I send particular thanks to the Earl of Wessex, who is a trustee of the UK award as well as chair of the international award, which operates in 130 countries around the world.
He and the Countess of Wessex are tremendous supporters and passionate about changing the lives of young people by giving them new and different opportunities.
It has been humbling to hear so many people talking about the legacy of the Duke of Edinburgh, particularly in relation to the awards – deeply personal experiences of challenge that come in many different forms, where taking part in the award has helped to guide the individual.
The scheme was originally set up in 1956 to help boys, and then girls; in the UK alone 6.7 million young people have now achieved an award.
Prince Philip said: “If you can get a young person to succeed in any one activity, then that feeling of success will spread over into many others.”
Every person I have spoken to has talked about things that the award has given them: the chance to develop resilience, make decisions, learn from the consequences of those decisions, and try things that they might not have realised they would like doing.
One of the most incredible people I have spent time with did their award while in prison; now young offender institutes are one of many places where the award is offered.
At events that the Duke of Edinburgh attended, he warmed the room with his interest in what the young people had done, what they had enjoyed and what they had found challenging.
He also had time for parents and carers, recognising the role that this important group of people had in guiding young people.
At the awards we firmly believe that, in a time of uncertainty when GCSEs and A-levels are not happening in the same way, the award can be a constant in young people’s lives and is more relevant than ever before.
One million young people could be locked out of education, employment and training as a result of Covid. We have all been incredibly impressed during the pandemic with the creativity that has been shown by young people who keep carrying on and keep signing up.
What anyone would want from the award if we were starting with a blank piece of paper is what we actually have, which shows how far ahead of his time the Duke was.
While the individual activities that young people do to complete the award have changed since its inception, the basic premise of volunteering, physical challenge, developing a skill and taking part in an expedition still holds true.
If you put people in a room from each of the decades that the award has been running, they will have the shared experience of challenge and fun – some ups and downs, certainly, but a tremendous sense of achievement.
What better way to commemorate the life and cement the legacy of His Royal Highness than a commitment on the part of the nation, and the Government, to support an expansion of youth work and extra-curricular activities for young people.
I pay tribute to my predecessor as chair, Lord Kirkham, for his unstinting support for young people, the team and myself. He helped guide the awards to the position that they are now in and, if I may use a sporting analogy that I hope His Royal Highness would appreciate, handed on the baton in an incredibly strong position.
I thank the other organisations and the volunteers, teachers and youth workers – everyone who has gone above and beyond to help deliver the award and His Royal Highness’s vision to young people. Beyond the participants, the award impacts tens of millions of people.
It is perhaps with the passing of His Royal Highness that we truly realise the impact that he had on public life, and at the awards we look forward to at least the next 75 years – and beyond.
Baroness Grey-Thompson is a Paralympian and cross-bench peer who paid tribute in the House of Lords to Prince Philip. This is an edited version.
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