August is Holiday Month!
I managed to grab some time away in North Wales during August, but I still have plenty of High Sheriff news to share with you.
Tour of North Herts
Cllr Sam North, Chairman of North Herts Council, organised a full day of visits and meetings within the area, starting with a discussion of the challenges they face to get their young people to engage, especially when 1 in 4 children in Letchworth live below the poverty line.
A walk through the town took in the Best Before Café with its queues outside highlighting the plight of those in need of fresh food and supplies, before meeting Joe Heeney again at Resolve. Joining in with the discussion group, hearing their determination to beat their addictions and their support for one another, empathetically nurtured by the counsellors, was inspiring.
The team from Cocaine Anonymous in Royston showed how close fellowship and their 12 steps to recovery help drug addicts overcome what they described as “an obsession of the mind”. So much work to be done, especially in the prisons.
Baldock Manor is one of several secure NHS mental health units in the county, where 60 to 70% of inmates suffer addiction to drugs and alcohol, but a combination of psychiatry, psychology and nursing enables these vulnerable people to move on.
I cut my first ribbon at Growing People in Letchworth! Land at the Letchworth Centre of Healthy Living is used for projects to help all ages through outdoor horticulture. Ray of Garden Care at Standalone Farm supports those who have slipped through the net of society to work the land, to find friendship and to learn the benefits of a good diet.
DRUM in Watford is well known to High Sheriffs for their consistent success with offering numerous activities and outings for physically disabled adults in SW Herts. Sarah and her team provide daily sessions including art, music, dance and yoga, addressing mental health as well as physical needs, and helping the carers too.
The Citizens Advice Witness Service in Herts plays a vital role in helping witnesses through pre-trial, on the day support and then follow up care for the more vulnerable. All witnesses are eligible and looked after with support far exceeding the normally perceived cup of tea!
Paradise Wildlife Park
Lynn Whitnall and her family have made Paradise Wildlife Park a very special and important place in the Hertfordshire community, nationally and globally. Lynn personally has done huge amounts for charity, justly rewarded in July by being chosen to carry the Commonwealth Games baton for Mallory Franklin through the white water at Lee Valley last month.
Their wildlife conservation work is vital and their 20-year plan includes becoming known as Hertfordshire Zoo in 2024. I was delighted to present a High Sheriff’s certificate to the staff and volunteers.
Lynn’s three sons are well known on CBBC for their One Zoo Three programmes. Highlighting the amazing work undertaken at Paradise Park whilst drawing attention to the wildlife charities they partner with across the world to conserve and support rare and endangered species.
Driving the jeep under the dinosaur, seeing the lions and tigers, meeting the staff and volunteers and hearing about their plans for the future made it a wonderful day. Hertfordshire should be very proud of them!
August draws to a close
The East of England Probation Service in the county is extremely complicated, but Hilary Collyer explained her role as Head of Community Integration and Partnerships over a cup of coffee in the delightful café, Flower Power, in Stevenage. Returning to my focus on addiction to drugs and alcohol, I learned that 79% of probation cases involve substance misuse, with shocking mortality rates of age 45 for men and 38 for women amongst the most deprived. Collaboration with local support services play a key part in tackling these serious issues.
Back in July, I met Jane Shipley of ELSA Next Generation at the Mill Green Museum, where she was setting up the Mill Green Tearooms project with 20 young people in residential or foster care. What a delight to return to present them with certificates as recognition of their new skills, confidence and teamwork. They are trained by the team from Herts Catering and supported by the staff from the Virtual School, who ensure that children and young people in care can get the best possible education.
Kaotic Angels in Stevenage is more than a Bike Club! Comprised of veterans from the armed forces, police and fire service, their mantra is “Anyone, Anywhere, Anything”. During Covid they collected, delivered, distributed and transported – true Angels!
The Forward Trust empowers people to break the cycle of addiction or crime to move forwards with their lives. Hearing about their work in HMP The Mount prison, and the Wellbeing Wing, fitted in well with my focus on tackling addiction to drugs and alcohol this year.
Finally, a morning at the Coroner’s Court in Hatfield. The Chief Coroner and his team played an unenviable but essential role during the pandemic. The Coroner’s Court Support Service volunteers are there to support families at such a traumatic time and deserve huge recognition and thanks.
Another month of learning and discovery, acknowledgement and recognition, with so many examples of what makes Hertfordshire such a special county.