Over 400 vulnerable children found to be at risk across the railways in the Northwest of England will get the help and support they desperately need, thanks to a £62,000 grant from Freemasons to the Railway Children Charity.
Deputy Provincial Grand Master Phil Gunning was delighted to meet up with a team from the charity as they hosted an awareness event at Manchester Piccadilly Station. At their stall on the busy forecourt of the station, Phil spoke to Regional Manager Gaynor Little and team members Cat Howourth and Amy Sargeson. Phil got a practical insight into how the money donated was to be used and was impressed by the enthusiasm of the team and their current and future ambitions. Phil then joined Safety Manager Chris McLoughlin from British Rail, who had been assisting and advising the stall, to venture onto the platforms for further explanations of their operations.
Phil learned much from the visit. Many children are running away from care, others are escaping abuse or neglect at home. For some children, exploited as part of criminal gangs, the rail network provides the means to transport drugs around the country. Other vulnerable young people arrive at rail stations looking to end their lives.
The Railway Children programme uses one-to-one sessions with a project worker, sometimes working alongside schools and social workers, as well as providing information and advice for their families. Support is individually tailored and lasts as long as necessary.
British Transport Police (BTP) data shows that 813 children were at risk across northwest rail stations in 2021/22, which is over 60 children every month. Through working in partnership with BTP, Railway Children Charity do their best to ensure these children are seen and supported before long-term damage is done. There is clear evidence that trauma and abuse in childhood increases the risk of mental health issues and criminality in adulthood: and by addressing the root causes of trauma and putting support in place early on, Railway Children Charity can help children and young people build a different, brighter future.
Last year, working with British Transport Police, Railway Children Charity supported 587 vulnerable young people and their families. Interventions ranged from providing essential information to ensuring long-term one-to-one support for as long as a young person needed. As a result, 86% of children reported improved wellbeing, 77% experienced improved personal safety and 86% benefitted from better family relationships.
The grant from West Lancashire Freemasons comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, which is funded by Freemasons, their families and friends, from across England and Wales.
Jacqui Highfield, UK Programme Director at Railway Children Charity, sent the message: “We’re very grateful to West Lancashire Freemasons for their generous grant which will allow us to help 100s of children and young people who are vulnerable and alone across the UK rail network. Feedback from young people, parents and carers is that the regularity of contact and the time spent building relationships are crucial factors in helping young people find solutions to their problems and look forward to a brighter future.”
Philip Gunning said: “I’m very pleased we’ve been able to help Railway Children Charity with their hugely important project to support vulnerable children at risk across the region’s railways. By stepping in to help children and their families at the earliest possible stage, the charity offers the best chance of a successful outcome.”
This was just one more example of how the donations from our meetings and social events are put to good use to help worthwhile organisations and causes to make a difference.