September 2020 update

Early in September I met with two Hampshire city wide initiatives where it was heartening to hear about charities connecting together for the greater wellbeing of their cities. Both these groups have responded and risen to the great challenges that Covid has placed on all their various resources. It is fantastic to see how working together increases the common good! 

The first of these was Love Southampton 

I spoke with Paul Goodman, one of the founders of this church based movement, which began long before Covid was part of our experience, and has a history of working really well in partnership with the local city council. From addressing homelessness to running foodbanks, to a compassionate and diverse range of resources to help asylum seekers, Love Southampton is a visible outworking of their name… as Paul is quoted as saying on their website “Love Southampton is about the many ways we can all show love to others.” Sounds simple – but the expressions of that love are profound and impacting lives for then good.

The second of these city wide initiatives was Hive, Portsmouth

Catherine Ramsey with Revd Canon Bob White, Board Member & Scott – Apprentice.

The image of a Hive is a beautiful expression of the way this organisation works – a strong team of ‘busy bee’ volunteers, going out to serve the city, coming back to home base for training, resourcing, connecting and co-ordinating and accompanied by the most beautifully designed van! It is the hub of a remarkable partnership between the voluntary and community sector, NHS Portsmouth Clinical commissioning Group & Portsmouth City Council. Volunteers are linked with places of need, the Hive Directory gathers hundreds of local Portsmouth groups and organisations, from ‘Staying Safe’ to ‘Support for Families’ – all contributing to the safety and wellbeing of the city.  

Safe Families  is a UK wide charity, doing fantastic, innovative work across the UK and specifically in Southampton. It is one of the Early Intervention charities I am particularly supporting during my High Sheriff year and so it was great to catch up with Chris Allcock, Programme Director for Safe Families in Hampshire. The charity’s declaration is “No one should feel alone. We exist to create relationship and connection because everyone deserves to belong.” Safe Families train up volunteers, primarily from within the local church, and in partnership with Local Authorities and Community Groups, to support families to stay together and be strengthened through times of challenge. The impact is such that SF have demonstrated a decrease of the flow of children into care of between 9-16%.   This support has been particularly needed during lockdown and the ongoing COVID restrictions, and Safe Families in Southampton have risen to the challenge through food hampers and craft kits, video and phone calls, along with short periods of respite care when children cannot stay at home, in much the same way a good neighbour might step in when things are difficult. Since 2016 SF have supported over 200 families in Hampshire with over 450 children benefiting from support. 

The Enham Trust

Whilst not strictly within the remit of High Sheriffs given that the Enham Trust isn’t directly involved in ‘law and order’, I was delighted to join their innovative ‘coffee morning’ style event on 8th September. In brief, the Trust enables people with varying degrees of disability to ‘live, work & enjoy life to the full’! Listening to both those who work for the Trust, and to those who live in and benefit from the amazing residential homes, workplace settings, training, education and much more besides, the overriding sense was of a joyful, compassionate, purposeful community who all know how to work AND play together. If you haven’t come across the Enham Trust I urge to take a look at their website if you need to see something that will raise your spirits in these often depressing times. 

HMP Winchester  

I have been fortunate enough to enjoy two visits to Winchester Prison this month. 

The first was in fact to an area just outside the prison walls where I had the privilege of cutting a ribbon for the first time in my life, which I greatly enjoyed! This was to open a lovely Memorial Garden to be used by staff to find a place of peace and wellbeing during their working day. It is a testament to the value the prison leadership place on the mental health of their staff. The whole project creatively employed both staff and prisoners, and included lawn laying, planting and some fabulous artwork on the adjoining walls. With sunshine, live music and the encouragement to add to the art work it was a suitably festive event! 

