We’re delighted to announce that our SW!TCH Futures programme for young people on the edge of poor mental health, criminal exploitation, and education exclusion will be expanding even further.
Thanks to funding from the new Propel initiative, we’ll be expanding our team of Youth Development Workers to support an additional 400 young people across East London over the next two years.
With funding from the Mayor of London’s New Deal for Young People, our SW!TCH Futures team are already working with over 500 young people each year, delivering one-to-one mentoring in schools and a range of positive activities to groups of young people in the community.
Why is this needed?
In recent years, our existing SW!TCH Futures programme has been receiving an increasing number of referrals from agencies and professionals that we’ve not had the capacity to fulfil. These have been coming from a variety of sources, including Early Help, social workers, Family Hubs, and children’s homes. We’ve also heard from local authorities about growing concerns about the number of children who are withdrawing from formal education—with some areas recording twice as many as before in the past year—as well as persistent absence rates soaring.
On a wider scale, east London boroughs have seen a rapid growth in the number of young people over the past 10 years. However, investment in services for young people has failed to keep pace. Youth clubs have been forced to scale back or close entirely and there is a persistent lack of access to safe and supervised spaces for young people. Many of these boroughs are also faced with high levels of deprivation—Barking and Dagenham being the most deprived borough in all of London—and an estimated 40% of young people are growing up in poverty.
This is further compounded by the after-effects of the COVID pandemic, which has seen a surge in reported mental health issues amongst young people—CAMHS referrals have similarly soared, whilst thousands of children are missing school or being home-schooled as a result of poor mental health.
What are we doing?
This expansion will be targeted at a growing cohort of young people who are not receiving formal education for a variety of reasons. Our team will be working closely with local authorities, statutory agencies, and multi-agency safeguarding teams to develop referral pathways, deploy training, and incorporate trauma-informed practice.
Young people identified for mentoring will meet one-to-one with a skilled Youth Development Worker on a weekly basis. Our Vision, Identity, Purpose (VIP) mentoring model was co-designed with young people to ensure accessible and relevant mentoring at all levels, and to put the young person’s voice first, utilising Individual Learning Plans shaped by each young person’s own experiences and goals.
Our positive activities for young people will be based out of hubs located in key areas, providing a consistent space for engagement and a foundation for forming a community together. We’ll be running multiple sessions every week, each lasting 2-3 hours, and providing both physical (sports, fitness) and creative (e.g. arts and crafts, music, dance) pursuits. This effort will be supported by outreach into local communities to help establish our presence and encourage young people to get involved.
Finally, young people have the opportunity to be involved with our SW!TCH Ambassadors leadership programme. Our SW!TCH Ambassadors assist our Youth Development Workers with the organising and delivery of activities, as well as contributing to wider practice—such as co-designed interview scenarios for new Youth Development Workers—within the team. Young people we work with that demonstrate the potential for leaderships are invited to become Ambassadors and develop their skills further.
This is a fantastic opportunity to reach even more young people with our tried and tested approach to mentoring. With the situation nearing a crisis point, this much-needed work will help not just to bring young people back into formal education, but it will give them a chance to develop into leaders for the next generation.
CEO, LifeLine Projects