Thank You #HiddenHeroes

#HiddenHeroes Day 2023 – 29.09.23

The fourth annual #HiddenHeroes Day took place on 29 September 2023, with events up and down the country paying tribute to those working in UK prisons, IRCs, probation and youth justice services.

You can find more pictures and messages of support on Twitter (“X”) at: @HiddenHeroesDay – and it’s not too late to add your own using the #HiddenHeroes hasthtag.


#HiddenHeroes Day is a national day, held in the last week of September each year, in tribute to all the men and women working in UK prisons, IRCs, probation and youth justice services.

It is an opportunity to show them that they are not forgotten, even if they are largely hidden from view, and to thank them for the critical, and often challenging, work they do on behalf of the people in the care and the public they serve.

The day is widely observed each year, with events paying tribute to staff held right across the country.

And in its inaugural year, at the height of Covid-19, and again in 2021, HRH The Princess Royal (Princess Anne) took part on the day, delivering her own personal messages of thanks to staff throughout the UK on visits to HMP Bullingdon in 2020, and to the site of HMPs Brinsford, Featherstone, and Oakwood, in 2021.

You can find write-ups of the first two annual days below, and see how it has been marked in the years since on Twitter (“X”) at: @HiddenHeroesDay; and you can also add your own messages of support by tweeting with the hashtag #HiddenHeroes.

#HiddenHeroes Day 2020 – 29.09.20

On 29.09.20 prisons, probation offices and youth justice services up and down the country celebrated Thank you #HiddenHeroes Day, in tribute to the outstanding service of the #HiddenHeroes working in our prisons, IRCs, probation and youth justice services, especially during the covid-19 outbreak. They were joined on the day by Butler Trust Patron, HRH The Princess Royal, at a special event at HMP Bullingdon.

Zoe Ball fired the starting gun on the first national #HiddenHeroesDay with a shoutout on her Radio 2 Breakfast Show – and the day was off and running…

The Scottish Government’s Justice Minister Humza Yousaf sent support, as did Northern Ireland’s Minister of Justice Naomi Long, and the Minister of State for Prisons and Probation in England & Wales, Lucy Frazer. There was also a special thankyou – diolch – sent out across Wales, alongside proud tweets from Jo Farrar, CEO of HMPPS, the Head of Northern Ireland’s Prison Service Ronnie Armour, the Youth Justice Board’s Chair Keith Fraser, HMI Probation’s Chief Inspector Justin Russell, the National Chair and General Secretary of the POA, and the Association of YOT Managers.

Meanwhile, the Butler Trust’s Patron, HRH The Princess Royal, was at HMP Bullingdon, making her third of five #HiddenHeroes visits to prisons in six weeks. After touring the jail, she addressed staff, outside visits, telling them:
“It’s a real pleasure to be here today, in the Butler Trust 35th Anniversary year, to share in your celebrations of the first national Hidden Heroes Day, in recognition of all that you and your colleagues do, on behalf of both the people in your care, and the public you serve so admirably.”

To further mark the occasion, Her Royal Highness unveiled the #HiddenHeroes artwork the Butler Trust had commissioned from artist and recent Award Winner, Nikki Dennington. Framed copies of her work, as well as flags, had been distributed throughout the estate – and could be seen proudly displayed in photographs and videos shared across social media during the day.

Using the hashtag #HiddenHeroesDay, we also heard from prisons and IRCs, local probation offices, Approved Premises and Community Payback Teams, and youth justice services, in each nation. There were enthusiastic messages, too, from a wide range of voluntary sector agencies and suppliers, as well as colleagues, families, and friends.

Beyond all the messages of thanks, managers up and down the country paid tribute to their staff with their own #HiddenHeroesDay events. There were speeches, flags were flown, and pictures unveiled – and the No. 1 at HMP Huntercombe was one of a number to send personalised cards to every member of staff. There was a chocolate treasure hunt, charity cake sales and raffles, quizzes, games, and ‘Bake Offs’ – HMP & YOI Bronzefield even had a trumpet player! Some canny prisons had secured local donations for their events, and HMP Pentonville landed some raffle prizes from Arsenal and one of their former goalkeepers, Bob Wilson. There were specially-produced badges, lanyards, mugs and pens to mark the occasion too – and lots, and lots of food. HMP Peterborough had popcorn, a sweetie cart and a chocolate fountain, and there were bacon-butties for breakfast, lunches and teas, cakes, biscuits, curries, pizzas, cookies, chocolates, snack packs, and ‘goody-bags’ galore.

Lexi Rayner, an Officer at Bullingdon, summed up what #HiddenHeroesDay meant to her and her colleagues:
“To have a day where people have gone, ‘we see you, you are not forgotten, this is for you’, it’s wonderful.”


#HiddenHeroes Day 2021 – 29.09.21

After a hugely successful first #HiddenHeroesDay last year, #HiddenHeroesDay 2 began with the fantastic news that #HiddenHeroes across the UK had already raised over £40,000, twice the original target, as part of a national #HiddenHeroes #CharityChallenge for Mental Health UK – with yet more fundraising events taking place throughout the day itself.

The Butler Trust’s Royal Patron, HRH The Princess Royal, marked the day with a visit to HMP & YOI Brinsford, after which she spoke to staff from the prison, together with colleagues from next door HMPs Oakwood and Featherstone, to express her personal gratitude to them, and their colleagues in custodial and community settings throughout the UK. Jo Farrar, Chief Executive of HMPPS, was also there and added her own thanks to staff and volunteers across the sector.

Among many others: The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State, Dominic Raab; the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Keith Brown;  and Keith Fraser, Chair of the Youth Justice Board; all shared their own messages support. While Northern Ireland’s Justice Minister Naomi Long visited HMP Maghaberry and the Probation Board of Northern Ireland to express her thanks for the work of staff there.

There were messages of support and thanks too from colleagues, families, and friends across the country, as well as from ordinary members of the public, while managers up and down the country showed their appreciation in a host of different ways – there were flags flown, speeches made, gifts given, awards presented, games played, food served (including, at HMP Downview, some cakes made by the children at a local school), and lots (and lots) of chocolate… – the Governor of HMP Woodhill even unveiled a #HiddenHeroes garden dedicated to staff.

Meanwhile, our #HiddenHeroes were still raising money – including bake sales, sporting competitions, raffles, and even (at HMP Warren Hill) a sponsored fun run with staff dressed as superheroes – and by the end of the day the #CharityChallenge total had reached almost £70,000!

You can see how the day has been marked in the years since 2021 on Twitter (“X”) at: @HiddenHeroesDay.