The Youth Bus at Waterside Skate Park provided a safe space for young people aged 11 to 25.
Youth Bus sports sessions and summer holiday club.
Canvey Island, Essex
- Improved social links and ties;
- Collective action and control;
- Increased confidence, knowledge, skills and assets;
- Improved individual wellbeing.
What has the project achieved?
The project allowed young people to experience new things, get new hobbies and sports skills, and learn about issues such as mental health, sexual health and social issues. Some participants went on to become Youth Volunteers with the project. Around 200 young people accessed the services during 2018. The project also helped Yellow Door to join up previously self-contained services, such as the youth café and food parcels, to form part of a wider network.
Improved social links and ties
- Increased friendships and social connectedness;
- Reduced social isolation;
- New support networks;
- Bringing the community together.
The project provided a solution to the complaint that there was “nothing to do” locally. It gave young people a chance to develop constructive social lives and new social networks, whether through sporting activities or community events. These activities helped to bring the community together as young residents became more socially connected, growing their friendships and support networks.
The project also helped to improve Yellow Door’s own working relationships within the local community through improved partnership working with different organisations such as the council and Active Essex. This increased dialogue enhanced the level of trust between Yellow Door and the wider community.
I like coming here – I would just be sat at home or with my mum at work if I was not here. Here I get to meet lots of new people and now I have more friends that I didn’t have before.
Collective action and control
- Decision-making through dialogue;
- Involvement of Young Volunteers.
Young people were involved in the delivery of the project in various ways. Initially, their feedback and ideas decided on which activities would be offered, so that these reflected the aspirations of young residents. Ongoing dialogue and a participatory culture ensured that young people continued to shape the service to meet their needs and expectations.
Direct engagement and conversations proved more useful than formal structures. This was partly because this reflected the culture of the young people and partly because there was no fixed membership and different people used the service throughout the course of the project. Although many attendees were transient, there were several participants – Young Volunteers – who went on to volunteer on a regular basis. They brought their own ideas and skills to the project, for example through offering sports coaching.
We constantly ask, engage and involve our young people and our volunteers. Without these two groups, the service would fail and so it is crucial that we have them on board at all times.
Increased confidence, knowledge, skills and assets
- New hobbies;
- Development of life skills;
- Volunteering opportunities;
- Learning about health and social issues.
The programme’s success was shown in the increase in confidence and knowledge among the young people who attended, especially those who became Young Volunteers. The project helped them to experience new things, find new hobbies and develop both sports skills and life skills.
It also allowed them to learn about issues such as mental health, sexual health and social issues – including issues that affected the local community, such as knife crime or drugs. Discussing local issues helped young people to be aware of any risks they might face in the local area, and allowed them to express their concerns in a supportive environment.
The kids really enjoy learning new skills, not just in sport, but other life skills like learning to cook and learning to make friends. They are free to do what they want – the important thing is that the sport and the bus give the children the opportunity to develop these skills in safe and productive spaces.
Improved individual wellbeing
- Physical activity through sports sessions;
- Reduced social isolation;
- Support and guidance;
- Targeted support where needed.
The physical activities on offer had a direct impact on young people’s health and wellbeing, improving fitness levels and sports skills. These sports sessions made it more likely that the young people would continue to have active lifestyles into adulthood. The constructive activities on offer at the leisure park meant that young people were less likely to be exposed to anti-social behaviour.
Having a free and safe space to meet meant that some young people, whose needs went beyond what the Youth Bus offered, could get targeted support. Staff and volunteers were able to direct them to other services (such as counselling, food parcels or medical support) provided by Yellow Door and others. Without the Youth Bus as a gateway to wider services they might not have been able to access this support.
If we can create an environment where young people feel safe and able to discuss their issues, we can then let them know if there are other services that we, or anyone else, provide that might be able to help.
Lessons for other projects
- While the local community comes first, it is important to have wider visibility to engage more supporters and investors and to avoid duplication with other providers.
- Taking risks and trying new things can be a learning experience. Yellow Door had never considered running sports sessions or large events such as ‘Skate Jam’ before they received the Active Communities funding, but were able to learn from these.