Speaker addresses Rotary via Zoom

Speaker addresses Rotary via Zoom


The High Sheriff of Shropshire has confessed to a local Rotary club that due to the coronavirus outbreak she had not had one chicken dinner engagement!

Mrs Dean Harris told a Zoom meeting of Shrewsbury Severn Rotary Club that she had been very busy and made good ground engaging with organisations, individuals, groups and charities across the county but it was just the ‘ceremonial things’ that had been missed off due to Covid-19 – and she had been told before taking office to prepare herself for a ‘lot’ of chicken dinners.

This was different to most previous High Sheriffs who, for a year, hold what is the oldest secular office next to the monarch. And whilst she brought a touch of humour to her Zoom talk to Rotarians, she also spoke seriously about her primary focus on domestic abuse, drug and alcohol addiction and child poverty and deprivation.

She told Rotarians: “Whilst Shropshire is a truly beautiful rural county with a lot to offer in terms of employment opportunities, leisure, tourism and education – and I am proud to call it home – scratch the surface and you find there are a range of diverse and complex social issues. People need to understand and accept that domestic abuse affects all communities regardless of gender, age, race or religion and is the single major cause of homelessness. Somebody that a Rotarian knows will have suffered or be suffering from domestic abuse in some form or another. There is simply no excuse for abuse which is an epidemic of our times. I am keen that we educate people about addiction and break down preconceived and stereotypical views. The reality is that the majority of addicts are just like you and I. Again, addiction does not discriminate between rich, poor, young or old, male or female. We must break down the stigma.”

The High Sheriff said nearly 5,000 people in Shropshire were classed as ‘alcohol dependent’ and in need of special treatment with only 20% getting help.

With regard to child poverty and deprivation, she said she believed every child deserved to be cared for, loved and protected.

“Shropshire would be seen generally as quite affluent county but there are without doubt pockets of significant deprivation, some of which are in the top 10% most deprived nationally. According to the Children’s Society 1/3 of all children in Shropshire are living in poverty. And seventy percent of those would actually have one parent who was working, but 50% of lone parent families were also living in poverty”.

She outlined specific events and projects that she had planned and that she hoped to engage schools to raise aspirations of children in deprived areas.

The High Sheriff praised the work of Shrewsbury Severn Rotary Club who support the Grange Primary School with regular funding to meet their needs which have included computers, provision of clothes, help with their summer school and also reading.

“There are a significant number of children in the county who simply don’t have the same levels of opportunity as their peers,” she added.

In a vote of thanks, Rotarian Garth Joscelyne said the High Sheriff’s talk had been a ‘breath of fresh air,’ very enthusiastic and different. “I had no idea of the scale of domestic abuse in the UK.

Anyone interested in finding out more about Shrewsbury Severn Rotary Club can contact the secretary Gareth Watkins on gdmw@hotmail.co.uk


The High Sheriff on screen during her Zoom talk to Shrewsbury Severn Rotary Club

Julian Wells

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