A DEDICATED volunteer who has given 36 years of her life to child protection has been recognised with a prestigious award.

Pat Laurie, the NSPCC’s Essex branch chairman from Colchester, was crowned Volunteer Leader of the Year in the east of England at the charity’s Childhood Champions Awards 2018.

Pat, 71, was the NSPCC’s branch secretary from 1986 to 1993, and took on the role of Essex branch chairman in 2009, a role she will retire from next month.

She said: “I have always felt passionate about children’s charities, and as a parent and grandparent I believe strongly all children should have the right to grow up in a caring environment which enables them to achieve their full potential.

“During my 36 years, aspects of the charity’s focus have changed. When I joined, we had one local inspector who responded to reports of physical, sexual abuse and neglect. But nowadays the charity must also respond to the growing problem of online abuse.”

Pat believes the NSPCC’s new #WildWestWeb campaign to combat online grooming is vital. The charity recognises social media is being used to target children and is calling on the Government to regulate social media companies.

She added: “Although the internet is a wonderful thing, it is also a dark place.

“When I started we had never heard of ‘grooming’, but there are cases cropping up all over the country now.”

One of Pat’s proudest achievements has been her involvement with the West Bergholt NSPCC Book Fair, which has been going strong for 29 years. She praised the team of volunteers.

Pat said: “I’m really thrilled and surprised to have been given this award, but I want to dedicate it to all the volunteers in Essex.

“I feel blessed to have worked with a wonderful team of volunteers, whose commitment and enthusiasm is unparalleled.”Although Pat is standing down as branch chairman, she will continue as divisional vice-president.