Debbie Woodward – 1965-2021

Debbie Woodward was the Programme Manager at Empower until she sadly passed away in December 2021. This is our memorial page to a fearless community campaigner who spent a lifetime helping and supporting others.

Debbie was born locally on the 6th February 1965 and she has three brothers. The family moved to Zambia when Debbie was a child, where her father was a mining engineer and later to Iran; however, after the revolution, the family returned to Grimsby. Debbie then completed her final year at school at Western Comprehensive before moving on to Grimsby College, where she achieved a Diploma in Hotel Management and Catering.

Debbie then joined the Royal Air Force where she served for 11 years and her service included acting as a steward housekeeper for the deputy head of European forces in Holland and as a Cabin Crew Air Stewardess on VIP flights. This allowed her to travel throughout the world, often with dignitaries and she had a host of tales to tell from these experiences.

On leaving the RAF, Debbie joined Thames Valley Police and after a period of probationary duties she became a community officer on the somewhat infamous Blackbird Estate, it is suggested that her role was further challenged by her being allocated a pink bicycle to complete her duties. Debbie progressed to be a Practitioner and Trainer in the early days of Restorative Justice on secondment to the Youth Justice Team under Sir Charles Pollard QPM, where she was able to act as a Trainer in Restorative Solutions to Youth Justice Boards across England.

Debbie was blessed with the birth of her daughter Jessica in March 1997, and later took a career break in 2001, returning to Grimsby. Determined not to rest on her laurels, Debbie decided to use her skill and experience and joined the Community Safety Partnership, then under the organisation NACRO, before joining North East Lincolnshire Council, to lead the Neat Streets Project, training and deploying Community Environmental Wardens.

In late 2004, Debbie joined the newly formed Drug Interventions Programme (DIP) and was instrumental in creating an assertive outreach team to ensure individuals did not fall out of treatment, this included tracing people out of hours and at weekends and finding solutions such as suitable accommodation and funding. It was at this time that Shoreline Housing Partnership was created and Debbie was successful in gaining a post with SHP as a Community Crime Reduction Officer, providing solutions and reassurance to the community and residents in local housing. Debbie briefly moved in to a small team, overseeing projects under the National Neighbourhood Renewal Scheme, before working with a national consultancy undertaking insight into community tensions throughout Lincolnshire and the Midlands.

In the autumn of 2010, Debbie was successful of obtaining the position of Programme Manager at the newly formed Empower Employability Mentoring Programme. It is through Debbie’s drive that this programme, funded for two years from the outset, became self-sustaining and still continues today. Empower CIC engages with those most distanced from the world of work and gives them the life skills and qualifications to overcome unemployment. What Debbie created at Empower has assisted well over 500 local individuals to gain and sustain work, changing their lives and the lives of their families. What everybody has said recently and in the past, is that Debbie was tireless in helping people and putting their problems first and certainly before her own issues. Debbie was also a Director and Treasures of North East Lincolnshire VCSE Alliance, she had previously been active with CRUSE and a Bereavement Councillor.

In 2019 Debbie became a Ward Councillor for Park Ward in Grimsby, a ward in which she lived and was totally committed. In addition to supporting local residents, Debbie was the elected member representative within the Local Authority Adoption Committee and her commitment is evidenced during the Covid pandemic of her drive to set up a Community Pop-up Café in conjunction with the Park Ward Together Community Group and the Park Ward Bowls Club. This intervention assisted members of the community who had been isolating and lost confidence to meet others, in pleasant surroundings and improve their personal, emotional wellbeing.

Finally, it is evident that from her work over 20 years that Debbie was committed to improvement for communities in North East Lincolnshire and it has now been confirmed that as a consequence of her work and determination, there will be a commendation from the Community Safety Partnership Executive, for Debbie’s long-term commitment to community safety.

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