Or ‘Non-stop November’, as it turned out
1st November 2021: I had a fascinating tour of operations at West Mercia Police headquarters. My visit to Hindlip Hall, Worcester, offered a real insight into how the force which covers Shropshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire operates.
We spent time with the call handlers, observed dog handler training and met the team in the Business Operations Centre.
There was also the chance to meet new West Mercia Chief Constable Pippa Mills, who looks to be a great appointment. The former Essex Deputy Chief Constable replaces Anthony Bangham, who retired in the summer. She brings a wealth of experience, having held a range of roles within the Metropolitan Police before her leadership roles in Essex.
I was joined on the tour by the High Sheriff of Worcestershire Richard Amphlett and The High Sheriff of Herefordshire Jo Hilditch.
That evening at Hindlip, we made the presentations at West Mercia Police Young Good Citizen Awards 2021. It is fantastic to see such wonderful young people, who make such a positive contribution to life and their communities, receiving the recognition that they deserve.
1st November 2021: I attended a supporters’ event for The Children’s Society (TCS), at Shrewsbury Abbey.
The UK charity believes every child deserves a good childhood, so works to try to replace abuse, exploitation and neglect of children with hope and happiness.
Gill Dean, Community Relationship Manager for TCS, explained the charity’s work and looked backed over its 140-year history.
Rachel Brockie, also a Community Relationship Manager, presented the charity’s 10th Good Childhood Report.
An arm of TCS is Climb, launched last year thanks to funding from West Mercia Police & Crime Commissioner, John Campion. It supports children and young people aged 10 to 17 across Shropshire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire, helping young people at risk of being exploited, including into county lines drugs operations.
Climb’s Systems Change Practitioner Louis Hawker and volunteer co-ordinator Amanda Davidson, spoke about the organisation’s work.
The morning also saw Rev Deborah Walton commissioned as Diocesan Ambassador for TCS in the Shrewsbury Episcopal Area of the Diocese of Lichfield. The ceremony was conducted by Bishop of Shrewsbury, The Rt Rev Sarah Bullock, and TCS’ Church Partnerships Manager, Rev Mike Todd.
It was a thoroughly worthwhile and illuminating morning to highlight the work of a very important charity.
3rd November 2021: I had one of my regular meetings with Shropshire Council Chief executive Andy Begley, when we discussed a range of topics about the county.
3rd November 2021: Shropshire RCC (Rural Communities Charity) has changed its name as part of a rebrand. The new name – Community Resource – was unveiled at the charity’s AGM at Shrewsbury Colleges’ London Road campus.
I was delighted to be amongst the guests, who also included Shropshire’s Lord-Lieutenant Anna Turner, a Community Resource patron.
The organisation was formed just over 60 years ago to help local communities and has been particularly prominent during the pandemic.
Chief Executive of Community Resource, Julia Baron, says: “We have a long history in Shropshire and we want to be here for another 60 years and beyond. We know that in order to do that, as many people as possible need to know who we are, what we do and who we do it for.”
Community Resource’s services include offering advice to voluntary groups to help them meet needs in their local area, running social groups for those who are socially isolated and improving people’s work prospects through its Wheels2Work scheme.
In the past year it has also recruited and managed over 800 volunteers supporting Covid vaccination centres.
The charity is about to launch its annual Warmer Winter Appeal, which has given out over £79,000 to people in the county living in fuel poverty since 2011. It also manages a number of other grant schemes through its Shropshire Community Fund.
Chairman Hugh Strickland says: “We have been known by a number of different names over the years including the most recent, Shropshire RCC.
“Changing our name to Community Resource captures the breadth of our work and is the start of our exciting plans to grow and evolve as an organisation, while continuing our commitment to supporting people in this county.”
4th November 2021: My wife Clare and I attended the 50th Annual General Meeting and Luncheon of the High Sheriffs Association’ of England and Wales. Venue was Goldsmiths Hall in London and guest speaker was the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett of Maldon.
8th November 2021 I returned to TACT Telford, having been hugely impressed by my first visit in July.
