Elizabeth Fry Charity awarded Safe and Sound

Elizabeth Fry Open Day

RVA’s Herjeet Randhawa awards the Safe and Sound Governance Mark to staff and trustees of the Elizabeth Fry Charity at their annual open day

Elizabeth Fry Charity were recently awarded RVA’s Safe and Sound Governance Mark. We spoke to Tony Rolley about the charity’s work, his role as the Chair of Trustees, and the process of applying for Safe and Sound.
Tell us a little about Elizabeth Fry Charity and what inspired you to get involved as a Trustee
The Elizabeth Fry Charity provides support to women, mostly on licence from prison, who have a range of complex needs. Based near the town centre, we offer 24 places in our approved premises (otherwise known as a hostel) to women aged 18 years and over. We provide a safe place for them to live for three to six months, and work with them to begin to address the issues they face, to improve their lives and reduce the likelihood of further offending. We work closely with other organisations, particularly the local probation service and health agencies.

Tony Rolley, Chair of Trustees

I had previously worked with Elizabeth Fry in my role as an Assistant Chief Officer with Berkshire Probation Service, between 1988 and 2001. I joined the charity as a Trustee back in 2012 when I was still employed as one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Probation. I retired in 2017 and became Chair in January 2018. I am not sure I would have been able to devote the required amount of time to the role of Chair had I remained in full time paid employment!

What encouraged you to apply for Safe and Sound?

The Board of Trustees saw it as an opportunity to test out the quality and extent of our governance arrangements, with a view to providing us with external validation that we are sufficiently focused on our core responsibilities to beneficiaries and benefactors alike, and possess strong governance arrangements in such diverse areas as finance, personnel, health and safety, and safeguarding.

What did the process involve for the Elizabeth Fry Charity team?

Our Chief Executive may disagree with me on how much work was involved, but I would say that, for me as Chair, and the other Board members, it was not very onerous at all! We already had extensive and up-to-date policies and procedures in place, but they needed pulling together into a portfolio. The consultation took place just before Christmas 2017, and the report from RVA was received in January this year, in good time for consideration at our next Board meeting. The assessment made two main recommendations, together with a number of proposals for minor amendments to policies and procedures. There was nothing contentious. We then put in place the necessary work which led to Herjeet presenting me, on behalf of the Board, with the award at our Annual Open Day on 6 July 2018.

Elizabeth Fry Charity Open Day

Elizabeth Fry Charity have also been awarded the Enabling Environments quality mark from the Royal College of Psychiatrists

At the time of applying for Safe and Sound, management were also very much focused on gaining the Enabling Environments award, something that, as part of Elizabeth Fry’s contract with the Ministry of Justice, we were required to attain within a set period of time. Despite the work involved in applying for that award, Fiona and her team were very supportive of the Board also applying for Safe and Sound, and Trustees very much appreciated their support in helping us attain the award.

What benefits can you see for EFC from going through Safe and Sound?

It gives us external validation of our governance arrangements and we can refer to it when we make applications for funds to provide additional rehabilitative services to the women who stay at Elizabeth Fry House. However, we are only too aware that it is not sufficient to have the award, it is important we work to ensure we keep it!

You’ve just celebrated your annual open day, what were the highlights for you this year?

It has been a bittersweet year, dominated by the terminal illness and passing (in January 2018) of my predecessor as Chair, Mary Phillips. Mary had made a major contribution to the work of Elizabeth Fry Charity.

However, there have been highlights. Apart from the many individual good news stories relating to residents who have moved on in a planned way to stable accommodation with renewed hope, the charity was able to negotiate an improved contract with the Ministry of Justice, which has made our financial situation much more secure and put us in a position to offer better services to the women who live at Elizabeth Fry House.

We were also delighted to welcome descendants of Elizabeth Fry, the prison reformer, to a Board meeting in March 2018. They presented us with a marvellous picture of Elizabeth, surrounded by key people working in the criminal and social justice movements of the first half of the nineteenth century.

Elizabeth Fry Charity is currently seeking new Trustees. Find out more on the Elizabeth Fry Charity website or contact Fiona Humphreys, Chief Executive, for further information. She can be contacted on 0118 9572385 or fiona.humphreys@probation.gsi.gov.uk.

Find out more about RVA’s Safe and Sound governance mark here, or get in touch with Herjeet by emailing herjeet.randhawa@rva.org.uk.