Gemma Waterhouse may well know the price of most things but she certainly appreciates the value of even more. Here, the accountant-turned Racing Welfare Operating Officer looks forward to supporting the charity’s work to provide proactive, positive services to all of racing’s people.
Offering services for all those in racing
My greatest hope in my new role is that we can continue to hone and refine our services in order to support as many people as possible, which in turn creates a positive ripple effect throughout the industry. Our focus has shifted from reaction to prevention and early intervention with issues such as physical and mental health.
Not just a numbers game
As an accountant by trade and Fellow of the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants, my career is an embodiment of qualification mixed in equal measure with an insurmountable passion for horseracing. Having spent 10 years working in both the UK and the US for accountancy firm Baker Tilly, the seven years that followed as Finance Director at the British Racing School (BRS) in Newmarket gave me some incredibly special moments. In particular, the creation of the Pony Racing Academy at the BRS is an achievement that sits well up in my career highlights. The Academy provides an accessible route for children, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, to become involved in racing.
I really enjoyed my four years working as a self-employed consultant but sitting where I do now I get the same buzz in anticipation of Racing Welfare’s forthcoming plans and strategic objectives. Completing our regional welfare framework with the recruitment of a welfare officer in Wales earlier this year was an important step forward. We are also on course for a 10% yearly rise in the number of individuals we’ve supported. When you add in a 21% uplift in the number of individual interventions by the welfare team, a picture soon emerges that we are helping more people, more often than ever before.
Racing Welfare is about offering non-judgmental and confidential advice, guidance and support around all of the challenges a person might encounter throughout their life. These challenges are not racing-specific but affect everyone in society and we have created the infrastructure to be able to offer support on a wide range of issues, hopefully before the initial problem creates complications of its own.
Having launched Racing’s Occupational Health Service in September of this year and refined the delivery of the Career Advice and Training Service (CATS) throughout 2018, we look forward to growing these aspects of our provision over the coming year. Next Spring will also see delivery of the findings and recommendations generated by the mental health research project undertaken by Liverpool John Moores University on our behalf over the course of this year. We anticipate that information coming from the study will form the basis of our future mental health services, cementing our evidenced-based approach to programme development.
Enriching Community life
As much as Racing Welfare focuses on support services, we have also developed an incredible portfolio of community engagement events. In fact, welfare officers organised or attended 835 events across the country between January and June this year. These vary from retiree coffee mornings, trips and outings – all aimed at combatting isolation and loneliness in racing communities. We also offer educational, careers and social events for those still working in racing to help them get the most out of their lives in the sport.
The charity relies on fundraising events and contributions from the Racing Foundation and other charitable trusts to finance our work and we are extremely grateful to those who support us.
I will be forever passionate about racing and am proud to be a part of the sport. I now look forward to being part of a charity that has the capacity to enrich and support all of our racing lives.