By Alistair Smout, Sarah Mills and Marie-Louise Gumuchian
LONDON (Reuters) – A British youth charity set up by the then Prince Charles in the 1970s that has helped a million young people, including actor Idris Elba, to get training, find work or create community projects will continue to operate now he is monarch.
Charles, who became king last week after the death of his mother Queen Elizabeth, set up the charity with 7,500 pounds ($8,678) of severance pay from the Navy, to tackle high youth unemployment he feared would leave young people marginalised.
It will retain its original name, The Prince’s Trust, Chief Executive Martina Milburn told Reuters.
Beneficiaries of the Trust have included “The Wire” actor Elba, David Oyelowo who starred in historical drama film “Selma” and many more who have gone on to set up businesses or community projects in sports or the arts.
British DJ and record producer Shahid Khan, better known by his stage name “Naughty Boy”, said he had gained confidence from a decision by the Trust to grant him 5,000 pounds to buy studio equipment when he was starting out.
“Growing up in a council estate you’re not used to people just saying ‘you know what, I actually believe in you and I’ve got a feeling you will make this happen so that was new to me'” he told Reuters, adding the application for the grant provided a learning curve too.
“Although I wanted to start my own music business there was a lot I needed to learn so that kickstarted my process of learning.”
The youth charity helps young people aged 11 to 30 get into jobs, education and training, providing grants and support. Although Charles used to attend meetings of trustees, he no longer does.
He said in his first speech as king that he would not have as much time for the charities and issues for which he cared “so deeply” but would pass the baton on to others.
Under Britain’s unwritten constitution, the royal family is not supposed to speak out on political and other issues.
Elba, who grew up on an east London council estate, has spoken about how a 1,500 pound grant from the Prince’s Trust helped him fund a place at the National Youth Music Theatre, and the importance of the charity in offering different paths for young Black men, some of whom could otherwise fall into crime.
“It was really pivotal and great and I’m so thankful for it,” Elba, a Prince’s Trust ambassador, told Reuters last month, adding that it was important to “speak up about crime” and “empower those that are actually doing the work”.
“It’s an ongoing fight… it’s an ongoing message.”
Valerie Amos, a Labour peer and the first Black person awarded the Order of the Garter by the Queen in June which puts her in a select group that advises the monarch, said Charles’ role had been vital “in terms of giving young people in those communities not just support, but the opportunity to rise to their potential”.
“The work that Prince Charles has done through the Prince’s Trust over so many years I think has been extremely important in terms of understanding what is happening in different communities in Britain,” she told Reuters.
Another Labour politician, David Lammy, recalled that after riots broke out in his constituency of Tottenham, north London, in 2011, political leaders came once and did not return.
Charles on the other hand returned five times and brought officials from his charities with him, Lammy said.
The Trust’s Milburn said that after talking to young people in Tottenham following the riots, Charles would feed back ideas based on what he had heard.
“He has this amazing ability to connect. What he does more than anything is listen,” she said.
“His position as king is different. He definitely will have less time… But he has told me he’s still going to keep an eye on things and what I’m up to.”
($1 = 0.8642 pounds)
(Additional reporting by Kate Holton and Michael Holden; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise)