ONE of the driving forces behind the development of child safety and welfare in Scotland has stepped down after six years.
Under Anne Houston’s leadership, Edinburgh-based Children 1st has supported and contributed to public sector reform.
After qualifying in social work in 1980, Ms Houston began her career in Southampton before specialising in work with children and families.
She continued in the statutory and then voluntary sectors in Scotland and England, managing teams that worked with young offenders, children and families and those with mental health issues.
This made her well qualified to take up the role of counselling manager at Childline in 1990, where she progressed to become director of Childline Scotland four years later.
She led significant expansion of Childline and ensured the service “spoke with the voice of children and young people” to influence wider development of public policy and practice.
In 2007, she was appointed chief executive of Children 1st and played a key leadership role on a range of children’s issues and more widely in the charity sector.
Ms Houston also sat on the Scottish Government national awareness reference group on child protection and was a member of the national group for the Keeping Children Safe programme.
She is a member of the national taskforce on early years and the national partners’ arm of the Early Years Collaborative and is the vice-chairwoman of the Cattanach Trust, sitting on the board which judges Scotland’s annual legal awards.
A key area of development for Children 1st under her leadership has been creating partnerships and working with other organisations, including the Big Lottery-funded Dundee Early Intervention project, which connects the local authority and four children’s organisations.
Children 1st, based in Whitehouse Loan, was recently named as lead partner in five public social partnerships on early years around Scotland, while Ms Houston was shortlisted for public campaigner of the year in the politician of the year awards in 2013 and was a finalist in the 2014 Scottish charity awards.
Jim Eadie, MSP for Edinburgh Southern, tabled a motion in the Scottish Parliament congratulating Ms Houston after she stepped down from her role at Children 1st at the end of last month.
In a statement, he said: “Over the past three decades, Anne Houston has played a remarkable part in the promotion and development of safety and wellbeing for children and young people in Scotland. In doing so she has worked with various third sector organisations as well as the Scottish Government.
“I hope Anne will enjoy her retirement and I wish her successor Alison Todd every success as the new chief executive.”