It was a shock to the young people in Ernesettle, Whitleigh and St Budeaux when Barefoot, the organisation that provided most of their clubs and activities, announced it was closing at the end of March. The charity had been working with young people across these communities since 2013 making a difference, improving their lives. Last year it had supported more than 500 young people putting on something for young people to go to every single night of the week. Now, it was to close and to close abruptly.
The two youth workers employed by Barefoot, Jon and Carly, were as shocked as the young people. They knew how much the young people relied on all that Barefoot provided, not just the activities but the regularity, the security and support. As Jon says there was a definite need to ensure that all this, wasn’t lost:
“It was horrendous, the way it happened. It was so quick and there was no money available to end it appropriately and many of the young people were really upset.”
Jon and Carly moved quickly working with the City Council and POP Ideas to set up a Community Interest Company called Connecting Youth. With an application already lodged at Companies House, the two former Barefoot youth workers are optimistic that they can get the necessary funding to ensure much of the youth work continues. Meanwhile, there remains a skeleton provision with Carly’s dance classes taking place twice a week and ‘street-based work’ on three evenings engaging with young people who are hanging around the streets because there is no-where for them to go.
As Connecting Youth takes shape there are already opportunities: an invitation for the CIC to run the dog show and for Carly’s dancers to perform at the Ernesettle’s King’s Coronation Carnival (organised with £5,000 from the POP Collective Fund). Meanwhile, work is underway through the CIC to bring young people into the city-wide initiative Belong In Plymouth. Ten young people have already committed to train as Community Researchers. Once trained, they will carry out one-to-one interviews with members of their communities, capturing recipients’ thoughts and feelings about loneliness and social isolation. Without Barefoot and its investment over the last ten years, it is possible that these young people might not have felt motivated or confident enough to do this and this is something of which the charity – and all those who have worked with it – can be truly proud. Now it’s time to support Connecting Youth as it steps into the significant impression left by Barefoot. For more information on Connecting Youth contact Jon at firstname.lastname@example.org