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Prince of Hearts – How the King Helped One Million Young People

Richard Rigby Headshot

Richard Rigby

Head of Policy and Public Affairs at The Prince’s Trust

In this article, Richard Rigby explores the work of the Prince’s Trust and of HRH King Charles III’s role in its founding and operation

It is now more than 45 years since The Prince’s Trust was founded by His Majesty The King when he was HRH The Prince of Wales. It was the mid-1970s, the UK was struggling with record levels of unemployment and spiralling inflation and The Prince had an idea. Concerned that young people were being left behind, he used his Navy severance pay – £7,400 – to fund several community initiatives.

Then, in the 1980s, as unemployment soared above three million, The Prince launched The Trust’s pioneering Enterprise programme, supporting young people to start their own businesses. Four decades and many innovations later, The Trust has gone on to support more than one million young people in the UK and now helps young people all around the world.

Shortly after I started working at The Prince’s Trust in 2011, the UK saw rioting that began in Tottenham and spread across London, and other major English cities, over five days. I was reminded of this while watching BBC Question Time earlier this month. The MP for Tottenham, Rt Hon David Lammy MP, was on the panel and recalled his experience at the time, “I got a phone call from the Prince of Wales. I asked him if he could come… and I said, ‘Will you come back?’ he said, ‘Of course.’ he came back five times. He brought The Prince’s Trust.”

It is fitting, therefore, that the Coronation included celebrations of the impact The Trust has had on young lives and the achievements of the young people it has supported over the years, acknowledging a key part of His Majesty’s legacy. A handful of young people supported by The Trust were in Westminster Abbey to witness the Coronation and it was heart-warming for my colleagues to hear the cheers when the current Prince of Wales spoke of the Trust in his speech at the Coronation Concert.

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LONDON- UK – 17th Dec 2019: HRH The Prince of Wales at the Official Opening of the new Prince’s Trust Headquarters in South London. Photograph by Ian Jones

His Majesty is not only the Founder of The Prince’s Trust but has played an active role in it and remains an inspiration for lots of the young people we support. Although it was inevitable that His Majesty’s role with The Trust would change as he took on his new role, he remains our President and often meets young people who have been supported by the Trust.

I am writing this just after The Trust’s annual Prince’s Trust Awards Ceremony, where we celebrate the achievements of remarkable young people. The following afternoon, His Majesty invited the winners to Buckingham Palace and spent the afternoon congratulating and celebrating them, eager to hear their stories.

One of the winners, who also attended the Coronation, is Funmi. Funmi could not see a future for herself when her husband passed away from cancer in 2021, and her confidence began to disappear. While Funmi was grieving her husband’s death, her sister sent her an application for The Prince’s Trust Get into Health and Social Care programme, in partnership with the Department for Health and Social Care.

Funmi attended training days to build her confidence, as well as her employability skills, through an interview technique and CV writing workshop. After completing the programme, she applied to be a healthcare assistant in the Acute Ward at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in London. She was successful and has been thriving in her role for just over a year.

This is just one example of how the work of The Trust overlaps with the work of governments throughout the UK and now, internationally. This can range from helping a young person settle at secondary school, to diverting a young person away from getting in trouble with the police, to helping a young person in a job centre get their first job, and much more. 

It is vital that The Trust works in close partnership with governments, both national and local.  The Trust’s vision, that ‘every young person should have a chance to succeed’, is so often shared by politicians and civil servants. If that is you, then please reach out to us to see if we can work together.

As The Trust looks to the future, we see opportunities and threats. Opportunities include ensuring disadvantaged young people can gain employment in the workforce required for the UK to reach Net Zero – a topic we know His Majesty has long been passionate about. Threats include the ongoing impact of education loss, social isolation, and poor mental health on a generation who will leave education and begin searching for work over the next few years. Whichever way you look at it, The Trust’s work is as relevant today as it ever has been. 

Back in 1976, there was no way of knowing that His Majesty’s idea would eventually help more than one million young people. Now, as The Trust approaches its 50th birthday, it will require his legacy of foresight, in a rapidly changing world, to help one million more.

The Prince’s Trust can be contacted at: https://www.princes-trust.org.uk/contact-us

The Prince’s Trust helps young people from disadvantaged communities and those facing the greatest adversity by supporting them to build the confidence and skills to live, learn, and earn. The courses offered by The Trust help young people aged 11-30 to develop essential life skills, get ready for work and access job opportunities. Three in four young people on Prince’s Trust programmes move into work, education, or training.

Prince’s Trust International is now present in over 20 countries within the Commonwealth and beyond, across Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, the Middle East, and Europe. It works with local partners to develop programmes and interventions to help young people to build their own futures. Since its inception in 2015, it has helped more than 50,000 young people.

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