Helen, we are interested to know what made you want to be High Sheriff of Gloucestershire and what steps did you have to take to obtain the role and how has your life changed because of it? Also, what are your general duties and would you say it is a busy role?
“The office of High Sheriff is over 1,000 years old and is the oldest continuous secular Office under the Crown. Each county has a nomination process to identify suitable people and there no bar to someone becoming High Sheriff. It was a huge honour and privilege to be invited to serve the Gloucestershire and South Gloucestershire in the role. I have always been committed to supporting the voluntary sector.
The High Sheriff is the Queen’s for county matters relating to the Judiciary and law and order, supporting the judges, the Police, blue light services and the charity sector. They also support the Lord Lieutenant on Royal visits.
It is effectively a full- time role for 12 months although so many things, has been dramatically impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. It is usual to have a have a diary full of engagements. My diary has been full of Zoom meetings although I am now starting to make visits, initiated by me but I am very interested in engaging with organisations across the county, especially those supporting ACEs.”
When and where did you first here about the concept of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)?
“I was a Trustee of Gloucestershire Community Foundation and attended a presentation by Cheltenham Borough Council on No Child Left Behind. In my role as Warden of the Honourable Company of Gloucestershire, I was also initially involved with Child Friendly Gloucestershire.”
What made you want to choose ACEs as your area of focus for your time as High Sheriff?
“As I learned more about the impact ACEs, I realised that many of potential outcomes linked to what the Police and Judiciary are dealing with every day. I recognised that the work of Action on ACEs is aligned to crime prevention and supporting those at risk of or already in the criminal justice system, across the generations.”
How have you taken action so far?
“I have connected with a number of charities supporting young people and their families as part of the listening and learning. I am also in regular contact with the Police especially as the Constabulary is trauma informed. I am raising awareness and promoting volunteering to support young people. As the year progresses, I am formulating ideas on some potential longer-term initiatives. This will include both the raising of awareness and exploring opportunities for training, especially in the voluntary sector.”
Have you seen any examples of community connectivity and resilience?
“I have been overwhelmed by the how organisations have responded to the challenges of the pandemic. They have in a very short space of time adapted their services in response to fast changing needs of the beneficiaries in the midst of enormous pressure. It has also been good to have conversations with managers and youngsters alike to hear their experiences. I have been struck by 3 things: COMMUNITY; COMPASSION COLLABORATION.”
What would your advice be for other organisations and communities who want to take action on ACEs and be involved with Action on ACEs?
“This is a game-changer as to how society responds to all those who have suffered ACEs. The first question one should ask is, not what’s wrong with them but what has happened to them. If you understand that if you were that person, you would be behaving in exactly the same way. That approach brings in compassion, love and understanding, without judgment. Through forming a relationship with a trusted adult, it is possible to break these cycles of behaviour.”
What other plans do you have for your time as High Sheriff?
“Unfortunately, I have not been able to host any social events for those in the community, such as the Garden Party in Pittville Pump Room in June at which I would have liked to have connected, appreciate and recognise those making a difference.
I continue to connect with numerous organisations, especially in the voluntary sector, to learn about their work and also to thank them for the continuing work to support the community of Gloucestershire, especially during these extraordinary times.
I am in regular contact with Gloucestershire Constabulary, meeting with their officers and for example I am visiting schools in the Tewkesbury and Cotswold districts as part of the Schoolbeat programme.
I hope to host an event in the Spring in order to present High Sheriff’s Awards to those who have been making that difference, with a special focus on ACEs.”
For more information on the High Sheriff of Gloucestershire, see here