The social worker who rode her way to an MBE

Independent practitioner and children's guardian Gill Timmis was recognised for organising charity bike rides that have raised almost £500,000 for vulnerable children in the UK and abroad.

Gill Timmis on a bike ride in aid of children in care in France last year


Gill Timmis’ CV

  • Independent social worker since 2002, carrying out roles such as parenting and risk assessments of parents.
  • Self-employed Cafcass guardian in London and the South East.
  • National Youth Advocacy Service guardian at litem and case worker since 2002.
  • Independent social work trainer since 1998 in areas including childcare legislation, permanency and children’s rights.
  • Worked as consultant for the Jersey Family Court Advisory Service, 2012.
  • Gained Certificate of Qualification in Social Work in 1984 and MA in Advanced Social Work in 2001.

Gill Timmis was the only practising social worker to win a gong in this year’s New Year Honours. But her MBE was not the fruit of her work as a self-employed children’s guardian or independent social worker but of over a decade’s worth of fundraising and voluntary work for children’s charities at home and abroad, much of it conducted on a bike.

The road to Timmis’s MBE started in 2000 when, approaching a significant birthday and experiencing career frustrations in her work as a guardian, a gentle ride in Richmond Park with her sister gave her the idea of doing charity bike rides in aid of a cause close to her heart: children in care.

Research into charities led her to choose the Who Cares Trust?, which aims to empower and give voice to young people in care to improve their lives, and since, 2002, a series of annual bike ridesin the UK or Europe have raised almost £440,000 for the organisation. These typically last three-and-a-half days and cover 200-225 miles with recent destinations including Burgundy in France (2012), Luxembourg (2011) and Northumberland (2010).

If that were not enough, Timmis has started another annual series of rides along the Thames which have raised £25,000 for overseas projects to support vulnerable children, including street children in Ethiopia and those in institutional settings in Bulgaria.

Timmis says her professional life was crucial in inspiring her charitable work, and in encouraging others to support her.

“The reason I wanted to do it is that I’m involved with children entering care and I know that it can be a mixed blessing, and I wanted to improve things for them,” she says.  “That was my motivation and that’s shared by a lot of other people involved.”

She says fellow family court professionals, including social workers, lawyers and judges, have been among the strongest supporters of her Biking for Children in Care rides, with many joining her on the roads or encouraging colleagues to support the rides.

Timmis was nominated by a fellow rider and says that her MBE is “absolutely fantastic”. However, she adds that Biking for Children in Care has been a true team effort involving many other people in planning the rides and calling in favours, as well as taking part. For example, she says the journalist husband of a fellow children’s guardian has managed to secure transport to support the rides through his links to the motor industry.

Last year 56 people took part in the annual ride for the Who Cares Trust?, compared with 16 in the first ride, and Timmis says: “The event is such a hoot so every time people do it they want to come again and bring their friends. It’s grown like Topsy.”

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