My week: Peter Stanford

Peter Stanford follows Diana's lead and avoids the bigwigs at her memorial event.

Peter Stanford
Peter Stanford

Monday: The parents of 11-year-old Rhys Jones, gunned down in Liverpool, speak for the first time to BBC News. Their pain - unimaginable but so evident - makes me want to keep my own 10- and seven-year-olds inside and in my sight forever. I am struck by the Jones' refusal to label Rhys's killer as evil, but instead to ask what had gone wrong in his life to make him do such a thing, a reaction prison reform charities have been urging on a reluctant public for years.

Tuesday: Summer holidays in Norfolk are coming to an end, and with them the chance to observe a more traditional way of fundraising. Our village has persuaded the charity commissioners to let them sell for redevelopment the War Memorial Institute, once the social hub but now redundant, and redirect the proceeds to a new sports pavilion on the green. As a small rural community pulling together, it's impressive, and the reverse of what the headlines would suggest is happening.

Wednesday: I return to a desk heaving with post that needs urgent attention. I have been dealing with the emails while in Norfolk, but one surviving Victorian aspect to our prisons is their routine refusal to allow inmates any use whatsoever of the internet, even under supervision. It just deepens the gap between them and the outside world and adds to the uphill task of rehabilitation. So every appeal for funding with education has to be handwritten and posted. I even have heads of learning and skills in prisons telling me they have no internet access to enable them to download Longford Trust application forms.

Thursday: As a serial exam avoider, I am thrown in at the deep end with a meeting in the world of academia. Aspire funds a professorial chair in disability and technology, and after 11 years the incumbent is moving on. Friendly but hard-pressed dons and university administrators complain bitterly but impotently that central government funding of higher education is more interested in counting papers published in academic journals than practical results that will change lives. Another example of the disadvantages of the target-driven culture brought in by New Labour.

Friday: The day of the memorial service for Diana, Princess of Wales. As chairman of one of 'her' charities, I was sent an invitation, but, tempting though it was to attend a headline-grabbing event, I decided to take a leaf out of our one-time royal patron's book. Her concern on visits to Aspire was not the bigwigs but the people we work with, so I asked one of them to go in my place. Diana's powerful and profound empathy with those in need has become her enduring legacy.

- Peter Stanford is a writer and broadcaster, chairman of Aspire and director of the Frank Longford Charitable Trust.

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