Letters - Tuesday, April 13, 2021
I was proud to work with Duke on Award
With the sad death of Prince Philip, I was recalling with some pleasure of my invitation from the Duke of Edinburgh Award office to present the Gold Awards at St James’ Palace on behalf of the Duke of Edinburgh.
As Blackpool Principal Youth Officer, I was the local agent and promoter of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and thereby in regular touch with the Award Office in Windsor.
When the day arrived, I made my way to the VIP entrance at the Palace and my guide took me to meet the other selected presenters. I was stunned to be introduced to Glen Hoddle, Bernard Cribbins and Eamonn Holmes, and we chatted about what was to be expected for the day. At the designated time we were escorted to our respective rooms and to my surprise, my room was the Throne Room at the Palace, ready filled with young people and their allowed one family member or supporter.
When the door opened the Prince with Award officers and under the watchful eye of Holbein’s King Henry VIII huge portrait he walked the full length of the room directly towards me shook my hand, briefly chatted and thanked me for presenting the Awards and immediately proceeded to move to talk with the 25 young Award winners which he did in the happy animated way he was with young people.
In those moments I felt the great honour I had been given and for the next hour I stood on the staging just in front of the Throne where I chatted with and presented each recipient with their certificates and badges or broach. Meanwhile the Prince had moved on without ceremony to the other rooms and presenters.
Some months later with my wife I attended a Buckingham Palace garden party with Coun Allan Matthews and his wife when we met Prince Edward as he took over some responsibilities for the Award from his father.
Many hundreds probably thousands of young people from the Fylde area will have progressed through the various parts of the Award and on their behalf let us thank the Duke of Edinburgh for what he has done to bring the benefits of the Award into their lives. I ask them today and many being grown-ups, to take out their badge or broach, bronze, silver, or gold, give it a rub and remember with pleasure their link to The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh at this sad time.
Former Blackpool Principal Youth Officer
Support youth centres instead
Are we right to be putting an extra £1.1m into the Armed Forces cadet units in English schools after a decade of cuts to other youth services?
The Government has already ploughed more than £50m into creating new school cadet forces since 2016.
However, youth services across Britain were cut by over £400m between 2010 and 2019.
The new £1.1m for extra staffing in the existing cadet units is the latest example of everyday militarism in Britain.
Recent militaristic government policies include a 44 per cent increase in the upper limit on the number of nuclear warheads and the biggest percentage increase in military spending since the Korean war.
It is disappointing to see this distorted allocation of funding when there are ongoing and overwhelming calls from parents and
carers, unions, local groups, as well as young people themselves, to invest in wellbeing and mental health services.
Cadet forces have no place in schools and are certainly not the only agency capable of enabling the development of personal responsibility, leadership and self-discipline.
Students learn resilience, leadership, and working as part of a team through dance classes, sports, theatre groups or critical thinking classes and activities.
It’s the Government which benefits from a youth more receptive to military recruitment.
Students would benefit more from support for the youth centres and activities they love which have been consistently de-funded over the last decade.
A tale of two pandemics
Here in the UK it’s been a tale of two pandemics, showing the good, and the not so good, sides of British life during the Covid-19 crisis.
The eye-watering expensive and failed Track and Trace System contrasts markedly with the excellent vaccine programme.
The first revealed the failings of the expensive private contractors whilst the latter highlights our wonderful NHS supported by other services and community volunteers.
In the use of public money, huge contracts were handed over to mates of top Conservatives, delivering ‘dodgy’ PPE in return for millions of pounds of our cash.
In stark contrast, NHS staff and other key workers in both the public and private sector go unrewarded, at least in Boris Johnson’s England.
In its handling of the pandemic, the Government’s consistency has been sadly lacking with over 70 changes in rules creating a stop-go response made worse by a cavalier attitude to upholding the law and balancing public freedoms with personal responsibilities.
Meanwhile the excellent team of international scientists, researchers and medics have laboured tirelessly to produce a vaccine in record time which offers the hope of emerging from the pandemic.
For our Prime Minister, it was ‘greed and capitalism’ which he held high as the driving force for managing the pandemic.
He was wrong, it was the great British public working in partnership and with dedication that is helping to lead the country out of the dark times we have experience.
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