The Office of High Sheriff of Lancashire

The High Sheriff of Lancashire has ancient origins and is personally appointed by the King in his Right as Duke of Lancaster. The office, as Keeper of the Kings Peace, is unpaid and held for one year.

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Helping and reaching out to communities is uppermost in the mind of Lancashire's new High Sheriff.

Helen grew up in an ordinary working-class family in Lancaster, she recalls growing up in a large extended family with no inside toilet or bathroom until she was 13.  Yet she's not complaining - quite the opposite in fact.  "You don't miss what you don't have."

Now the holder of a string of titles and awards– among them a 2018 OBE for voluntary services in the UK and abroad – she’s Lancashire's incoming High Sheriff for 2024-25.

Helen went to an ordinary, comprehensive school and left without any A levels and studied much later, part time whilst working as a mature student to achieve several post graduate degrees and a master’s in administration (MBA), mental health law training, Urdu language, and mountain leader training, which is her favourite pastime.

Within the space of a few years, the 'ordinary' Lancaster girl rose through the ranks of the NHS from nurse to Executive Director, Chief Executive and Non-Executive Director of several NHS Trusts in the Northwest, including Calderstones, Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, Guild Community Healthcare NHS Trust, Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, and the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust. More recently working for NHS England to support NHS Trusts with challenges and recently appointed in a voluntary capacity as Lead for the VCFSE on the Provider Board of the Integrated Care Board for Lancashire and South Cumbria.

Alongside her professional career Helen has always undertaken voluntary work for the likes of Amnesty International, Cumbrian mental health charity Mind in Furness and the Children of Russia Project – for which she received an accolade from President Yeltsin in 1993.

Yet a deep passion was ignited at the height of all this, 25 years ago when an NHS colleague Dr Mukhtiar Zaman, took her to Shamshatoo, an area just outside Peshawar in Northwest Pakistan and she was deeply moved when she witnessed the plight of these people, living and working on or near the brick kilns in such poverty that their life expectancy was 38 years.

Her compassion inspired her to throw herself into improving their lives, and together she and Mukhtiar set about finding like-minded people in Lancashire and set up the Abaseen Foundation.

The Abaseen Foundation is a charity that for more than 20 years has provided health care and education for people born into a life of extreme poverty with no option but to work in the region's brick kilns. Helen devoted more and more time to the charity's work, eventually stepping back from full time NHS management and in 2017 the charity and the volunteers from across Lancashire and beyond received a Queen's Award for Voluntary Service.

A quarter of a century on from that first trip, she is now the charity's CEO, leading a large group of supporters, volunteers, and Trustees, mainly from the Pakistani and Indian diaspora in Lancashire, to support these people in northwest Pakistan. 

The efforts of Lancashire people to raise funds for new schools and hospitals transform lives and support people to gain decent jobs and leave poverty on the brick kilns behind.

She is a major advocate of the voluntary sector locally, she is proud to be Vice Chair Mind in Furness, a Cumbrian based mental health charity in Barrow in Furness, Millom and Ulverston, and in the past has led a nursing home-based charity supporting people with mental health issues, and Prospect House, a Lancaster charity helping people with alcohol issues.

As a shining light in the voluntary and charity sector shining a light on voluntary groups across the county will be at the top of her priorities during her year long tenure.

Helen is aware that there are more than 4,000 registered charities in Lancashire and many more voluntary groups, social enterprises and faith groups that are not registered. Our society is dependent on these groups for so many things that the statutory sector, for many reasons, cannot provide. These groups provide much needed support in many forms to so many people, often without recognition constantly seeking financial support to provide services. A priority in Helen’s year will be to visit as many voluntary groups as possible, to raise their profile and shine a light on what they do.

She has active roles in developing international, national, and regional health care, management training and the legal sector as a magistrate – something she has relinquished temporarily whilst she is the High Sheriff of Lancashire.

The message she wants to get across in her year as High Sheriff of Lancashire is

“this is a county full of opportunity, my motto is Carpe Diem – seize the day - and if you can seize the day, in Lancashire you too can aspire to become High Sheriff one day. I went from being an ordinary little girl in Lancaster, with ordinary parents, to being a senior manager in the NHS and charity sector and now becoming High Sheriff of Lancashire. My beginnings were nothing special, yet I have achieved so much living in the County of Lancashire. I truly believe that I am not unique, that Lancashire County is a place of opportunity for everyone, and I hope to inspire people across the county to aim high as in Lancashire, my journey is evidence that anything is possible."

Helen Bingley OBE DL JP 

Helen Bingley OBE DL JP