I am very conscious that my blog and those of my guest authors tends to focus on the work of the Police Treatment Centres which takes up the bulk of my time, but I am also CEO of St George’s Police Children Trust (SGPCT) which is a second and separate police charity.
I must confess that although I always take the opportunity whenever I am briefing about the PTC to also talk about SGPCT, I still feel slightly guilty that I do not give SGPCT enough of my attention. This month’s blog therefore is an opportunity to do so, as it is a time of change for the Charity where we will be rolling out an expanded range of benefits for our beneficiaries.
SGPCT has its origins in the 19th Century when it started life as an orphanage for the children of police families where one or both parents had died. We still have the admission logs from this time on display in the PTC Harrogate building, and even though many of the entries are now decades old it is still emotional reading the stories that are described in meticulous copper plate handwriting in the ledger that brought the children to the refuge of the orphanage when a parent died. The orphanage has long since gone and was knocked down in the 1960s, and at this time the SGPCT expanded its remit to support the children of police officers who had died to include those children of police officers who had also been medically retired. Read more about the Charity's History.
We currently support almost 300 children and young people with a tremendous range of benefits that continue for young people in higher education, and all for a very modest donation that is literally pennies. The Charity is funded by both serving officer donations and through investments, and although the investments remain in a strong position, it has become clear in recent years that the income we received from serving officers was shrinking as the number of officers who donate was falling. I must confess that I have been surprised at this, police officers are generous people who are altruistic in nature and are happy to support others in need, but for some reason we have been losing more and more donors each year.
The Trustees identified that if we did not do something, we would face some difficult financial challenges for the Charity by 2019. The Trustees therefore decided this November that the donation rate for SGPCT would increase to £1.50 each month (35 pence each week) from January 2018, which would guarantee our work and the financial support that we are able to provide for the long term. This will be the first increase in the donation rate since 2011, and the Trustees and indeed I believe it to be a measured, reasonable and timely increase, and it will put us on a secure financial footing.
It is probably worthwhile explaining both the SGPCT eligibility criteria and indeed the range of benefits open to our beneficiaries once they qualify. First, in terms of eligibility we cover any children of a police officer who dies or is medically retired, and this applies to both on and off duty death and injuries. You will not be surprised to learn that we support some of the children of the high profile tragic deaths of police officers in recent years, but we also support many others who have been subject to other accidents, injuries or illnesses, no matter what their circumstances.
We also have a very broad definition of what constitutes an eligible child or young person, and this eligibility extends to not just biological children but also to adopted children and step children of current and former partners when we can establish a link from the officer to that child or young person. Once a child/young person comes onto our books they are eligible to receive a fantastic range of benefits which include an income assessed weekly payment for each eligible beneficiary of between £10 -£60, a new beneficiary payment, a seasonal gift and a Christmas gift, a special needs grant, the opportunity to apply for ex gratia grants, free use of the SGPCT house in Harrogate for one week each year, and a £500 payment each term for every term that young person is in higher education up to the age of 25.
Cognisant that we are increasing the weekly donation rate by a few pennies from January 2018, we have also improved the range of benefits available, which in addition to all those listed above will now include up to £1,000 available for each child to be used for counselling sessions, up to £1,000 to be used for driving lessons, and for the first time, we are now extending all these benefits to children/young people when the serving police officer’s partner dies as well.
All of these new benefits and the new donation rate will be rolled out from 1 January 2018, but in order to be eligible for them; individual officers must be paying the new donation rate. This is literally pennies that you would never miss, but through this tiny weekly donation, you would be helping to support the children of a police officer when one of their parents has died or been medically retired, and help to ease their passage through life’s choppy waters by helping to provide a significant level of financial support that would not otherwise be the case for the children of non-donors.
This is serious stuff everyone, please think very carefully about donating to this charity, if you are unlucky and the unthinkable happens, SGPCT will be there to help support your loved beneficiaries for possibly many years, if you are fortunate and sail through life unscathed, you will have the satisfaction of knowing that your tiny donation is helping to support the children of a colleague who has not been so fortunate.
If you do want to know more, please take a look at the SGPCT website, or ring us at the PTC.
One final piece of news to close on this month that relates to both the PTC and SGPCT is that I am delighted to announce that Baroness Angela Harris of Richmond is coming on board as the new Vice President of both the PTC and SGPCT. This is a real catch for us, as well as being superbly well qualified to support the PTC and SGPCT leadership team, and to influence and engage on our behalf, Baroness Harris is a long standing friend of the police service and has fought many battles on our behalf both in the House of Lords and much wider for many years. She has been a fearsome advocate for police officers and the tremendous work that they do, and the challenges and stresses that they face on a daily basis. Do look out for her when she is out and about, and do not be shy of telling her about your experiences with the PTC and SGPCT, both where we have done well, and where you might feel that we could have done better for you. Constructive criticism is always welcome, and I can assure you Baroness Harris will not be shy about expressing her views and giving us her ideas, which is exactly what we need her to do.
That is all for this month, stay safe wherever you are and whatever you are doing.