What does the Honours system mean to you?
I often hear the comment that it’s one of those things twice a year where high-profile people get given a ‘gong’ because of some political motivation. The news hits the headlines for a few days and people applaud the popular choices and complain about the system with the unpopular choices. The question often arises, if this is all the Honours system does, then do we still need it?
I want to ask a slightly different question. Would you like to make sure that all those people in your local community or in your sport, who get up at silly o’clock on a weekend to coach your kids, get recognised for their work? We all know someone who just goes above and beyond. People who volunteer their time to help others. People who have coached the mini football team after school for years. Swimming teachers who (maybe now aged 80) are still teaching kids to swim and who have probably saved hundreds of lives from drowning (if we could only know!). People who referee and support and wash the kit. People who open up first and close up after everyone has gone home, having swept the floor of the clubhouse before leaving. We all know someone like that…
…so, back to my question and how does it link to the Honours system?
Well, here’s the thing. The.gov website says this:
Anyone can nominate someone for an honour.
I bet you didn’t know that! So, what does that make you think? The site also says:
People get honours for achievements like:
- making a difference to their community or field of work
- long-term voluntary service
- improving life for people less able to help themselves
Let’s think about that just for a minute. Any of the people I mention above, are they committed to helping their community or sport? Are they giving their time voluntarily? Helping people learn to swim saves lives. Coaching football or gymnastics or badminton keeps people healthy and active and all the people above make life better for others, sharing fun, celebrating success and encouraging progress – and these are just a few examples. I am sure that will think of many more.
This does raise a few questions – firstly does this mean a knighthood for the local swimming teacher? I’m afraid not, but here are a couple of descriptions from the .gov website again:
- This is awarded for having a major local role in any activity, including people whose work has made them known nationally in their chosen area.
- Awarded for an outstanding achievement or service to the community. This will have had a long-term, significant impact and stand out as an example to others.
- Awarded for a ‘hands-on’ service to the local community. This could be a long-term charitable or voluntary activity, or innovative work of a relatively short duration (3 to 4 years) that has made a significant difference.
Reading these descriptions, does this sound like it applies to anyone you know? And, then, does the Honours system make some sense for them? The thing is, there’s a bit of a knock-on effect if the person you know gets nominated and awarded. They get to go to Buckingham Palace to collect their award – they take a friend or family member, often the person who has been woken at 6am on a Saturday by a partner leaving for coaching duty, when really, they’d just like a lie-in! The club or sport and the community gets recognised by getting a higher profile or just pride that one of their own has been recognised for the work they do. Gaining this kind of award can become an inspiration to others and we all get to know that their hard work can be rewarded by a huge thank you. This doesn’t sound like ‘political motivation’ to me…this sounds like ‘thank you’ and ‘we really care about what you do’ and ‘you’ve made a difference’!
What now? All fired up to fill in the form? I hope so!
Here are a few details. To nominate someone, you need:
- their name, age, address and contact details
- details of relevant work or volunteering they’ve done
- details of any awards or other recognition they’ve received
- 2 supporting letters to back up your nomination - these should be from people who know the nominee personally
You can include any evidence you have of recognition your nominee has received for their achievements, for example articles, photos or letters and a nomination can be by post or email. Just go to the website https://www.gov.uk/honours/nominate-someone-in-the-uk for more details.
There’s a handy guide on how to write the nomination and don’t worry about spelling (I’m not sure it says that!) and don’t worry of you don’t hear anything for a while. The system sometimes takes 12 to 18 months, so don’t panic if you don’t hear anything right away – and don’t forget, it’s a big secret until the names are released at New Year and on The Queen's official birthday in June.
Honours are there to celebrate success, honour achievement and shine a light on hard work or long service which might otherwise go unnoticed. I don’t think that’s a bad thing – do you?