YOUTH workers have spend time out on the streets of towns across north Wiltshire supporting young people as young as ten at risk thanks to a coronavirus response fund grant.
The RISE Trust has been awarded £2,750 from the Wiltshire Community Foundation’s Coronavirus Response Fund to run sessions out in town centres and parks, befriending young people and providing support and guidance.
Youth co-ordinator Danielle Blake said the grant has been vital in funding the work, which she says is badly needed in the wake of the pandemic with young people suffering from isolation and anxiety about returning to school, as well as being at risk of drink, drugs and misadventure.
She said by taking time to meet youngsters in their own environment they forge more of a bond and by being out every week, youth workers have become trusted.
“We are so grateful for this grant because it is really making a difference to the young people,” she said. “What we do is about making them feel reassured so they know there is someone they can talk to.
“For them just seeing that someone notices them is really valuable. So if they are not feeling like they want to talk, there is someone to say ‘hey, are you okay?’. That gives them an opportunity to open up and talk about or ask something that is troubling them.”
The trust’s teams are working in Malmesbury, Cricklade and Purton.
Across north Wiltshire the youth teams have been meeting children as young as ten and young adults aged up to 21 at their nightly sessions.
They are there to offer sound advice on issues such as drugs and drink as well as specific incidents.
They spoke to young people in Malmesbury about the risks of jumping into deep water at Daniels Well and to groups in one area who had been lighting fires on a sports field.
“The biggest issue we see is that young people don’t have a sense of belonging,” said Mrs Blake.
“There are young people in towns like Cricklade we see whether it is raining or not and that’s really prescient to how they feel about life at home. If they feel safer and that they have more support out of doors they will go and be with their peers. But that also leaves them more vulnerable and more at risk of things like county lines.
“In one town we heard of a group of older young people offering year 7s and year 8s cannabis to try, which was reported to the police. That is quite concerning because that is how county lines start.”
The anxiety about returning to school has also been a constant topic.
“We speak to a lot of year 6s and 7s who have had quite a traumatic time,” said Mrs Blake. “They have left primary school very quickly without any of the leaving celebrations they were supposed to have and haven’t had as much transition work for going to secondary school.
“We had conversations with year sixes about what it will be like, they were even asking ‘if the bell rings do you have to go straight to class?’ that’s the kind of thing they are worrying about.”
The RISE Trust has children’s centres in Calne, Royal Wootton Bassett and Chippenham funded by Wiltshire Council, covering Corsham, Malmesbury, Cricklade and Purton.
Its youth teams are out in Malmesbury on Tuesday and Cricklade on Wednesday.
Mrs Blake said: “Our young people are our community and these are young people who need to have their needs met. We want them to grow up to be the best adults they can be.”
Find out more about the charity’s full services at therisetrust.org.
To donate to the Wiltshire and Swindon Coronavirus Response Fund or to find out how to apply for a grant, go to wiltshirecf.org.uk.