The organisation, based in Wellington, helps people with drug, alcohol and mental health issues.
It was founded in 2012 by Robert Eyers, who himself had endured 20 years of addiction. During his recovery Rob became aware of the lack of support available in Shropshire.
The meeting was organised by trustee Tom Curry. I also met I centre manager, Mark Lynch.
The centre at Strickland House provides a really important drop-in centre for drug and alcohol users. The main aim of TACT is to help people in their recovery. This is achieved by improving health and wellbeing and empowering them to lead productive and fulfilling lives.
TACT has become a flagship locally and nationally for recognising and developing the talents of its service users through a range of discovery and recovery programmes.
It endeavours to provide activities for service users, including therapy sessions and gardening.
TACT works with Alcoholics Anonymous and Samaritans with the common theme of being good listeners. It also has links with the NHS and Calmer Café No 1 in Shrewsbury, run by Shropshire Mental Health Support.
There are between three and five sessions a week run with various educational establishments, including Shrewsbury Colleges Group, with students carrying out voluntary service.
TACT also works closely with groups like Shrewsbury Street Pastors, Bright Star Boxing and Maninplace, a not-for-profit community enterprise set up in 2006 to offer accommodation to homeless and rough sleepers in Telford & Wrekin.
We talked about ruthless drug gangs and the exploitation of vulnerable young people and children.
The main aim of TACT is to mentor those with drink or drug addictions, to find a way forward and, ideally, turn those who wish to into volunteers.
There was a consensus that many of the best volunteers are people who have been through the journey themselves.
It is invariably difficult for those coming out of prisons because these ex-service users are often returning to the communities they left, with the same peer pressure, temptations and exploitation.
TACT would also like to be able to establish a fund to enable former users to have a cushion of cash to start their new lives. In many cases, these parties have absolutely no money, no job nor any family network
To this end, TACT was recently given a £5,000 donation from, I believe, a family member of a former service user.
9th November 2021 I held one of my regular meetings with Chief Superintendent Paul Moxley, of Telford Police, when we discussed a range of subjects about local policing.
11 November 2021: It is a day for reflection of the lives lost – many so young – defending our freedom across the world. Today, Armistice Day, we honour those who made the ultimate sacrifice in two world wars and in conflicts since. Think too of the badly wounded, whose lives would never be the same again. And of the widows, and children grieving the loss of a beloved parent.
We salute the Royal British Legion as it celebrates its centenary, praise its work over the decades in supporting the wounded, and families of the fallen. And we marvel at the power of its annual Poppy Appeal to unite the country in a reflection on our common humanity. We must never forget.
11th November 2021: I attended the first session of a two-day series of tourism workshops at Theatre Severn in Shrewsbury. Dedicated to the new Destination Tourism Plan for Shropshire, it was organised by Andrea Fox of Shropshire Council and run by tourism consultants Katrina Kerr and Melanie Sensicle.
This is such a positive and proactive initiative, which I’m sure will bear fruit in terms of attracting more visitors to our county.
The 2-hour workshops were funded by the council with the aim of creating an ambitious destination management plan that will help grow the visitor economy of Shropshire, for both the visitors and those who live and work here.
Promoting tourism as a way of repairing Shropshire’s economy after the lockdowns and restrictions of 2020 and the first half of 2021, is one of the main focuses of my year in office and I’m delighted to support such a great initiative as these workshops.
11:th November 2021 I met a quite exceptional young woman, Tina Talbot, and three of her children, Oliver, Bella and Libby, today.
Tina, who work nights in a care home, and husband Glen, a delivery driver, also have two-year-old twins.
Their lives are full on, to put it mildly. But they also make the time to think of others.
When the twins arrived, the couple needed to declutter their house. Oliver, who is now aged 6, clearly has a heart of gold. He suggested that his teddy bears be converted into clothes for Afghan refugees. He had been upset by the images of the hardships of children in Afghanistan on the television.
They then started to make clothing out of other materials as the idea gathered pace.
