Ladies and gentlemen, before I go, or we go, and all of you are released, as I know some of you have been standing around for such a long time, for which I apologise – it has been a great joy to my wife and I to be able to meet at least I hope a proportion of you between us this afternoon.
More than anything else, it just provides me with an opportunity to express heartfelt thanks for the fact that all of you are involved in some way or other with my Prince’s Trust, and in particular, the Team programme, because I cannot possibly express to you enough just what your involvement means – it may sound rather trite saying this, but it really does transform many young people’s lives, the fact that you are prepared to get involved. When I think back now to when I first started the Trust thirty-two years ago, which slightly worries me from that point of view… I was telling some people when we went to the RAF Ninetieth Anniversary Celebrations at Cranwell dinner I managed to squeeze myself into my Mess Kit which was made for me in 1971 - it takes an awful lot of effort I can assure you. But, going back thirty-two years, and thinking now that we have helped something over 575,000 young people. We couldn’t have done all that obviously without the assistance of people like yourselves, all of these remarkable characters who give up so much time, who volunteer, who have endless patience in very often dealing with some quite complicated situations that people present to them.
As you can imagine, I hope you can imagine, that now I am enormously proud of so many of these young people who have found themselves on the road to much greater success than they might have done as a result of the programmes they have been through. And one of the reasons that I am so keen to see if we can persuade the Armed Forces and the Emergency Services to help in this whole process of The Team Programme was because I believe so strongly in the motivational skills that you all have. It seems to me an awful tragedy if we missed out on that motivation that you can help provide. So your involvement is absolutely crucial, and it is certainly crucial to the success of the whole Team Programme in terms of having the best kind of team leaders.
It gives me enormous pleasure, as you can imagine, perhaps, to see the way in which very often people’s prejudices, whether it is about the police, or the armed forces, can be overcome as a result of having a Team Leader from whichever of those services it is.
And going round this afternoon, I was so pleased to find certainly one young person who had been on the Team programme actually applying to join the Fire Service. Only a few months ago, I gave Afghan campaign medals to the 2nd Battalion the Mercian Regiment, of which I am Colonel-in-Chief and while we were having drinks afterwards, going round talking to them, one chap said to me, I think he was about 19 or 20 years old, “Well, I was on one of the Team programmes, and I joined up and ended up joining the Mercian Regiment. So that I promise you gave me enormous reward and pride that this young chap had done that . There are lots of other cases. As the Army have told me today, they very often find that it is worth suggesting that some of the people who might be recruited may not quite make it at that particular point in time - they suggest they go on a Prince’s Trust Team Programme, very often coming back, having had basically a Foundation course, providing them with greater self confidence which then enables them to join up.
So again, I am thrilled at that. If I can just say that all of you have been wonderful, the Fire Service for instance, has been really a remarkable delivery partner for the Trust over the years, goes back a long way now, having badgered you, I am afraid, to take part in all of this, and you might be surprised to know that fifteen per cent of all young people on Team Programmes are supported through the Fire Service, which is hugely encouraging.
And of course the Fire fighters are wonderful role models for young people. For instance, I gather that seven young people who had been on my Trust’s Team Programme and who have had team leaders from the Mersey Fire and Rescue service and have since gone on to join the Mersey Fire and Rescue service themselves, and six of those seven are still working, so that again is hugely encouraging.
When it comes to the Police, we have had huge assistance from the Police in the Trust and we have been working them since 1976 when the Trust first began – there are now thirty-seven police forces engaged in partnership with the Trust, all across the United Kingdom although we will need to work a little bit harder in Wales, by the sound of it! Last year, sixty police officers and staff from across the country were seconded to programmes run by my Trust and I do know that their input was absolutely invaluable. My wife and I have just spent a large part of the morning going round Charing Cross Police Station causing complete havoc, I am afraid, and interrupting all their crucial activities.. Again, it enabled us to see what an incredible contribution the Police make in so many different ways… I was able to talk to them and found out a great deal about what they do.
I do know from that visit, that The Metropolitan Police, for instance, make an immense contribution to helping the Team programme in London – and again, mentioning South Wales, up there, 180 young people complete the eighteen team programmes run there each year by the Police and for which I am enormously grateful. The Ambulance Service, I was talking to earlier, and I must say I was so thrilled to hear that the Ambulance Service in the South of England has just agreed to second five members of staff to The Team Programme this year and to have some health education put to the ‘XL’ programme which is the first arrangement of its kind with an Ambulance Service. I very much hope it will encourage others to follow.
Likewise, the Prison service, there are wonderful examples there of The Trust working with Her Majesty’s Prison Service and we work with fifty-nine prisons and some prisons even allow serving prisoners to take part in The Team Programme, one of whom is here today, and I am a great believer in setting a thief to catch a thief because it makes an enormous difference, I can tell you, and mentoring opportunities, provided through ex-young offenders, for instance - a programme with which we are making a certain amount of progress.
And finally, the Armed Forces, of course, which provide an incredible contribution, and I am so grateful to Sir Richard Dannatt, The Chief of General Staff, and Sir Glen Torpy, The Chief of the Air Staff for taking the trouble to join us this afternoon. I am glad to say that twenty-seven officers from the Royal Navy, the Army and the Royal Air Force were seconded as team leaders or assistants last year, many of them returning from active service in Afghanistan and Iraq. I was particularly pleased to meet Corporal Sophie Williams this afternoon, who in 1996, participated in the second team programme in Watford, in Hertfordshire, as a team member, then she went on to join the Army, and then was back helping my Trust in 2007, seconded as an assistant Team leader to help the Team programme at Woolwich Dockyard, so a marvellous virtuous circle which I hope we can repeat over and over again.
In 2007 last year, for the first time, my Trust ran a team programme from an Army base, Bovingdon Camp in Dorset and another is due to start next month, I am very glad to hear. And in Scotland, both the Royal Air Force and the Royal N have committed to support both the Team programme and ‘XL’ programme.
So, ladies and gentlemen, your contribution, as you can see, is immensely valuable and I just thought I would mention that for the last twenty-five years I have been trying to see if we could develop a kind of model for a national community service scheme, which I still feel would be enormously valuable, apart from anything else, in overcoming so much of the prejudice and misunderstanding amongst so many different groups in this country. I do believe there would be one way of helping to overcome that if people were able to do something useful together. But you never know, I might be dead by the time it is achieved!
But what we have at least done through The Team Programme is to show how this kind of approach can work, mixing employed and unemployed people together and again, with your extraordinary help and assistance, I do believe we can make a huge difference, as I was saying, to people’s lives. So thank you more than I can possibly say, for the contribution you make and for seconding to my Trust national liaison officers to co-ordinate all this valuable work. We now have a Major, a Chief Inspector and a Senior Fire Officer all working with the Trust. So what more can I say, other than you are all utterly crucial and I can only thank you most sincerely. Thank you very much.