Judith was stopped in her tracks on arrival at Newcastle station as she was greeted with flowers by the station manager who then offered to dance her to her train as the Bay City Roller hit song started up across the station’s loudspeakers.

Judith Hay at Newcastle railways station on her retirement day with colleagues Anna Rea and Julie Firth

Judith and her close band of fellow commuters who make the daily trip to work at county council HQ in Northallerton were then shepherded into a first class compartment on the TransPennine train and treated to cake and orange juice with a bottle of Prosecco thrown in for later.

Judith Hay was awarded an OBE in this year’s New Year’s Honours for her contribution to children’s services and has been a social worker for the past 36 years.

She took up her leadership post in North Yorkshire eight years ago, and commutes daily from her hometown Newcastle.

"Anna Rea, one of Judith’s fellow commuters got in touch with us on our Twitter channel with a lovely idea to make Judith's last journey with us extra special” said Louis Helm, Customer Engagement Manager at TransPennine Express.

“We got in touch with our colleagues from Virgin Trains East Coast and also our TPE colleagues in Newcastle. A final 'farewell' was arranged on the platform, and we upgraded Judith and her party to First Class to give her the send-off she deserved.”

Under Judith’s leadership North Yorkshire has become recognised as one of the top social work services in the country.

“Judith is completely committed, extremely dedicated to her work but also great fun” said Julie Firth North Yorkshire’s Partners in Practice manager.  Julie commutes with Judith and has been her colleague in children’s services in the region since 1999.  “This morning’s celebrations on the station were an entirely fitting tribute to a greatly loved, funny and highly respected colleague.”

During Judith’s leadership, North Yorkshire has become one of 6 exemplar children's services to become a Partner in Practice for the Department for Education.  The Council is now working alongside other authorities to share good practice and develop long-term and sustainable high performance in children’s services.

England’s chief social worker, Isabelle Trowler, has said that North Yorkshire stands out for its “passion, determination and focus in the support of vulnerable children, young people and their families”.

As many as 97 per cent of the county’s social workers have said they would recommend North Yorkshire as a good place to be a social worker and the county council’s vacancy rate is half the national average – 7 per cent rather than 14 per cent.   

“Judith has been an exemplary role model for all those who work in children’s services, never giving up on any child or young person, leading services which have been nationally applauded.” said County Councillor Janet Sanderson, North Yorkshire’s Executive Member for Children’s Services.  “We are proud of her achievements and the outstanding achievements of her team.”

Judith is succeeded by Martin Kelly, who received an OBE along with Judith this year.   Martin, who has been in social work for over 28 years and has worked for North Yorkshire for the past 14 years will continue the development of children’s services. He has played a leading role in the development of North Yorkshire’s No Wrong Door service which has been rated outstanding by Ofsted and has attracted the interest of nearly 40 other councils. 

No Wrong Door replaces traditional council-run care homes with hubs which combine residential care with fostering along with on-site support from clinical psychologists who act as life coaches, speech and language therapists and a supportive police role.

Judith, aged 57, intends to carry on working in children’s services across the country but in a part-time consultancy role.  She said: “I am hugely sad to be leaving North Yorkshire and all my colleagues who are an incredibly dedicated team.  Everyone is in it together in North Yorkshire to bring about improvements in our services for children and we are constantly supported by leadership at the very top of the council.   There will be lots of tears today.”

This story was published 9 March 2018