Wales Care Award for pioneering Glyndŵr University professor

A woman who has spent 30 years helping children and young people get the best start in life has been honoured by Wales’ most prestigious care awards.

Professor Karen Graham played a key role is helping set up the ground-breaking childhood and family studies centre at Glyndŵr University in Wrexham.

At a glittering black tie presentation night at Cardiff City Hall for the 11th Wales Care Awards, run in conjunction with Care Forum Wales, Professor Graham, of Rossett, received the Peter Clarke Award for Pioneering Excellence in Services for Children and Young People.

The mother of two who was brought up on the Wirral, said: “I was hugely surprised, I had no idea I was going to receive the award.

“I work in the health and social care field and am constantly promoting anyone involved in care and support of people and I know the commitment this takes.

“Attending a presentation night like this you have the time to see and hear about the brilliant work of these people and you cannot help but be touched, so to be part of that was really something.”

Karen was appointed visiting professor to Glyndwr University in 2006 and worked with the university to develop the Centre for the Child, Family and Society from its foundation to the work it is involved in today. The £2m Centre was opened by Huw Lewis the current education Minister in 2010.

“Work at the Centre is focused on supporting developments in policy and practice related to the needs of the child, family and society,” said Karen.

“Through our work as a community of researchers, academics and practitioners our aim is to continually support local, national and international efforts to improve the wellbeing of children and families.”

“We work with numerous external partners on a range of diverse projects. A recent project involved the North East Wales Carers Information Service and the Prince’s Trust. Together we responded to the needs of carers in employment by writing and rolling out a Carer Friendly Employer Recognition Award launched last year by the Health Minister for Wales.

“This award encourages employers to take small steps that make a positive difference to carers in the workplace, often helping carers to remain employed and preventing them from sliding into poverty.

“For some organisations this support can be as simple as providing a telephone contact point in workplaces that do not ordinarily allow mobile phone use or allowing carers to set up support groups in their own lunchtime. We have been pleased to receive positive feedback about this award and about how it has helped some carers remain in employment.

“We have also contributed to the work of local health professionals to launch the Academy of Care Practitioners at the Senedd, a professional body providing advice, guidance and training and development opportunities for those in health care professions.”

Karen and Dr Debbie Roberts, Reader in Health at Glyndŵr University, are working on a project replicating a study by Harvard Medical School in America, examining the exposure of young children to technology.

They will interview professionals working with children and 50 parents of very young children in North Wales to talk about their use of technology.

Karen said: “we will explore the child’s exposure to technology and the impact exposure to and use of technology has on other activities a child may be involved in. For some children exposure to screen time and technology can negatively impact on their development. For example, constant background noise can interfere with development of speech.

“We intend to write a report to the Welsh Government in relation to the outcomes of the report and will carry out a comparative study to see how things differ between the USA and UK.

“We enjoy the opportunity to work with a broad community of professionals and academics working with children and families and have welcomed numerous international visitors to the Centre. We have been pleased to work collaboratively with international partners, for example, co-presenting on children’s rights at the Education Diplomacy conference with colleagues from Washington and Chicago.

“More widely, we have represented Wales at the World Forum Foundation, worked on the global World Forum Children’s Rights Committee, contributed to the work of partners in India on programmes in education and worked with international partners to promote: parenting initiatives, children’s rights, alleviating poverty, understanding of play and, with Dr Susan Linn of Harvard as a visiting professor at Glyndwr University, the use of IT.”

Karen is currently chairing a Review of Childcare and Early Education Registration, Regulation and Inspection for the Welsh Assembly Government.

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