I started my post as CEO at Pace on 28 July 2008, nearly 13 years ago, and now I am stepping down. Lindsay Dalton, our Head of Training & Partnerships, has been appointed to take over the reins.
I came into the job with experience of working in the voluntary sector since my mid-20s, and in my 40s of involvement in working with Hilary Willmer, one of the co-founders of Pace, in setting up a third sector response to asylum seekers coming to Leeds under the governments’ dispersal programme. Hilary knew my capabilities as a manager, fundraiser and mover and shaker and when interviewed was happy to appoint me into the role.
From the moment I started, my feet barely hit the ground. In my first week I read Stop She’s My Daughter, 6 powerful stories from affected parents about what happened to their daughter. From the off I was fundraising, knowing that we only had 9 months’ money left for our national support work with parents. In September we held a meeting with local safeguarding professionals to launch a report written by our then researcher, Aravinda Kosaraju, and at which parents vented their anger with those that attended about the shocking response from them to their predicament. In December I put in a funding application to the Government Department for Children Schools and Families to run a 2-year pilot working in partnership with the Engage Team in Blackburn which we got and where we appointed Lindsay Dalton.
The ‘pace’ never slackened with efforts to raise awareness with professionals; putting on annual or bi-annual conferences with invited minsters or other key policy-makers invited to hear parents’ stories; working with trustees, staff and parents about the work we needed to do and identifying and applying for funding to run the activities needed; and dealing with the press since these were the days when stories of CSE were starting to bubble up and CROP was one of the organisations the media were constantly in touch with to get a story.
In 13 years, the organisation has remained a steady and constant companion walking alongside parents, growing bit by bit. These were times of austerity following the finance crash of September 2008, when public bodies were having to reduce their expenditures under government edicts. And yet Pace was persistent, getting our message out there of the injustices that affected families were suffering, with virtually no prosecutions for the crimes they were experiencing and all the blame on their shoulders.
Whilst we still have so much to do, and so many hearts and minds to win over, we are a respected force within the child protection world, developing our partnerships with local authorities and the police, using our training programme to shift practice, continually working with and advocating for parents who refer to our national support service, and working with parents who wish to speak out. May Pace live on to see the changes we so desperately need and fulfil our vision to end child exploitation.
Gill Gibbons, CEO July 2008 to June 2021