Rev. Bob Akroyd, Free Church Minister and Edinburgh Theological Seminary (ETS) Lecturer, will become the 2018/19 recipient of the Butler Trust Award for his outstanding work in HMP Edinburgh.
The national award presided over by Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal, recognises, celebrates, develops and disseminates outstanding work and best practice across UK prisons, probation and youth justice.
In announcing the winners, The Butler Trust said Bob had been given the award for the "exceptional support he has provided to both prisoners and staff, and in recognition of his outstanding pastoral care helping families and colleagues through remembrance and grief as well as in celebrations of life."
Responding to his award Bob said, "I am humbled and also delighted to receive this award. I feel particularly honoured because I was nominated by a fellow member of staff at HMP Edinburgh. I never expected to work in a prison and I certainly never expected to be honoured for working in a prison. This whole episode reminds me that God is good all the time and that good relationships with people are so important in every aspect of Christian service."
Initial Nominator and Acting Residential Officer Joanne Smith described Bob on The Butler Trust website as "incredibly friendly, genuine and larger than life" and having the (widely noted) knack of being able to remember the name of every person he meets. "He is so well regarded," she adds, "that in most Residential Halls at HMP Edinburgh, the Chaplaincy Book is regularly referred to and in fact physically labelled up as ‘Bob’s Book’. He is regularly requested by name, by the individuals in our care who wish to seek the support regardless of their own beliefs/faith or lack thereof in many cases." She says "Bob does not expect anyone to share his faith, or even have a faith of their own, and is completely indiscriminate in his approach to supporting those around him."
She says that "as well as being a favourite within the prisoner population he is also regularly requested for by staff, who are going through a rough time, whether professionally or personally," and adds her own "personal testimony to the fact that Bob delivers his full attention, making you feel safe and encapsulated by his love and devotion to God, delivering a support and guidance that I have never known anywhere or with anyone else before."
In short, she says, ‘Bob unlocks potential and transforms lives. He helps each individual to shoulder their burdens and empowers them to move forward to a more positive future, where they are able to successfully tackle life and its problems head on, becoming the best and strongest version of themselves… a version they might not have even known, or dared hope, existed before his unwavering hand was offered in support.’
The Butler Trust was set up in 1985 by Veronica Linklater – now Baroness Linklater of Butterstone, former prison governor, Rev. Peter Timms OBE, and David Astor, former editor of The Observer, to recognise and celebrate outstanding practice by those working with offenders, through an annual award scheme.
The Trust is named after Richard Austen Butler (RAB), later Lord Butler of Saffron Walden who introduced a series of reforms to improve the management, care and rehabilitation of offenders.