Group founder eyes further success after 'surprise' Covid award

Phil Priestley with Cambridgeshire Covid community champion award

Phil Priestley, founder of the Cambs Youth Panel, with his Covid community champion award, signed by Cambridgeshire MPs including Lucy Frazer. - Credit: Phil Priestley

The founder of a group which has helped deliver computers to disadvantaged children believes more progress is still to come after winning a Covid community champion award. 

Phil Priestley won the award, organised by SE Cambs MP Lucy Frazer, for his work in distributing laptops and computers to those who need it most in Cambridgeshire through the Covid-19 pandemic. 

“The award is not why we do what we do, but it’s special to get the recognition,” he said. 

Phil founded the Cambs Youth Panel (CYP), a group of young people, in 2016

A surprise to him, Phil received an email from Ms Frazer about the award after a delivery helper had nominated him. 

“I think a member of a Cambridge bikers' group who dropped off computers and laptops for people saw there was this award, so he made an application,” said Phil. 

“He didn’t say he was putting my name forward, but I then got an email from Lucy Frazer’s office.   

“We have worked with Ms Frazer on projects before, such as the impact of knife crime on the local area, so getting an email from her was not too out of the ordinary.” 

Phil Priestley and SE Cambs MP Lucy Frazer

Phil Priestley of the Cambs Youth Panel has worked with SE Cambs MP Lucy Frazer (right) on different projects, such as tackling knife crime. - Credit: Archant

Phil thanked Ms Frazer as well as other Cambridgeshire MPs, including NE Cambs MP Steve Barclay, after receiving his certificate earlier this month. 

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In the last two years, the CYP have helped deliver around 1,450 laptops to children in the county. 

And despite not receiving government funding towards their mission, many other organisations and technology firms have backed the campaign. 

“We have the backing of significant local figures, such as the Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire Julie Spence, which has been brilliant,” said Phil.  

“With the presence we have now, I think the next big breakthrough will be 2,000 devices this year, which we feel is realistic.” 

Child receives laptop thanks to Cambs Youth Panel

The Cambs Youth Panel, which has delivered computers and laptops to disadvantaged children in Cambridgeshire, is aiming to reach 2,000 devices in 2022. - Credit: Cambs Youth Panel

Over 60 schools have been supported by the CYP since the project began, and has reached out to families in the likes of Ely, Littleport and Huntingdon, too. 

More funding applications are in progress, but for Phil and his team, there is plenty more work to do. 

“I don’t think people thought we could hand out as many computers as we have,” he said. 

“We’re building to the next level, but we have to graft every time as we could be in a precarious position, and then see what you get.”