Lifetime Service Award for Family Lives Hertfordshire Volunteer

Margaret Beech, a volunteer call taker for Hatfield based charity Family Lives is to retire after 37 years of committed, professional and selfless service to the families of Hertfordshire and throughout the UK.

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Margaret was awarded for her voluntary service at Family Lives’ inaugural Summer Ball which took place on Friday June 10th at Hatfield House.

She said:

‘I’m thrilled to win this award yet equally sad to be leaving a charity where I have made great friends and supported many families from all walks of life. When we started back in the 1970s, calls from parents were taken in volunteer’s homes and were then followed up with a home visit.  In those days, calls were mainly from parents of under-fives as there was very little support for new parents.  You were just expected to get on with it. One drawback taking calls from home was that the caller had your home number and would often call again at any time of day and night regardless of whether you were on duty! Nowadays it feels like teenagers are the main topic of calls. Regardless of the issues, parenting can on occasions present big or small challenges and I am glad to have played a part in helping families and their children.”

40 years on, Family Lives has a Helpline Centre based in Hatfield which answers calls from all over the U.K. And over 125 volunteers work on the free Helpline and deliver face to face and group based community support throughout the region. Last year funding to Family Lives’ national helpline was reduced by 50%, thanks to volunteers like Margaret however the charity was able to continue providing the service by restructuring and calling on the dedication and commitment of volunteers.

Sandra Hiller, Family Lives Hatfield Manager and friend of Margaret for many years said:

“Volunteers are the backbone of Family Lives and none more so than Margaret who is dedicated to supporting families. She was always able to understand the complexity and demands they faced. She has a genuine desire to support in a non-judgemental way while giving every caller a “hug” down the phone. Parents opened up and trusted her. She was a genuine team player, very much involved with the whole team. She had so much knowledge and experience that she would happily share. She always had a twinkle in her eye that could raise a smile in anyone. She will be sorely missed but her relentless enthusiasm has left a lasting legacy and transformed the lives of literally thousands of people all over the country.” 

Despite entering her eighth decade, and volunteering tirelessly for Family Lives, Margaret had boundless energy and supported numerous other charities. She offered home help for many elderly neighbours, and if that was not enough Margaret (who is by the way is a great grandmother), found time to provide a loving home to over 50 foster children, adopted one and had five of her own!  She also ran a local mother and toddler group on Thursday mornings for many years, regularly fosters homeless cats and kittens and has travelled the world with her partner pursuing their love of line dancing. 

Family Lives are very grateful to Margaret for all her service.

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Margaret’s contribution to the Hatfield Family Lives team has encouraged and inspired the charity to: 

  • Achieve ‘Runners Up’ position in the Hertfordshire Volunteer Management Awards 2016  (Family Lives were previous winners in 2011 and 2013)
  • Develop strong partnerships with Herts CC Living room, 11-19 Youth projects Welwyn & Hatfield BC
  • Participate in the local Dragon Dens Apprentices challenges
  • Provide unique innovative service delivery including clinical supervision for professionals and Social Work student placements each year
  • Received funding support from local Morrison’s & Waitrose supermarket
  • Roll out the Fairlands Support Project which supports local parents based within a school setting

More about Family Lives: 

  • Family Lives supported over 40,000 callers last year despite 50% cuts to its Free Helpline.
  • A recent Social Return On Investment analysis for 2012-13 found that every £1 invested in the Family Lives Helpline would likely produce £3.42p of social value.
  • 97% of callers reported that they are more able to deal with the issues that concern them after having spoken to a call taker, making the charity a go-to-service where trained volunteers and professionals are equipped to support families with many issues and work to resolve the two or three issues that a caller is may be calling the charity to discuss.
  • Family Lives supports families who are more likely to be raising children on their own, living in poverty or in difficult circumstances with 58% of callers being single parents, 36% on family incomes under £15k pa, 15% from BME background and 13% are impaired.