Top politicians and journalists are backing new awards to highlight the next generation of campaigners who strive to improve the lives of ordinary people in Britain and particularly those denied a voice.
The awards are the brainchild of the Sheila McKechnie Foundation (SMF), set up last year in honour of the late Dame Sheila McKechnie, former director of Which?. They cover issues ranging from debt to transport.
Sheila made an enormous contribution to people’s rights through her work with Shelter and the Consumers’ Association (now Which?). She died in 2004 after years of living with cancer.
Sheila’s many successes include leading campaigns such as the Rip-off Britain campaign to cut UK car prices. Another campaign tackled standards in the food industry, which led directly to the establishment of the Food Standards Agency in 2000.
Raise a voice
The foundation has already won the backing of the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, as well as Which? President Lord Geoffrey Howe of Aberavon and breast cancer campaigner Baroness Delyth Morgan, all of whom are patrons.
News broadcaster Jon Snow is also a patron. He said: ‘We want to make it possible for another Sheila, another passionate informed campaigner, to break out and raise a voice from beyond organised politics on behalf of those denied rights and opportunities.’
The Chancellor added: ‘Campaigning is critical to a healthy democracy…campaigners bring people together and so have the power to change the world for the better.’
Candidates for awards will need to show a distinguished panel of judges they have what it takes to succeed as a campaigner. There will be awards in the fields of conflict resolution, economic justice, health and social care, social inclusion and transport.
Which? is also sponsoring an award for consumer action, honouring campaigners who help people get a fair deal on goods and services.
The winners will be announced at a high profile ceremony in March 2006 and will benefit from a ten-day package of support including residential courses or shadowing top campaigning journalists and politicians.
The deadline for applications is 16 January. For more information visit the Sheila McKechnie Foundation or call 020 7770 7822.