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
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.