Tina, an accomplished seamstress, makes the clothes with some of the cutting done by Oliver and his two sisters.
They have already provided 100 garments to Afghan refugees through Telford Interfaith Group.
I wish them every success with this inspiring effort and also with Tina’s small clothes-making business Libovella.
I met the family on a visit to Park Lane Centre, Woodside, Telford where I was hosted by its manager, Jacqui Idiens. Park Lane Centre won a prize at the recent Shropshire’s Outstanding Communities awards and I’m not surprised. The Centre is a real hub of the community and a hive of activity, a credit to Jacqui and her team.
12th November 2021: Clare and I attended a meeting at Shrewsbury School to make arrangements for my High Sheriff’s Legal Service in March, when I draw towards the end of my year in office.
12th November 2021 I was delighted to attend the online AGM of Shropshire Youth Association (SYA), which marked another successful year in helping the young people of our county.
Thanks were expressed to staff and volunteers for getting youth clubs going again after the stops and starts of lockdowns and restrictions. It was clear that young people had been desperate to get back to the activities offered by clubs and organisations supported by SYA. Just as important, personal contact was maintained with very vulnerable young people.
SYA was on the frontline of the Covid response too, helping with testing and the vaccination rollout, with staff travelling miles and putting in extra hours. They helped to recruit more than 1,000 volunteers for the vaccination centres, as well as running some of the lateral flow testing centres.
Staff also helped to distribute food parcels to families in Telford.
The meeting heard that the biggest challenge, as we try to emerge from the pandemic, is to support youth clubs across the county to open, or re-open. In December 2020 the number of clubs planning to re-open had dropped from 124 to 77, a 38 per cent reduction.
Since the end of the Spring term 2021, thanks to a determined effort from the SYA team, 98 clubs are now open, a reduction of 21 per cent on the pre-pandemic level.
As we move towards 2022, SYA will continue to support clubs to open, whether they are clubs that closed or new ones, to ensure that the support, opportunities and life-changing interventions that youth workers deliver will continue.
We need to thank all the wonderful youth workers and committee members, both paid and voluntary, for their commitment and enthusiasm in enriching the lives of young people in Shropshire. Please keep up the great work.
14th November 2021: Today we reflect on the sacrifices made by others to preserve our liberty and way of life. This year’s Remembrance Sunday has never seemed more relevant, with the dead and wounded of the 20-year War in Afghanistan brought sharply into focus by our final troop withdrawal. Covid, too, has given us all pause to reflect on our mortality, on the fragility of life.
In the morning there was a fantastic turnout of about 200 people of all ages at the Remembrance Day Parade in Newport, when I had the honour of laying a wreath at the War Memorial.
The service was led by the Rector of St Nicholas Church, Rev Merry Smith and the main organiser was Ann Whitfield, organiser of Newport and District Royal British Legion Poppy appeal.
I met the Mayor of Newport, Lyn Fowler, amongst many others.
In the evening, I attended the Festival of Remembrance at The Place Telford. The event, which was so meaningful, was organised by Telford & Wrekin Council in association with Royal British Legion and Telford Christians Together.
There was a parade of standards and 100 names were read from the Roll of Honour. There was music from the Abraham Darby Showband.
15th November 2021: Clare and I visited Landau Ltd at its Wellington training centre and met with Sonia Roberts and Pip Long.
Landau is a supported employment and training charity that transforms over 800 lives a year across the West Midlands by providing routes to employment, access to learning, social enterprise help and support for personal growth.
Every day, people face difficult circumstances, they battle with bereavement, breakdowns, poverty, mental health, childcare responsibilities, illness, lack of confidence and learning barriers that prevent them from engaging in employment or education. Landau brings them help through intensive support plans, accredited and non-accredited learning, voluntary/employment placements and Individual Placement Support (IPS).
Sonia Roberts has created a most wonderful and much needed service. Part of her aim is to provide education, skills training and employment advice to young people who would ordinarily have struggled in normal school. Many of these people not only come from disadvantaged backgrounds but often have some form of learning difficulty. In almost every case, they would not fit into a conventional school.
