I wanted to do this job because through my work I had seen first-hand the devastating effects of crime and, from the outset, I understood that Police and Crime Commissioners would be able to do practical things to help people.
For me this has particularly meant helping vulnerable people recover from crime and working in our communities to prevent harm.
One way this is being achieved is through my Community Fund.
People can apply to the fund for up to £20,000 towards new projects that will help make their community safer.
Since its inception back in 2013, just over £1million has been granted, funding all sorts of initiatives including weekly drop-in sessions for homeless young people in Harrogate, to rehabilitating offenders in Scarborough, or helping renovate Aireville Park in Skipton, where young people now have something positive to do.
The rules around the fund are straightforward and I’d encourage anyone with an idea to get in contact via my website. Indeed, the money awarded so far may have met the £1m mark, but more importantly, thanks to lots of caring individuals, groups and charities, a vast range of vulnerable people have been supported, and many local people feel safer in their communities, and that’s a milestone worth celebrating.
Here are just a few examples of the changes that have been made.
In 2016, £20,000 was awarded to the Harrogate Homeless Project to carry out No Second Night Out, which offered people sleeping rough a warm bed and a route back into affordable housing without them having to live for a prolonged period on the streets. The money came at a time when the charity was in need of funding and during the winter, when homeless people suffer all the more due to harsher weather conditions.
Another worthwhile local bid was to support Ripon Community Link’s request for £15,000 to help build a new cafe at Ripon Walled Garden.
As well as the garden itself, the cafe has become a place for vulnerable adults, including those with learning disabilities, to complete training and rehabilitation programmes.
The cafe is set to go from strength to strength, due to re-open shortly following further refurbishments.
By awarding a modest £1,661 to North Yorkshire Horizons here in Harrogate, recovering alcoholics and drug users have been able to develop their IT skills, take online educational courses and to find work. When I met with some of the people being supported, I realised just how important these facilities are and how they really help improve people’s long-term recovery prospects.
I spent some time chatting to a woman about the same age as myself.
She told me that thanks to Horizons, she had been sober for seven months and had stopped offending, and now with access to computers was working towards becoming an alcohol and drugs counsellor.
The job of Police and Crime Commissioner is very varied and can be challenging at times, but the Community Fund always reminds me of why I took on the role in the first place. Because most of all, I’m here to support the public and the fund is a very direct way of doing just that.
Of course the true heroes in all this are the many people who have worked so hard to deliver the life-changing results that grants such as these can help bring about, and, of course, the people being supported themselves, who very often have to dig deep to get their lives back on track.
Details of the Police and Crime Commissioner’s Community Fund can be found at https://www.northyorkshire-pcc.gov.uk/how-can-we-help/community-projects.