My formal involvement with Edridge ended in August prompting me to record a few thoughts about the Fund and its work.
Twenty years ago my dear friend Janet Cocks was planning her retirement and asked me if I was interested in taking over from her as the branch Edridge rep. I was duly instated, but little did I know! Either about the fund, or how long my relationship with it would be.
Like too many people working in probation and family court services, I had only the haziest idea about what Edridge was and how it worked. Over the next 20 years I was to find out, as I saw first-hand how much the fund was needed and how the personal involvement of a rep can sometimes make a huge difference. The Edridge secretary at that time was Richard Martin, who I had known for years when we both worked in King’s Lynn. When a trustee vacancy occurred he prompted me to apply and I joined the trustees in 2006 and became chair in 2008.
I’ve worked with three Edridge secretaries. Firstly Richard Martin, whose contribution to and dedication to the Fund over 30 years was, and I think always will be, unsurpassed. His knowledge was incredible and it took every bit of the two years’ notice of his retirement to succession plan for the gap he would leave. However we used the opportunity to have a wholesale review of the structure and have moved to increasingly “online” working methods which has made savings and improved our response times. Most applicants have a decision – and a cheque if a grant is awarded – within days of sending an application into us.
We also thought it would be prudent to ensure our governance was as tight as possible. Richard’s successor, Karl Deakin, was a solicitor and ensured in the three years he was with us that this was achieved, including some important revisions to our Trust Deed. Our secretary now is Cherry Bushell, who has significant experience in the charity sector and who we know will be a great asset in areas such as communication and fund raising.
The staff and trustees have worked incredibly hard to ensure the Fund has moved with the times and kept its relevance. However some things, in my experience, have not changed:
- Not enough people are aware of the Fund’s existence and purpose
- Probation and family court staff are as vulnerable to illness, relationship breakdown, domestic violence, loss of income and tragic events, as any other group in society
- As caring and capable people, they/we often find it extremely difficult to ask for help (we are more used to giving it)
- Edridge staff, trustees and reps are a fantastic bunch of people
- The support Edridge gives is as vital now as it ever was
It is invidious to pick out individuals, but I must sing the praises of our staff, David Cox and Sarah Byatt, who ensure the show is always kept on the road, and whose sensitivity in dealing with people, often at times of crisis, is fantastic, and frequently commented on by applicants. An outstanding friend of the Fund is Kath Falcon at Chivalry Road, who never misses an opportunity to help us and provide support and advice. If I mentioned everyone who has helped us, this would go on for ages, but I can only stress that everyone who donates, signs up for 50/50, rattles a bucket at AGM, (or goes into those freezing seas), the dozens of fund raising events held, and the support of branches, is wonderful and absolutely critical if the work of the Fund is to continue at its current level.
The Trust Deed limits a trustee’s period of office to a maximum of two five-year terms, hence my departure. It is a good rule as it ensures that the Fund regularly recruits and benefits from an injection of new ideas and skills. I’ll finish by encouraging members to take up vacancies for branch reps, and trustee places, when they occur. Probation and family court work is all about people and Edridge is uniquely equipped and experienced at helping staff in those organisations when they need it most.