Almost all the young people we saw had a lack of self-esteem.
The focus is to provide core teaching in maths and English and also to provide work placement for these young people.
The aim is for the young people to be with Landau for two to three years.
At present, they have about 60 young people in Wellington but are about to move into new premises in the town in which they will be able to take their student numbers up to 200. We were shown the new facility which is opposite the church in the old Barclays Bank building. It will provide an absolutely excellent base for young people, not only to drop into but as an educational facility. The whole building is extremely large and is laid out on three floors with a large basement.
The building is being refurbished by the landlord and then subsequently will run on a commercial basis.
We were introduced to two young people.
Alisha is a first-year student who likes drama. With the encouragement of the teaching staff, she is writing her own play entitled Chasing a Dream. This will be performed in front of the other students and may also be performed at the market stall that Landau has in Wellington.
Fletcher has produced a wonderful Christmas card which Landau intends to send out as its Christmas card.
The Landau Covenant aims to encourage up to 40 firms to sign up to provide support. Landau also works with the Armed Forces Covenant, particularly on mental health issues.The children coming to Landau will often come from unsafe houses, from broken homes or from homes where parents are unemployed. Landau deservedly won a Queen’s Award earlier this year for its work.
15th November 2021: I visited the offices of Telford & Wrekin CVS (Council for Voluntary Service) in Telford Town Centre. I met Chief Executive Debbie Gibbons and Lucie Roberjot, Family Carers (Transitions and Independence) officer, at the not-for-profit organisation.
Its aims are to offer inspiration, leadership and support to help grow a Voluntary and Community Sector to which citizens can contribute and from which all benefit, across every age range. It also collaborates with local communities to deliver services to meet their needs, in particular for people who may be vulnerable.
The organisation provides support for 5,000 carers in the Telford & Wrekin area and won a Queen’s Award for its efforts a few years ago.
CVS has taken up a large new space in its offices in Hazeldine Court to provide a youth club for 15-year-olds. There is also a community cafe in Madeley and CVS also provides educational support in schools to help parents.
The funding comes from a number of sources including Telford & Wrekin Council, The National Lottery, BBC’s Children in Need, local businesses and groups like Rotary and Lions and Telford shopping centre.
There are two full time employees, just under 30 part-time staff and 18 volunteers.
CVS helps to provide an independent living centre in Telford for all ages at Hazeldine Court and works alongside the charity Age UK for over 65s.
They provided iPads to help families make contact with loved ones in care during lockdowns and restrictions.
This is a fantastic organisation, carrying out wonderful work to help make Telford & Wrekin a better place to live in.
16th November 2021: I attended a Shropshire Korean War veterans’ event at Shrewsbury Castle.
The Shropshire Korean War Veterans Association was disbanded in 2015. At the time the castle’s military museum did not have room to accommodate its Standard so it has been sitting in a cupboard in the Dawley RBL branch. Local Korean War veterans have expressed their disappointment at not having the Standard on view for them and their families.
There are now plans to display the Standard among the museum’s very extensive display of The King’s Shropshire Light Infantry (KSLI) memorabilia going back through the centuries. A Korean War project is also in the pipeline. Today’s event was to mark bringing the Standard to the museum, where it was formally presented to Lord Lieutenant Anna Turner.
There were a number of veterans of the Korean War (1950-53) present.
I know from first hand, from my uncle Jack Morris-Eyton who served in Korea, that it was a pretty wretched war in terrible conditions. Indeed, many of the soldiers felt that they had been largely forgotten. It is important to recognise the valour of those brave soldiers, whether still with us or not. In so many remembrance services, the Korean War is not commemorated and we should change that.
18th November 2021: A Shropshire family, who lost a loved one to alcohol addiction, launched an emotional video to raise awareness during Alcohol Awareness Week.
I used my social media platform today to wish the Maybury family great success in raising awareness of alcoholism among young people with the launch of a new video, Wish You Could Have Stayed.
