Cash seized from criminals is being put to good use in recruiting a new generation of young hospice volunteers.
St David’s Hospice, which provides hospice care to adult patients across Conwy, Gwynedd and Anglesey, is hoping to attract a new wave of recruits to help run its growing list of outdoor fundraising events and endurance challenges.
Staff will engage with schools, colleges and youth groups in a bid to reach young people aged 16 and over who may be looking for a new challenge in life, especially individuals who are at a higher risk of committing crime.
Thanks to a grant of £2,410 from a special fund distributed by North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones, the hospice can press ahead with a new social media recruitment campaign and purchase new high visibility safety vests and IT equipment for use at event and to deliver presentations and new polo shirts for volunteers.
The Your Community, Your Choice initiative is also supported by the North Wales Police and Community Trust (PACT) which is celebrating its 23rd anniversary this year.
The awards scheme is now in its eighth year and much of over £280,000 handed out to deserving causes during that time has been recovered through the Proceeds of Crime Act using cash seized from offenders with the rest coming from the Police and Crime Commissioner.
The scheme supports organisations who pledge to run projects to tackle antisocial behaviour and combat crime and disorder in line with the priorities in Commissioner’s Arfon Jones’ Police and Crime Plan.
This year, there are 21 grants and more than 32,000 votes have been cast to decide the successful applicants with St David’s Hospice ospice one of three winners in Conwy, alongside the Kind Bay Initiative (KBI) and Hope Restored.
KBI received £2,500 to support their project to help mental health initiatives through their Create and Express Community Sessions in the county while Hope Restored were awarded £2,000 to support Conwy’s homeless and rough sleepers.
Louise Barber, Volunteer Coordinator at St David’s Hospice, said: “We are absolutely thrilled to receive the funding. It’s a real opportunity to offer something to young people who have been touched by the hospice or those who might want a new direction and to become part of a bigger team. They will always have a place with us.
“This grant will help us to ensure our volunteers are safe with hi-vis vests with our logo so they have a sense of purpose and belonging and will feel part of something great.
“We are a dynamic fundraising team and have an exciting programme of events from comedy nights through to trail runs, colour runs, dragon boat races and sunset walks, many of which are geared to the younger fundraiser.
“Volunteers will learn to work as part of a team, with responsibility for a specific area whether that is a drinks station on a fun run or as a car park marshal. It’s an opportunity to make friends outside their peer group.
“During the lockdown, volunteering has been invaluable for many. I would like to extend that opportunity to younger people.”
Volunteers save the charity more than £800,000 per year in payroll costs and are crucial to its work, staffing charity shops and cafes, assisting events and volunteering in inpatient units.
More than half the hospice’s current volunteers are aged 50 or above and the charity hopes the programme will encourage younger helpers to come forward to support its many fundraising activities, which often take place over challenging terrain.
“Our doors would close without volunteers,” said Louise.
“If you had to measure the contribution they make in terms of payroll hours, there is no way we would be able to cover that. We already need to make between £4m-£5m a year.
“Our volunteers are the most grounded, lovely and loyal people you will ever meet. They have been touched by the hospice and want to give something back.
“We’ve been limited with what we’ve been able to offer our volunteers through Covid-19 because we want to keep them safe. However, we are opening Anglesey’s first hospice and there is future scope for volunteers to work in a more clinical setting.
“In fact, there are not many positions we would not consider for volunteers. Volunteering is a two-way street and people get as much out of it as they put in.”
The charity, which will launch the new recruitment programme in April, supports the PCC’s goals to widen opportunities for young people so crime becomes far less desirable and aims to help reduce the number of young people being drawn into the criminal justice system.
It already works in partnership with Anglesey employment and training charity Mon Communities Forward who has assisted in recruiting volunteers and volunteering charity Medrwn Mon.
Although Covid-19 has curtailed many of the hospice’s usual fundraising events, the team is already exploring fresh ideas for when gatherings are declared safe.
“We will grow as big as the amount of volunteers we have,” said Louise.
“Our hope is that we will be able to bring out the best in all those who choose to volunteer with us, and that they will gain the skills and confidence to not only continue to strengthen their community, but also to enrich their own lives.”
North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones said: “Last year we sought applications that aimed to build resilient communities and this year we have continued that theme with projects that support my Police and Crime Plan – including proposals that address emerging trends such as County Lines and Knife Crime.
“It has been an extraordinarily challenging year for us all but I am delighted that my Your Community Your Choice fund continues to support community projects across North Wales for an eighth year.
“This unique fund allows our communities to decide which projects should get financial support through our on-line voting system and ensure that North Wales Police is paying specific attention to those points which have been identified as crucial by the public, me and indeed by the force itself.
“I aim to ensure that a clear focus continues around county lines crimes – a particularly vicious form of criminality that exploits the young and vulnerable and I am delighted to see that a number of your applications aim to support our young people.
“Community groups are vital to the citizens of north Wales, and in helping to ensure that our communities continue to be some of the safest places to live, work and visit in the UK.”
PACT chairman Ashley Rogers added: “Your community your choice is a really valuable way of supporting communities and putting the choice of which projects are supported in their hands.
“It’s a very democratic process which is why I think it’s been such a long running and successful scheme.
“It’s lovely project to be involved with and you can directly see the benefits from the funding in strengthening our resilient communities.”
Assistant Chief Constable Sacha Hatchett said: “This money includes cash from assets seized from criminals under the Proceeds of Crime Act. This is a particularly vital message as through the professionalism of North Wales Police Officers and with the support of the Courts, we are able to hit the criminals where it hurts – in their pockets.
“Our operations target all types of serious criminality including cross border crime, armed robbery, criminal use of firearms as well as drug production, importation and supply.
“Our communities continue to play a part in this success with local intelligence information given to our officers that help us to bring these criminals to justice.
“It sends a really positive message that money taken from the pockets of criminals is being recycled. This is turning bad money into good that’s being used for a constructive purpose.”
For more on the work of the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner go to https://www.northwales-pcc.gov.uk/en/home.aspx