Oxygen have now been responsible for the running of Kingsnympton Youth and Community Centre for three years as part of a contract with YMCA and Achieving for Children. In that time we have significantly developed provision building on our history of over 10 years working on the Kingsnympton Park Estate. Many young people and their families on the estate face significant challenges and disadvantages and running the centre with limited resources has proved challenging at times, but this work has also been immensely rewarding.

 

The group we took over was made up of predominantly primary aged young people

aged 8-11 with as few as 5 over the age of 11 meaning two junior sessions were

being run. However, we have grown this group with all the original junior members

still regularly attending as well as many new members. The relationship with this

group has been incredible and been a real highlight of the work.

 

Parts of the building were in disrepair, including leaks and water damage and other parts of the

building had been used for long term storage. We have worked hard to address many of these

issues working with the other building users to improve what we can. We redecorated and made

several other aesthetic improvements including a new carpet in the lounge area and new sofas.

 

We have renegotiated new building user contracts including one with a parent from the estate to set

up a nursery. We have also continued to host the Rainbows group from St Paul’s Church, Kingston

Hill who used the building on a Monday morning. 

 

The first year of our contract ended with the new nursery in place, a

redecorated centre and attendance up on both the regular youth sessions

delivered by Oxygen. We also delivered our first residential trip for no cost to

the young people of the estate with 26 young people attending a weekend away

at an outdoor activity centre in East Sussex.  Oxygen also delivered holiday

provision which was well attended especially over the Summer.

 

In our second year responsible for the centre we continued delivering sessions

and even managed to deliver an additional bespoke session every other week

from the centre. We worked closely with the community and with several key

residents to explore relaunching the tenant’s association however due to

unforeseen circumstances this never got further than several initial meetings.

Discussions with residents did lead to  a Monday evening café opening at the

centre for residents (which has not yet relaunched since lockdown) this seemed to be well

received by a few of the residents and was run by a new family to the estate who had a

heart to meet their neighbours.  

 

We saw our numbers steadily rise at youth sessions from around 8 regular attendees per

session at the beginning of year 1 to up to 30 regular attendees by the end of year 2.

We also managed to complete several key projects with the young people including;

healthy eating, food hygiene level 1, youth council and a music project. We focused much

of our work around giving young people an understanding of healthy

lifestyles teaching them about budgeting and making healthy versions of

their favourite meals. We continued to deliver popular holiday provision

and also residential trips including a youth board trip overnight on a

Thames barge with the River Thames Boat Project.

 

Over the course of the contract we developed key partnerships for the

estate including representation on local and London wide programs

around mental health, safeguarding and youth engagement. We also

worked closely with Kingston’s Safer Neighbourhood Board and

neighbourhood police teams around knife crime, drugs and child

sexual exploitation.

 

Year 3 has been both rewarding and challenging. Many of our regular cohort of

young people have seen an increase in needs with many of them transitioning into

secondary school along with the added impact of Covid-19. 

 

Oxygen has secured funding to deliver a new project to work with at risk young people

from across the borough and some of this work will make use of the centre. Prior to

lockdown in March 2020, we saw numbers of attendances continue to rise and

delivery of sessions continued to have a positive impact with projects such as

positive body image, sexual health and mental health being key to the

early part of the year’s delivery.

 

The lockdown period which began in March 2020 was a challenging time

which saw us make major adaptations to many elements of our youth work

delivery. We initially struggled to engage with the young people.

We decided to meet with the young people online which gave us mixed

results. We decided to use money from a Jack Petchey Leaders Award

and an allocation of our activities budget to provide care packages for

all the young people which included at-home activities for the lockdown

period. We also began detached youth work twice a week to begin to

reengage the young people. It was clear that many issues had presented themselves over

lockdown most evidently the impact it had on young people’s mental health and mental resilience.

In the Autumn term we have returned to delivering sessions from the centre with a reduced

capacity which has also proved challenging. We have had to close off areas of the centre and stop

providing food at youth sessions. We cannot currently run sporting activities in the centre and

have had to reduce session time to limit exposure to Covid-19. We established an online booking

system and have provided additional support for the increased needs. We are now facing the

prospect of a second lockdown period which will not completely inhibit our ability to deliver

work but will have a significant impact on what we are able to do face-to-face.

 

On the whole the contract has been both challenging and rewarding. We have been able to

demonstrate significant growth in young people engaging with activities at the centre and

have had some success at developing community engagement with the centre as well.

The fabric of the building has been a significant challenge and, while we have been able to

make cosmetic improvements, we have found it hard to secure funding for longer term

investment in the building  despite having submitted multiple applications. The relatively

short term contract under which we are managing the building has been a significant

barrier to securing investment from funders to do work on improving the centre. We are

unsure what decisions will be made by Achieving for Children and Kingston Council about

the future of Kingsnympton Youth and Community Centre but we feel that Oxygen’s delivery

from the centre, rooted in the strong relationships we have built in the local community, has

been effective and has made a major contribution to life for young people and families on the Kingsnympton Park Estate.

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Believing in young people...

St. Peter's Hall, London Road, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, KT2 6QL Phone: 0208 547 0566   Email: info@oxygen-online.org

 

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