I want to focus on St George’s Police Children’s Trust (SGPCT) for this month’s Blog as in many respects, this month has marked the end of an era with the final reunion weekend for the St George’s Old Boys and Girls in Harrogate on 20-22 April. I suspect when I talk about the St George’s Old Boys and Girls, many of you will not know who I mean or even what “St George’s” once was. St George’s was the former Orphanage that provided a home for over 644 children between 1898-1956 from police families when either one or sometimes both of the parents had died, or was otherwise unable to look after the child or children. When the orphanage closed in 1956, the charity then evolved into the grant giving charity that exists today, providing a range of financial support measures to 300 children and young people currently supported through the charity. As well as being CEO of the PTC, I am also CEO of SGPCT.
The St George’s Old Boys and Girls, have been coming back to Harrogate every year since the closure of the Orphanage for reunions and meetings. When I first arrived at the PTC/SGPCT in 2014 and after attending my first reunion dinner as one of the guests, I concluded that we should put a marker in the diary to convene a last big reunion. Many of the St George’s Old Boys and Girls are now in their 80s and their 90s and it was clear that some of them were becoming increasingly frail and struggling to travel to Harrogate from around the country. I felt that the last planned reunion should be a big occasion to celebrate that period in their life and we should close that era with a dotted line whilst many of them were still fit enough to enjoy the occasion and to celebrate it. When I say close the occasion with a dotted line, I know that many of the St George’s Old Boys and Girls will continue to have informal gatherings at both happy occasions in life and of course the sad ones. I therefore thought it appropriate to have a big final formal special occasion in Harrogate, which this took place this month.
The first part of the weekend started with a dinner at the Majestic Hotel in Harrogate which was attended by 42 St George’s Old Boys and Girls and their partners. We were also honoured to be joined by Baroness Angela Harris, the Vice President of the PTC and SGPCT, Lord and Lady Mountgarret whose ancestor Viscountess Mountgarret opened the PTC building in 1903, Guy Fawkes whose ancestor has been Chair and President of the Orphanage for many years, Ann Jones the Mayor of Harrogate and Paul Bone whose daughter Fiona, a GMP Officer, was murdered on duty in Manchester in 2012.
On the Sunday, we welcomed the St George’s Old Boys and Girls back to the Harrogate Centre for coffee, cake, lunch and the unveiling of various commemorative plaques within the grounds. It was a fantastic weekend full of activities and memories and as ever, all of us who work at both the St Andrews Centre and for SGPCT, continue to be inspired by the St George’s Old Boys and Girls and their appetite and zest for life.
Whenever I speak at any conference, visit or deliver a brief about the PTC, I always make a point of mentioning SGPCT and encouraging police officers to donate to the charity and for our police partners to support us. The current donation rate is 35 pence a week (£18 each year) and it really is a tiny sum of money that brings fantastic financial benefits at a time when a police family have suffered bereavement or are having to deal with a medical retirement by their police parent. When I have discussed this with the St George’s Old Boys and Girls in the past, and indeed over the weekend, they are utterly amazed that any Police Officer would not wish to donate to such a fantastic charity. All of the St George’s Old Boys and Girls, attribute the care and support they received as children at St George’s Orphanage, as being instrumental in making them the people they are today and contributing to the happy successful lives that they have since led.
They do very much see SGPCT as the Orphanage’s modern equivalent in terms of a supportive safety net, and with one voice, encourage all of our constituent members from our various forces, to donate to the charity by way of benefitting their own children should something dreadful happen, but also to benefit the children of other colleagues.
It is always incredibly sad to hear about a death of one of our police colleagues and then also hear that they had not signed up to SGPCT, so can I implore you all to pass the word and encourage all your police colleagues to sign up to the charity to ensure that they are eligible for help should the unthinkable happen.
In other SGPCT news, I hope that many are aware that we rolled out a range of new benefits for our beneficiaries at the beginning of this 2018. I am pleased to say that we have now had our first request for support on this basis with one of our beneficiaries requesting the £1000 that we provide to help with driving lessons. This is great to hear, and although I would much prefer to have a situation where we never had any new beneficiaries, I know that this is unrealistic. Where we do have them, I am very keen for them to claim access to everything that SGPCT can offer.
On a final note about SGPCT, I am very pleased to say that we now have a new donor force in that the PSNI are buying in coverage for 1000 of their officers for the first year, with the intent of then allowing them to maintain this coverage themselves on an individual basis if they wish to continue in the future. The PSNI are already fantastic members of the PTC and they make big financial contributions to the PTC each year to support our work as a Force, through the Police Federation of Northern Ireland, and through the PSNI Benevolent Fund. We are delighted to welcome them into the fold of St George’s Police Children’s Trust as our newest donors.
That is it for this month, stay safe out there everyone.