August has continued with visits and meetings and I cannot believe that I have been in post for 5 months already!
I have had a catch up with the Police and Crime Commissioner, who is about to refresh his Crime Plan. Caroline Malcolm, one of the Police Chaplains based at Hertford, invited me to her Reflection Room to talk about how to better integrate the chaplains and how a skills audit might help them understand how they can best be of service. I met with Penny Williams DL to understand more about the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, and attended a meeting of the Interfaith Forum Working Group to plan a Hertfordshire Interfaith Event for early next year.
I spent an interesting hour with Emma Huntley of Hertfordshire Youth Justice. Emma is a Training and Employment worker, finding training courses and employment for young offenders. This is challenging, both because of the problems of obtaining places on courses and placements for young people with this history, but also because of the attitude of many of the young who still feel that drug dealing or carrying will be a better economic option to paid work.
I hope to join Emma and others in a new project in Hertfordshire to develop employment opportunities for ex-offenders and others who face barrier to employment. I have also been able to make introductions between the University and HMP The Mount and there are ideas for several areas of collaboration.
I have visited a number of charities and voluntary groups. At Emmaus’s Hill End Lane site, I learnt about their work with homeless people, and how the 39 who live in the community all work either recycling furniture or selling it in the shops, or to support the community in other ways. They aim to grow, with another residential property perhaps in North Herts and better contacts with business too.
I visited Grove House, run by Rennie Grove Hospice Care. There are no inpatients here and care is in the day centre or at home, through their hospice at home service. Their new pilot Rapid Personalised Care Service has been very effective in helping people move from hospital to home quickly. They also care for children and have a bereavement support service. They have plans for an exciting refurbishment.
I went to a wonderful performance of Aladdin by Herts Inclusive Theatre, in collaboration with North Herts Inclusive Arts. A group of young people had spent the week learning their lines, the songs, dances and all the staging and the final performance was a joyful affair showcasing talent and inclusivity.
I spent a day in the St Albans Crown Court sitting on the bench with His Honour Judge Michael Kay QC and had an informal lunch with him and the other judges. It is always a privilege to see how our legal process is implemented and facilitated by our experienced and knowledgeable judiciary, who guide our juries but play no part in their decision making. At the end of the day it was my pleasure to be joined by the Under Sheriff Richard Taylor, and present a Court Award to 95 year old Mrs Hall, nominated by Judge Wigin for her bravery in helping police catch fraudsters.
Youth Talk, based in St Albans, offers counselling to young people who must take responsibility in seeking help by self-referring. I met with David Barker, their new CEO, to hear about his plans to increase the service (they offer psychodynamic therapy) and to work with local schools.
At Earthworks in St Albans I met with staff and ‘Earthworkers’ and explored their large and well-kept site. This small, award-winning charity nurturs people with learning disabilities to reach their full potential through social and therapeutic horticulture and nature-based activities. This work encourages people of all abilities to develop skills, build confidence, boost health and wellbeing, and champion social inclusion and sustainability.
Essex and Herts Air Ambulance invited me to visit together with the Essex High Sheriff James Bettley. We met some of their very committed and enthusiastic team, and the crew of one of the helicopters. Only the Air Ambulance provides at-the-scene hospital standard critical care and they can also fly patients to the hospital with the correct facilities for a particular injury, thereby saving valuable time. They now carry and can give blood – a new initiative. Night cover is provided by road.
I was pleased to join Future Living’s ‘Disconnect to Connect’ project for the young of those supported by Future Living, which offers therapeutic services for addiction recovery and domestic abuse. This was a successful ‘mobile phone free’ project creating an outdoor sculpture and the young people enjoyed the opportunity to use power tools and learn about and assess risk. I am looking forward to seeing the final result!
The month ended with two wonderful occasions. I was privileged to join many guests at the unveiling and dedication of a memorial to Pilot Officer Peter Mildren at St Mary the Virgin, Westmill. Peter was a Battle of Britain pilot who died aged 21 and although the remaining members of his family who lived in Westmill are no longer alive, their wishes for a memorial have finally been granted through the hard work of local resident Nigel Leaney. The church was full, and as we stood in the churchyard after the service we were treated to a flypast from a Spitfire! A moving occasion as we remembered the many that died so young during both World Wars, and especially lovely for me to be invited to do the Bible reading as St Mary’s is my local church.
Finally, I spent the afternoon at Stand By Me’s ‘Remember Me’ tea party, where many bereaved children and families supported by the charity came to remember their loved ones and to have fun whilst supporting each other. We watched some doves being released, enjoyed a dance show and there was face painting, activities and games too. Spider the therapy dog joined in all the fun as well and it really was an afternoon of happy remembering.