Over the past eighteen months we have been developing a whole new strand of work, focused on mentoring and supporting individuals who are having difficulties in their lives.
This started last year with the launch of our youth mentoring project, Tower Above. The project focuses on supporting young people aged between eight and twelve who are engaging in anti social behaviour or are at risk of getting involved in crime.
The idea here, is that introducing a one-to-one mentor, who can act as a positive influence, will use their youth work qualifications and experience to make young people aware of more appropriate behaviours and decisions they make. The project has already worked with over twenty young people and made significant differences to each ones lives.
This was followed by our Divert programme, which works closely with our local police services and places a mentor from our team in the custody suite in Blackpool. Once an individual is booked in and put through the official procedures, they are then given the option to speak to our Divert Mentor, who then agrees a work plan with this person, for when they are released. From this point we then work with this individual, again on a one-to-one format, to make them aware of opportunities for them to change their behaviours and experiences. We make them aware of social groups, employment and education opportunities and also support them with any other supports they may need, which could include housing or social care.
The next phase developed during the original Covid lockdown, where we were successful with an application to DCMS, to introduce a Youth Endowment project, which in our case uses digital platforms to mentor young people, identified by their schools or wider community partners, who are not engaging. The idea here is utilising Xbox and PlayStation games and other virtual methods to engage young people that would normally not get involved in face-to-face youth work.
The project team has done a fantastic job of developing a host of methods to keep young people involved and are now piloting a new school based scheme of work working with groups to understand positive and negative behaviours.
This is an area that we would probably have never investigated prior to the pandemic, but I think it’s fair to say, that most groups are now having to utilise digital and virtual platforms to keep in touch with participants and groups. I think it will genuinely remain a key feature of our support for many years to come.
The final part that we have introduced to our Community Cohesion work has been the recently announced Project Adder, which has been coordinated by Blackpool Council and Lancashire Constabulary and includes a host of local partners, including ourselves.
Our role is to work with individuals suffering from drug addictions and utilise mentoring, sport and physical activity to help them go in a different direction with their lives and move them away from their addictions and crime. We have two members of staff, newly appointed, to support our local community, one focused on young people and one on adults.
We still have really high hopes of this area of new work increasing even further over the coming years and whilst it comes with significant challenges, the impact it is having and can have are enormous.
Myself and the team are really proud of our developments and the team actually delivering do an amazing job of supporting some of our most at risk people in the town.