beds; community foster family placements; supported accommodation and supported lodgings and outreach support. 


The service has proved highly effective in breaking the traditional cycle of young people who enter care in their teenage years following a path of multiple fostering placements, insufficiently planned periods in residential care and placement breakdown and  who go on to engage in offending and risk-taking behaviour.