As restrictions have been slowly lifting I have been able to enjoy a blend of virtual and face to face encounters.
I had the great privilege of joining with members of the Hampshire Constabulary at their Netley headquarters to celebrate the distinguished career of ACC Dave Hardcastle with a surprise party for his retirement. ACC Hardcastle was awarded the Royal Victorian Order in 2019 for his work overseeing police operations for two royal weddings which gives just a glimpse of the high level of service he has given over the course of his long career. He poignantly spoke of being given a Ladybird book when he was a child, about helping people, which directly inspired him to join the police force. There was an impressive sense of ‘family’ as Chief Constable Olivia Pinkney along with the newest recruits joined together in honouring him.
Other face to face meetings included visiting two local Basingstoke charities both engaged in supporting vulnerable families and individuals. We were able to go for distanced walks as we chatted – they have each quickly and creatively adapted to the support they offer being virtual, along with the delivery of much needed food or other resources. Ayliffe Taylor runs The Safe – https://the-safe.org.uk/on-going-services/ which offers space and support to, amongst others, isolated Mums, families caring for young people with mental health challenges, and those suffering loss. HomeStart – https://homestart-nwhampshire.org.uk/family-group/ offers invaluable support to vulnerable families. Jools Anderson, the Scheme Manager, was very obviously someone who will always work hard to ensure ever better provision for those the charity serves. I was very impressed by the professionalism of Ayliffe and Jools, along with their genuine love for those they work with.
I also spoke with a most passionate and articulate proponent of Early Intervention, Tracey Taylor, the Children and Families Development Officer for Basingstoke and Dean Borough Council. I discovered that Tracey has an impressive knowledge of the network of those on the ground who, like her, are working to ensure that sustainable support can be provided to improve the long-term outcomes for children and their families.
In Winchester I met with members of the team and trustees at Friends of the Family http://www.fotfwinchester.org/. They provide well trained volunteer ‘friends’ for children aged 5-13yrs, group support facilitated by a psychotherapist to new mums, individual counselling and support for Dads. From ensuring all their volunteers are supervised and well supported, to having very well thought through ways working, everything I heard increased my respect for this charity.
Lisa Travers, Volunteer Recruitment & Marketing Co-ordinator; Sam Hunt 5s to 13s Befriending Manager; Karen Hazlit, Chair of Trustees; Viv Wheeler, Trustee.
During a time when Barnardos have reported a 44% increase in the numbers of children being referred to them for foster care, https://www.barnardos.org.uk/news/barnardos-declares-state-emergency-number-children-needing-foster-care-during-coronavirus each of these small charities are part of the Early Intervention landscape which enables, supports and resources families to remain together and to thrive despite adverse circumstances.
However, despite these and other excellent charities, many young people fall through the net, and for all sorts of reasons are in need of the services of Winchester Youth Counselling https://winchesteryouthcounselling.org/ I met with Nick Bell, their chair of trustees, who told me about the innovative ways they are meeting the needs of their service users. Alongside traditional face to face counselling, they are offering Nature Therapy Sessions in conjunction with the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust.
A snap shot of other contacts includes finding out more about the great charitable aims of our Hampshire Rotary Clubs https://winchester-rotary.org/ including much appreciated support for prisoners during Covid; hearing about the work of SAAFA https://www.ssafa.org.uk/hampshire and their link with HMP Winchester, supporting ex servicemen as they transition back into society; sitting in Portsmouth Crown Court for a Family Division case which increased my determination to promote Early Intervention; and many other rich conversations which have broadened my appreciation of the tapestry of extraordinary people and organisations who support the wide spectrum of judicial work in Hampshire.
I have also been introduced to a good number of other charities through people kindly contacting me and I look forward to talking with, visiting and reporting on these over the coming months.