Yvonne Crowhurst began work at Wirral Autistic Society (WAS) 28 years ago as a craft instructor, admitting that she knew nothing about autism, and worked her way up the career ladder in a range of roles.
The Care Trainer award looks for a person who has shown incredible enthusiasm and determination in identifying training and development needs of care staff, establishing rolling training programmes and proving their ability to enthuse and energise staff to attend and request training.
“It is thrilling and humbling to receive this award,” Crowhurst said. “Autism is such a unique condition that it requires autism specific support by unique people.
"It is my role and privilege to head a specialist team who train those people to be effective practitioners in the roles that shape and changes people’s lives positively. Many thanks to all who sponsored and supported the awards including the Department of Health and the judges who chose me. I will try my best to live up to the honour.”
Under Crowhurst's leadership, the four staff of the Autism Practice and Development department, which she founded 3 years ago, provide training, advice, individually tailored sessions and internal training conferences. All new recruits go through an intensive, autism-specific induction programme of 25 separate courses.
Staff are also encouraged to work towards social care qualifications. The training has proved so successful that the department constantly receives requests from local authorities and police forces for autism awareness training.
Jane Carolan, head of client services at WAS, added: "Yvonne is passionate about skilling up staff so they deliver the best possible support to the people with autism who are our clients. She has enthused staff to think creatively and have ambition for our clients. Training sessions have become more dynamic and interactive and staff engage and learn from these experiences.
"I'm immensely proud of what Yvonne has achieved. She is very modest; when you point out her successes she prefers to share them with her staff – but that team has a strong and committed leader and one who richly deserves the recognition of her peers."