Ladies and gentlemen, I can't tell you what a pleasure it is to be with you all today and especially since my darling wife has been able to come along as well.
I can't really start without thanking June Sarpong for yet again performing such a marvellous role. They have been telling me out here in the wings just how incredibly professional she is at dealing with all this sort of paraphernalia.
But we would not be able to do any of these wonderful things as you have noticed without wonderful people like June. And the fact that she is prepared to give up her time, as all the Ambassadors do, is wonderful, it really is, and I just wanted to tell you how enormously grateful I am.
I still can't believe that it is the 30th Anniversary of this Trust.
It wasn't easy starting off in those days, there were an awful lot of obstacles and people who didn't think it was a good idea, or the 'not invented here' department which I found was quite a substantial organization, particularly when trying to start other ventures and charities over the years.
When I think back to how big we are now, I think how different it was and how we only grew bit by bit. I still can't believe that we have ended up almost filling the Theatre Royal on Drury Lane - if you don't get out of your seats quick enough at the end you will find yourselves watching The Producers later on, which as my wife and I have seen it I do recommend it to you!
But I do think this is a marvellous way of celebrating the start of the 30th Anniversary and, when you think about it this afternoon, it really emphasizes just what a difference can be made to so many young people with a little bit of extra trouble and effort taken by all these wonderful staff that we have built up over the years, not only in London but across the country, together with the volunteers. And I really did want to use this opportunity to congratulate and thank them above all else.
I can't do very much really - at the end of the day it is all those wonderful people working incredibly hard all over the country that will make the whole difference. So I can't thank them enough for the results we have seen this afternoon.
We have seen some simply remarkable examples of determination, courage and tenacity demonstrated by so many young people. To all the winners, finalists and each and every one of the 40,000 young people we have helped this year alone, I do offer my most heartfelt congratulations.
The celebrations this year have caused me to think about what motivated me all those years ago. And the funny thing is that even with the passage of three decades it remains the same. I still believe that every young person has some talent or ability and that too many go through life without this ever being discovered and unlocked. The result is an often over-powering lack of self-worth and self-confidence and a sense of belonging nowhere and mattering to no-one.
Many of these young people are dismissed as “youths”, “hoodies”, or “thugs”. But they are not faceless and nameless. They are individuals and all I want my Trust to do is invest in their futures so that they can live lives which are fulfilling and rewarding for themselves, their families, their communities and their country.
So in its 30th Anniversary year, this is still what my Trust is all about. And the remarkable successes of the finalists today clearly show that by believing in young people who don't believe in themselves, we can give them a future.
And you only have to hear what they were saying, how many were feeling withdrawn and despondent, after persistent bullying at school or whatever, and then blossomed into confident young people. Or were unemployed and spent their days in bed sitting around or feeling useless, those who had traumatic childhoods, those who were disruptive in lessons, or were in trouble with the law, drank heavily and used recreational drugs.
So by taking an interest with them and by spending time and mentoring them, showing belief in people you can see the results - you really can.
It is extraordinary to think that since the launch of my Trust in 1976, we have helped to support more than half a million young people. That is equivalent to filling this theatre more than 225 times.
So we are now helping 100 young people every day, people facing the most enormous obstacles and who, too often, have no one to turn to for advice or assistance. The Trust gives them new skills, hope, encouragement, training and, in some cases, financial assistance.
But Ladies and Gentlemen, we still have so much more to do. Each year, more than 30,000 young people leave school with no qualifications. And although unemployment is thankfully lower now than when I started The Trust, there are still more than one million people under the age of 25 who are not in work, in education or in training. Just stop and think of that – one million young people – (and if you like these statistical comparisons) that is equivalent to more than the population of Birmingham – who are in danger of being utterly lost.
We know that too many of these find themselves in prison, or worse, and it is perhaps salutary to remember that the number of 15 to 17 year olds in young offenders institutions has more than doubled over the last 10 years. So I believe that our job is to make sure that these young offenders don't become old offenders and to give to as many of the one million that we can reach a sense of hope and purpose – something which some have never felt before.
So as you have seen, we have today been able to celebrate the success of some remarkable young people and let me say that you are role models for all young people, and not just those facing seemingly insurmountable obstacles such as homelessness, long-term unemployment, family problems, substance misuse, lack of education and worse. You have shown, against the odds, that with a helping hand and someone to have faith in you, you can succeed.
But Ladies and Gentlemen, all of our work depends entirely on the help of our delivery partners - like Stockton Riverside College - and donors whose time and financial contributions make our work possible – and none more so than The Royal Bank of Scotland Group. Not only has it sponsored today's event, but Sir Fred Goodwin, the Chief Executive is, as you know, my Trust's Chairman (how he finds the time to do both I do not know – the fact that he is here today is a miracle) and no-one will ever know just how much he does for us.
Even his staff are supporters of The Trust with more than 1,200 having volunteered for my Trust. You heard a moment ago about just one of them, Adrian Palmer, who was seconded from the Royal Bank as a Team Leader.
Now obviously I can't mention all the companies and organizations who help us, but I do just want to pay special tribute to GE, Marks & Spencer, Nokia, BUPA, and The Sun, and also to Linklater's, the FA Premier League and individual clubs, such as Chelsea, the Football Foundation and the Professional Footballers' Association – they are the most stalwart of supporters and we simply could not do without them. And I do just want say how thrilled I am that the employees of British Energy have voted to make The Trust their “charity of the year” in 2006 and that Superdrug has just committed to a new four-year partnership. That is wonderful and encouraging news I can assure you.
Over the years my Trust has also been blessed by extraordinary support from Government as well. We could not manage without the help of The Department of Work and Pensions, Jobcentre Plus, the Learning and Skills Council, Lottery Funds, the Scottish Executive, the National Assembly for Wales, the European Social Fund, Invest Northern Ireland and Regional Development Agencies, particularly the East Midlands Development Agency and Yorkshire Forward. To all of those and many others we owe our warmest gratitude.
Now there is one very special group of people whom I have not yet mentioned, but they are our secret weapon. The Trust has an army of more than 7,000 volunteers. Many of you are here today and I just want to pay you, all of you, a particular tribute. The winner of the Volunteer of the Year, Tony Bradley is just one example of these incredibly special people. And Team Leaders and XL advisers, like Narene Skeffington-Burns, are equally indispensable to our work. There are literally thousands of people just like Tony and Narene who, day in and day out, and all across the country, are changing lives and so I will never be able to thank them enough.
I seldom have the opportunity publicly to express my gratitude to my Trust's extraordinarily committed staff and so I just shall take it now. It was marvellous to be able to present Craig Melcher with the award for staff not long ago and it gave him an excuse to extract himself from in front of his screen - just for a moment or two.
But finally, all our thanks must go to our hosts at this wonderful theatre, particularly Rupert Bielby and Michael Townsend and to the production company, Andy Pete Associates. If I may say so, STOMP certainly livened up proceedings no end – I happen to be a huge fan of STOMP, we both are, and it just shows what a remarkable use you can make of dustbins when you really know how to. SO thank you so much to STOMP. And also to Journey South who performed in the middle. If I may say so, that duo are perfect proof of just how successful Trust graduates can be! And believe you me I bump into people all over the world who tell me that they were started off by the Trust. So it does, I promise, make me very proud.
So Ladies and Gentlemen, finally I just wanted to congratulate all the finalists - the ordeal is now over! But before I finish completely, I just wanted to congratulate the person I believe deserves a great deal of thanks and that is Martina Milburn, without whom the Trust would not be able to do anything.