Mother and son, Sally and Henry Maybury, had been travelling around the UK visiting schools, prisons and rehab centres when the pandemic struck and their work completely stopped. So, they decided to raise funds to create a documentary style educational video which focuses on the story of Tom, Sally’s son and Henry’s eldest brother, who died aged 29 after gradually slipping into alcoholism.
It has been produced by the internationally renowned Casual Films and Sally and Henry are now planning to get the video into as many schools as possible across the country with the hope of getting it on the national curriculum.
Henry Maybury is a talented musician and his songs, Lost Days and Every Night and Day, are part of the project to raise awareness. Sally and Henry are particularly keen to target schools and universities, believing 12-to-20-year-olds are at greatest potential risk from life and peer pressures.
I wish them enormous success with their magnificent effort.
NOV PIC 6: Pictured with Sally and Henry.
19th November 2021: I was privileged to be one of two guest speakers at the 72nd AGM of SALC (Shropshire Association of Local Councils). The other guest speaker at the online meeting was Councillor Sue Baxter, chairman of the National Association of Local Councils.
SALC, based at Shirehall in Shrewsbury, is there to provide support for the county’s 180 local councils.
I spoke about my determination to champion Shropshire as we all try to rebuild a society damaged by the pandemic. I highlighted the challenges to physical and mental health, as well as our economic welfare.
We are all privileged to live in Shropshire, a beautiful county, largely unknown to many outside it but, as with most places, not without its problems.
As High Sheriff, I am here to help the whole community, not just the great and good but also those who need help or have been left behind.
I’m trying to promote as many charities as I can and shine a light on Shropshire’s unsung heroes.
A sense of community and being a part of it, has never been more important.
We all benefit from a community spirit. Local councils, such as those represented by SALC, are often at the forefront of building that spirit and are vital to make those communities work.
19th November 2021: I was delighted to be a guest at Shrewsbury Town in the Community (STitC) annual Gala Dinner.
Supporters and partners gathered to celebrate the work of STitC staff and the amazing journeys of their participants. Numerous case studies were highlighted to demonstrate the work of this superb charity, made possible by great relationships with local businesses.
The black-tie event, which included a three-course meal and live entertainment, was compered by Sky Sports presenter, Michelle Owen, who hails from Newtown in Mid Wales and used to play football for Shrewsbury Town Girls.
With a live auction and many fun games, the event raised £16,000 for Shrewsbury Town in the Community.
The money will be reinvested back into STitC projects, aimed at improving the lives of many people across Shropshire.
STitC aims to build stronger and safer communities, provide better life chances and improve health and wellbeing of its participants.
To see the wonderful affects STitC has on its community, here is the link to the 2020/21 annual review (https://bit.ly/3DsZemT).
22nd November 2021: I had the pleasure of opening the new ‘Little Library’, set up in a redundant bus shelter close to the vibrant, younger community of The Humbers, in the parish of Lilleshall and Donnington.
It is the brainchild of Connor Furnival, the Clerk and Responsible Finance Officer for Lilleshall Parish Council. Local graffiti artist Rick Shaw has created a most wonderful mural with Lilleshall Hill in the background. A councillor, and former woodworker, created two shelves.
I performed the opening jointly with local Telford & Wrekin Council member Andrew Eade.
The library is mainly aimed at children, so it was lovely that youngsters from Bears Den Pre-School attended the ceremony. Also present were local councillors Dave Shaw, David Cornes, Pam Millard, Andrew Baker, Peter Challinor and Linda Parker.
22nd November 2021: I attended the AGM and Awards Evening for Lingen Davies Cancer Fund in Shrewsbury.
Like all charities, Lingen Davies has had to bounce back from the impact of Covid on its fundraising activities. Third party fundraising is now growing and events are planned for 2022 after two years of lockdowns and restrictions.
Three new clinic rooms, which form part of Lingen Davies’ current appeal, will be available in the New Year. The charity is now focusing on its final push to deliver a new CT scanner.
Award winners were:
Volunteer of the year: Doreen Owen.
