Tuesday, 8 November 2011

31 October to 4 November – a very full WI week

I attended four internal meetings, which took place at 104 New Kings Road, the NFWI head office, and Denman College, where even in early November the grounds are still idyllic and the Georgian mansion inviting. The online launch of the WI's own jams, pickles, biscuits and flour was discussed and it is anticipated that the website where you will be able to buy these products will go live in a few weeks time.

I accepted an invitation from the National Youth Agency to join them at their first National Youth Worker awards ceremony, which was held at the House of Commons. The stories of three outstanding nominees were told by three equally amazing young people who had been helped and completely inspired by them. All of the nominees were truly winners, with dedication above and beyond the call of duty marking the winners out as special. Testimonies given by these young people touched my heart and gave me hope for our future. Too much cannot be put on the good the vast majority of young people do. Unfortunately, "bad press" appears to be the norm these days – as backed up by polling from Barnardo’s that shows many people seem to be at risk of giving up on our children and young people altogether.

One scheme receiving particular attention at the ceremony was the RISE project – Respect Inspire Support Empower. Out of RISE and V24V24 (24 hours a week for 24 weeks) comes a project with St John Ambulance to teach young people first aid and immediate life saving actions. The project teaches basic first aid skills, helping young people save lives in areas where they are affected by knife and gun crime. Those who have already been trained are now teaching more young people. Such is the power of peer mentoring and mutual respect. http://www.nya.org.uk/examples-of-community-binding-youth-work

Later in the week I spent a few hours with youth workers and young mentors at the RISE office in Shadwell and heard of the excellent work that is going on there. I also saw the mock ups, in cardboard, of knifed arms and legs used for training purposes. They have also made short films which are well worth a watch. No doubt you will be able to see them on YouTube before long.

It was interesting to learn that on Thursday 3 November the Princess Royal hosted a reception at Buckingham Palace for young achievers. My new friends from RISE were all there, but I must have missed any newspaper articles about this event. I do hope there were some. These are inspiring stories that it is important to share.

Today I head off to the House of Lords to brief peers about the NFWI’s research on the impact of plans to reform Legal Aid. The Legal Aid, Punishment and Sentencing of Offenders Bill will reduce women’s access to justice, presenting obstacles for women trying to access legal aid after experiencing domestic violence. Last Monday, together with three victims of domestic violence, I spoke to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Domestic and Sexual Violence regarding the same issues. These damaging reforms are not yet agreed; further debate will take place when the Bill passes to the Lords later this month. You can read our report, Legal Aid is a Lifeline.