On 29th September, #HiddenHeroes Day, an initiative of The Butler Trust, meant I returned to Winchester Prison, this time inside the walls, to present 9 awards to staff members who have exemplified ‘over and above’ service in their work in the prison. As I prepared at home, reading the citations for each staff member, I found it very emotional. There is something profound about women and men choosing to give fully of themselves in service to others who are most reviled by society – our prison population. In my address to the prison staff I said this – “Nicky Marfleet, the Governor of HMP Woodhill, uses  a phrase from forensics to describe the impact we have on each other –  “every contact leaves a trace”……What we are honouring today are people whose contact with others has left good traces – compassion, kindness, self-discipline,  justice, care, peace-making, creativity, hospitality, many more – all of which contribute to the well-being of all….and are all part of the gradual rehabilitation of those you are tasked to care for…and which also form a working environment in which you, as staff can thrive…”. Our prison staff truly are Hidden Heroes and yet the impact of their good working practice reverberates throughout the whole of society. To think that this prison was in special measures just 2 years ago, but through the leadership of the Governor Jim Bourke and the Deputy Governor Susie Richardson, supported by their staff, there has been transformation.  

I also had the joy, at this awards ceremony, of making a presentation to Governor Jim Bourke in honour of 25 years of service in Her Majesty’s Prisons.  In brief, Jim went from being a 24 year old window cleaner to a career that has seen him work in every type and category of prison in England, Wales and the Caribbean (where he restored prisoners to custody and order to the prisons after a hurricane!) as well as contributing to projects in HQ and rolling out the use of PAVA nationally. It is believed that Jim has governed more prisons in this country than any other serving operational Governor today. Jim’s wife Naomi was presented with a bouquet of flowers in recognition of the debt owed to her and indeed to every partner, family and friend of all the prison staff, and their role in supporting men and women in a stressful and demanding job. 

Hampshire Fire and Rescue Services  

I spent an incredibly informative, enjoyable and interesting time with the Chief Fire Officer Neil Odin and the Deputy Chief Fire Officer Steve Apter at The Hampshire Fire and rescue services base in Eastleigh.  Fireman Sam got a mention as a paradigm for what the general public might think they understand of the role of a Fire Officer. He is indeed a positive uniformed role model and I am so glad Fire Officers retain that good public image –  but I certainly admit to a lack of behind the scenes understanding or knowledge of the reality and expansiveness of the day to day job. It was so good to hear about all the preventative ongoing work – and the statistics which prove the efficacy of that. To learn also about the methods used – from 600 degrees to 60 degrees, if I remember correctly, using the piercing nozzle for example, left me much more educated and in awe of both the expertise and the courage of our Fire & Rescue Officers. 

My abiding memory was to see the Fire Officers performing an exercise – and in particular, the poignant image of one officer with wrists in cold water to bring their body temperature down – all that equipment, technology and expertise – but still women and men are people of flesh and blood who get affected profoundly, physically and psychologically, by what they do. 


Colden Common Young Carers and The Children’s Society  

Hampshire has every right to be proud of a now nationwide initiative which began in Winchester – over 20 years ago the particular plight of ‘young carers’ was recognised and so a work began to provide support for all children and young people who ‘care’ at home – for parents or siblings who suffer from chronic illness or disability, or from substance addiction or who live in setting of domestic abuse. Colden Common is one of many local Young Carers Charities that run across Hampshire, all supported by the ongoing research and development by The Children’s Society, under the umbrella of The Include Project, and crucially, in consultation always with the young carers themselves. Anne Marie Huxstep, Chair of the East Hampshire Magistrates bench introduced me to Helen Leadbetter, Operational Manager for the Include Project & Ruth Andoh-Baxter, Relationship Manager, both from The Children’s Society.  Helen staggered me with the amount of in-depth work and consulting she does on behalf of Young Carers – and helped me make the links between the work they do and law and order. Being a young carer can so often increase levels of vulnerability – making some of these children prey to ‘county lines’ recruitment, or indeed other illicit ways of providing for a family.     Ruth told me of a visit by The Children’s Society to one primary school to talk to the children present about being a young carer – 13 children subsequently were identified or self-identified as being young carers in need of understanding and support – a group who had hitherto been unrecognised. Hampshire is also home to an Annual Young Carers Festival, which takes place at YMCA Fairthorne  which sadly had to be cancelled this year due to COVID. It is hard to imagine the impact on all those 1600 young people who attend, where their voices get heard, and where they can put down heavy responsibilities for a short time, share experiences with other who understand, and simply have a quite brilliant and enjoyable time. 

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