London Marathon runners: Tom Langrick, Ben Partridge, Matthew Arthan, Sarah Stevens, Mike Arthan, Helen Ferneyhough, Dan Butler, Mark Middleton, Claire Lennox, Darren Fear and Indre Meskauskaite.
Business supporter of the year: Cotteswold Dairy.
Challenge event joint winners: Gordon Brooks and Phil Jones.
Star of Recognition: Pearl Rowland Jones and Andrew Hutchison.
Community fundraisers: Ron and Dianne Morgan.
The Eryl Williams award: Mark Harris
Professional Engagement award: Angela Cooper.
NOV PIC 10 & 11: Volunteer of the year, Doreen Owen. Some of the charity’s London Marathon runners.
It was extremely well attended with the congregation including the Lord Lieutenant Anna Turner, the former Lord Lieutenant Sir Algernon Heber-Percy and a number of past High Sheriffs. The celebration had been organised by Steve Jones who runs Shrewsbury Street Pastors.
We were welcomed by the Reverend Chris Walker and an address was given by The Right Reverend Sarah Bullock, Bishop of Shrewsbury.
There were a number of talks by Street Pastors. These included Chairman of Trustees Pete Lawton, and Lee Sharp, who recounted his journey as a Street Pastor. Team leader Ian Horne gave a personal reflection and Street Pastor Jack Harper described how they had helped somebody who had been trying to commit suicide at English Bridge.
Jules Taylor read the very apt parable of The Good Samaritan.
There was a fantastic performance by Rock Choir Shrewsbury, Telford and Bridgnorth, with around 40 voices. Amongst other songs, they sang Bridge Over Troubled Water, which seemed particularly poignant.
The phrase “unsung heroes” has been used regularly during my year in office but Shrewsbury Street Pastors truly fit the description. Few are as selfless and caring for others as the Street Pastor organisation, their passion underpinned by a Christian ethos.
The Street Pastors patrol every weekend, often on more than one night a week, and provide an invaluable service for both those in distress, and also the police. They help a combination of the homeless, providing them with comfort, and also young people who have often, for various reasons, found themselves in a distressed state. Clare and I have seen their work at first hand, having gone out on patrol with them. They work closely with The Shrewsbury Ark, another superb charity which works so hard to help rough sleepers in the town.
In the past 10 years, river deaths in the Severn have dropped substantially, partly due to the discreet monitoring of the Street Pastors.
26th November 2021: Today I highlighted a fantastic project aimed at planting thousands of new trees across Shropshire to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee 2022.
The Shropshire Lieutenancy and Shropshire Council are supporting Queen’s Green Canopy, a unique tree planting initiative to create a lasting legacy in honour of the Queen’s leadership of the nation over the last 70 years.
The goal is to see as many communities, charities, schools, youth groups, councils and landowners as possible across Shropshire planting trees from now through to the end of the jubilee year in 2022.
This could be individuals planting trees in their garden, businesses planting on their land and creating projects with employees, and community projects for youth groups, parish councils, residents’ associations and other organisations.
What about a platinum jubilee avenue of medium-sized or large trees on farms or perhaps a platinum school tree? In fact, all schools are encouraged to actively engage with the project.
Each project will be marked by a special commemorative plaque or a virtual pin and will be uploaded onto a map. The Queen will receive the map of all the projects planted in Her Majesty’s name as a gift from the Nation. Visit https://queensgreencanopy.org/ for more information.
24th November 2021: I very much enjoyed attending Shrewsbury Drapers Company’s annual Textile Design Competition Exhibition at St Mary’s Church, Shrewsbury.
The was a super array of work on show, all around a ‘Rain Forest’ theme. This year saw the addition of a Graphic Textile Award., as well as the traditional awards for adult and young designers.
This competition is a lovely addition to Shropshire’s cultural calendar and the exhibition truly shows off just how much artistic talent there is in our county.
25th November 2021: I was delighted to officially open the new offices of New Chapters Foster Care, at Upton Magna, near Shrewsbury.
Foster parents provide an invaluable service and are another sector of society’s unsung heroes. They provide the kind of family support network that the children don’t get in their own homes and struggle to find in the care system.
