Recognising Paula’s Lifelong Service To The Community
When an envelope from the Cabinet Office arrived at the home of Paula Huddart (Roots) last November (2017), she was surprised! On opening it, when Paula discovered she was to be presented with an MBE for her services to the community of West Lothian, to say that she was shocked would be at best an understatement!
Paula is one of our Polmont Prison Visitors’ Centre Family Hub and Bus volunteers, and brings with her a wealth of experience and expert knowledge gained from the decades of her life she devoted to supporting people in the West Lothian area.
Having gained her BSc in Social Sciences at Southampton University at the age of 21, Paula took a position as a trainee Social Worker with West Lothian Local Authority. This marked the beginning of her remarkable career.
With the Certificate of Qualification in Social Work and having consolidated her working experience in generic social work, in 1990 Paula chose to specialise in working with Children and Families.
Early intervention became her passion and she led staff in collaborative working with other specialist teams in the area. She believed ‘When we work together we are better than the sum of our parts.’
She set up Home-Start in West Lothian and when manager of Sure Start her staff developed support for mothers experiencing the effects of Post Natal Depression (PND), referring some on to CrossReach’s PND service in Edinburgh.
She managed many specialist area teams including: Sure Start, Family Centres, the Children & Young People Parenting Team, the Health Improvement Team and the Social Work Addiction Team. She researched and consulted on related topics including government funded research into Mental Health Link Workers and gained a Master’s Degree for her research in 2006 through Dundee University.
Throughout her professional and academic success and recognition, her primary passion of promoting the wellbeing of the individuals and families she supported remained unchanged.
When asked about the highlight of her successful career she was quick to tell us it is that fact she continues to be in touch three of the boys she supported as a social worker.
“I’ve had the privilege of watching them become real contributors to society. One of them is currently training to become a social worker, one has a career in care and the other works for the police. Now with families of their own and as well-adjusted citizens, I believe everything I have done has been worthwhile even if I only made a difference to these three wonderful individuals.”
These ‘boys’ attended her retirement party, bringing with them happy memories of Paula in her ‘Blue VW Beetle’ for which she was well known ‘back in the day’!
On 20 March 2018, they accompanied Paula and her husband to Buckingham Palace, where she received her MBE. When reflecting on the day she said,
“It is still surreal and I keep asking ‘is this really me, because I just did my job!’ Today, I accepted this great honour on behalf of all the social workers and public servants who don’t get recognised.”
Paula has two children, a step daughter and a grandson.
In addition to the volunteer support she gives to CrossReach, she is an active Church member at Kirkliston Parish Church, is currently on the board of Home-Start West Lothian and of Sure Start Midlothian.