Britain's ambassador to war-torn Ukraine has received a ‘Women of Distinction’ award from north London’s Jewish community for her work meeting refugee families and dodging Russian air strikes.

Dame Melinda Simmons was one of three women receiving awards from the Jewish Care charity.

But she wasn’t able to receive it in person, being in the war zone in Ukraine where she has been ambassador right through the Russian invasion.

The others receiving awards were Baroness Beeban Kidron, an advocate for children’s rights in the digital world, and Doreen Gainsford, who set up The 35s Women’s Campaign for Soviet Jewry group, which has been lobbying for human rights more than 40 years.

Dame Melinda was recognised for her work as UK Ambassador in Ukraine since 2019.

She sent a message by video, saying: “It’s been a time of unbelievable inspiration working alongside Ukrainians defending their country and caring for their people, a source of great pride in the embassy in Kiev and supported by people all over the world.

“It’s been a huge learning experience to be a woman leader at a time of war.”

Dame Melinda was born to Jewish parents in London’s East End, with Polish, Lithuanian and Ukrainian heritage. Her mother Sylvia Simmons accepted the award on her behalf, saying “the ambassador was out in the field” visiting Ukrainian civilians.

Jewish Care’s Adam Overlander-Kaye said: “We’re honoured to have Dame Melinda’s family here, as she is going out in the field to support the Ukrainian people living with war.”

Baroness Kidron, who received her award for her work on children’s rights, praised the charity’s care of the elderly.

She pointed out: “We have an aging population. Jewish Care is making sure that older people have the care and dignity they deserve.”

She was 30 years a film director and has become a world-leading advocate for digital regulation and accountability for the rights and needs of children.

Doreen Gainsford accepted her award on behalf of The 35s Women’s Campaign group, as one of the founders in the 1970s lobby to free Soviet 'refusenik' Anatoly Sharansky from a Soviet prison. Sharansky was one of many Jews refused visas to emigrate from the USSR who were imprisoned by the KGB. They became known as 'refuseniks'  in the Western press as part of a campaign for human rights in the former USSR.

The 180 guests at the awards in St John’s Wood Synagogue raised £71,000 for Jewish Care’s Sidney Corob care home in West Hampstead for people with long-term mental health needs.