A Rotherham anti-bullying campaigner was delighted to be shortlisted for the prestigious Tesco Mum of the Year Awards by her proud son.
Mum-of-three Michele Fudge, aged 53, of Sunnyside, Rotherham, set up The Silent Voice in 2006 after claiming her middle son Scott, now aged 24, was driven almost to suicide by bullies at his primary school in Maltby. His older brother also suffered problems.
Michele’s campaigning work has led her to meet Prime Minister David Cameron and Education Secretary Michael Gove, Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson and showbiz stars, including members of The Osmonds and Strictly Come Dancing star Ben Cohen.
She has lobbied politicians to drop a ‘no blame’ policy on school bullying and wants money that is used to prosecute parents of children who are missing school because they are being bullied to be used instead to back groups that are getting positive results to tackle the problem.
She is determined to use the publicity from the awards to push her campaigning, which she does from her home.
Michele said: “At first I was speechless when I heard about being shortlisted. When someone phoned and said it was Tesco, I thought it would be about the Clubcard or something!
“It’s bullied kids that should get an award for what they’ve gone through, though.”
She is passionate about fighting to stop any more youngsters committing suicide because they are so distressed at what they are going through. Michele says that the number of youngsters killing themselves is on the rise.
She said: “There’s a culture breeding in this country of children killing children. Bullying also leads to anxiety, OCD, stress and self-harm.”
Research by Warwick University found that the physical and psychological effects on a bullied person can last long into adulthood.
Michele says that she has seen the effects of being bullied on the immune system and how it continues to affect Scott.
She is a big fan of work that is being done by the Lifewise Centre in Hellaby, Rotherham and the Crucial Crew education programme that was set up by the police and fire services and other organisations.
South Yorkshire schools can take children to the centre, which has life-sized street scenes in it used to enact scenarios, to learn about all aspects of safety. Online bullying can be tackled using the centre’s computer suite.
Michele said: “We’ve had parents outside courtrooms in Doncaster for truanting. Every single person was bullied. It was on their records.
“Some families are hauled back into court time and time again. Legal aid was stopped by the last government.”
She says that the money spent on those prosecutions could be better used by Lifewise or In2Change, a charity that helps the rehabilitation of ex-prisoners by involving them in running courses on all sorts of issues, including bullying.
Michele added: “We need to invest in local work that actually gets results.”
For more information on the Tesco Mum of the Year Awards, visit www.tesco.com/living and click on the Mum of the Year section.
Keep up to date with all the news from the awards on Twitter @TescoLiving #TescoMumoftheYear