Family is so important to a stable, happy life.
New Chapters was launched in 2015 and its team has worked tirelessly to provide family homes for very vulnerable and traumatised children.
Most of the children in the foster care system come with issues, often from severely dysfunctional homes with mental challenges. Many have been sexually abused, often by a family member whom they had trusted.
I’ve seen at first hand that once children enter into care homes, any link with their family is often broken irrevocably. Once children leave care homes as young adults, they do not have a family network and, in that regard, are very much alone.
Whilst there are strict guidelines, foster carers can provide a stable home. They can provide that rock for these children that would otherwise be missing.
One of New Chapters’ recruitment slogans is “local carers for local children”. This reflects the importance of children having safe families to live with, but still in an area they are familiar with, enabling them to maintain safe contact with their birth family.
Children who enter the care system have experienced trauma, abuse, loss and rejection and the work of rebuilding trust, self-esteem, confidence and self-belief starts from day one.
Relationships are at the core of everything that New Chapters does – the relationship between child and carer, between carer and their supervising social worker and between the agency and other support professionals.
Being a foster carer is a huge undertaking and presents many challenges but these are nothing compared to the sense of achievement when you see the difference you make to a child’s life.
29th November 2021 I had the pleasure of switching on the Christmas Lights for the parish of Rodington last night. More than 100 people, of all ages, were there for the event – there is clearly a great community spirit in the villages of Rodington and Longdon-on-Tern.
Pupils from St Lucia’s Primary School at Upton Magna led us all in singing carols.
30th November 2021 The stabbing to death of 12-year-old Ava White – out with friends enjoying the Christmas Lights switch-on in Liverpool – is deeply upsetting.
Ava is not the first young person to die on the streets of the UK at the point of a knife. In fact, 40 children and teenagers have died this year alone in such a fashion. We must all do everything in our power to put an end to this heart-breaking loss of life.
Ending the culture of carrying knives on the streets must be a priority and the main route to that is via education.
So, I was particularly heartened to hear about Steer Clear when I visited Monkmoor Police Station in Shrewsbury. The Steer Clear Programme is aimed at under 18s who are believed to be on the periphery of knife-related crime and the aims are to safeguard them and prevent future tragedies.
I was talked through the scheme by Constable Becky McLean, Constable Jess Hindley, and Sergeant Chris Haslam, of the police’s Shropshire Problem Solving Hub.
Becky has managed to secured £1,000 funding from West Mercia Police and Crime Commissioner John Campion, for Steer Clear.
The programme addresses the growing concern about the rising number of children who routinely take a knife from their parents’ kitchen and simply carry it around.
There are also examples of people turning harmless everyday objects into weapons, such as half a pair of tweezers and the blade from a pencil sharpener.
Steer Clear is intervention project that aims to prevent young people becoming criminals by carrying knife – a lethal weapon. Sentences can range up to life imprisonment, with tough tariffs.
Last year, the age of victims ranged from 14 to 89. Now we have Ava, aged just 12.
West Mercia Police ran a week-long weapons amnesty recently in which over 300 knives and blades were handed in.
Steer Clear has also linked up with Shrewsbury Town in the Community, holding small workshops every month primarily for parents and children.
Guest speakers at the first workshop included Tim Allin from the Shropshire Stay True project and Stuart Cook from Bright Star boxing, both local organisations set up to help with mentoring young people.
Also present was an innocent young victim of a serious stabbing, who attended with his family, to show the stark reality of knife crime with a distressing story of how his life changed forever in 30 seconds.
Volunteers from the NHS gave a great input on how to give first aid to a victim with stab wounds using easily found items, such as clothing and shoe laces, and potentially save a life.
These workshops are a real team effort and all involved are to be thanked. And yet again Shrewsbury Town in the Community is demonstrating that there is much more to this club than football.
Sgt Haslam assures us that serious knife-related crime is rare in Shropshire. We can be thankful, again, that we live in such a wonderful county. However, given the relatively easy availability of knives, we shouldn’t be complacent!