We have all probably had some bad days during lockdown.¬† A lot of times a reassuring voice makes all the difference.¬† One man who has continued to offer that help, albeit slightly differently, during the past two months has been Simon Bailey, The National Chaplain for UK horse racing.
In our latest Palace House blog, Stephen Wallis spoke to Simon Bailey to find out about the crucial role he has been playing during the coronavirus crisis.
Simon has been in his current position since August 2014 having previously worked at the Evangelical Church in Kilburn, North London. What is really apparent when you speak to Simon is the love he has for his job.¬† ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs not a stress or strain to do my job‚Äù said Simon.
‚ÄúThe hours have been remained quite similar.¬† I am just working in a different way but achieving the same amount.
‚ÄúI am fortunate enough to live on the racecourse side near racing yards.¬† I can just walk out the gate and talk to trainers and staff on the Hamilton Road.¬† I start about 8:00am and in the open and at a distance, I have a chat with the trainers to check how things are going, in these strange times having to train, but with no races to train for.
‚ÄúI also check to see if the trainers and all their staff are OK and chat to the staff as they go by on the horses.¬† Occasionally staff have asked me to ring them later‚Äù said Simon.
Pre lockdown Simon would have conducted house calls to members of the racing industry but this is no longer possible.¬† ‚ÄúNow I have to phone them.¬† It‚Äôs not quite the same but it‚Äôs the best thing we can do at the moment just to stay in touch‚Äù. Simon telephone calls can range from ten minutes up to an hour.¬† ‚ÄúIt really depends on how they are and what their needs are.¬† They are generally well-being calls but if I know the person better then we‚Äôll talk about family and sport‚Äù said Simon.
One initiative Simon has got involved in is delivering food parcels.¬† Some friends, who were on 12-week lockdown informed him they had extra food available from food parcels which they didn‚Äôt need.¬†¬† Simon has then bagged up the food into parcels and delivered to local people, who need it most. As Chaplain Simon has still been doing the funeral side of his job for people linked to racing.¬† ‚ÄúAlthough it is a sad time it still means you can see key people in a room at an important time‚Äù said Simon.
Simon is attached to Racing Welfare, which offers a wide range of services and programmes to assist the industry‚Äôs workforce and their families.¬† A quick look at their website¬† http://www.racingwelfare.co.uk¬†¬†reveals how serious they approach the mental health side.
On a wider point, I asked Simon why sport and in particular horse racing can lead to problems with mental health. ‚ÄúSport is very much a team thing.¬† Jockey/trainer, Player/Manager and in a racing yard, and if you take that side of life away, people are on their own and people are not used to that.¬† Sportspeople like the team environment and without it, they can be sat on their own with their thoughts. I think that plays a big part.
‚ÄúOnce you stop doing it, the sport tends to forget you quite quickly because there‚Äôs always the next star coming through the ranks.¬† People are very soon forgotten.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a big part of my job to make sure people are not left to one side.¬† It‚Äôs about them and to make sure they are all OK each week.‚Äù Away from work, Simon has been going on long family walks with the dog.¬† A lover of live bands he has enjoyed the chance to get out his vinyl and listen to his favourite bands on his turntable, which he bought a few years ago.¬† He also likes to relax with a good book and a glass of wine.¬† ‚ÄúIt helps if you find something you like doing‚Äù said Simon.
As we gradually emerge through the current lockdown members of the racing industry will continue to be affected by a combination of serious mental health issues; family bereavement, financial worries, anxiety, loneliness and other needs which may arise as a result of Covid19.¬† However, it is clear to me that with Simon Bailey and Racing Welfare at the forefront, racing is well placed to support these people, who will need help at this critical time.
We would like to thank Simon Bailey for his help with this blog.
Blog by Stephen Wallis