Principles met

  • We will capture and ‘expand’ the experience and learning from individual projects and approaches in order to encourage broader application of co-operative principles within individual member Councils and across the Network.
  • In exploring new ways of meeting the priority needs of our communities we will encourage models, such as co-operatives and mutuals, which give greater influence and voice to staff and users. in designing and commissioning public services and in determining the use of public resources.

About the project

Our project – SafeSpace Preston North End Community and Education Trust is proposing to deliver a new support programme to some of Preston’s most vulnerable children and young people over the school holidays in 2021. SafeSpace will combine physical activity sessions, a ‘SafeSpace’ activity pack focusing on mental health, and a nutritious meal for participants. It will be targeted at vulnerable young people aged 6-14 in two schools who rely on free school meals or who are at risk as a result of COVID-19.

How did we identify the need for SafeSpace?

Preston has a population of approximately 141,000, with over 17.9% of children living in low-income families and over a quarter of households (10,820) are recipients of free school meals. Preston is a very diverse community with over 10% being from a BAME background, which is the second-highest across the county (Lancashire). Average income across the city is below the national average, with crime and deprivation also following a similar trend. Preston is ranked in the top 40% worst postcodes for crime, with a number of wards situated in the top 20% most deprived in which the above data is a common theme.

Alarmingly, during the pandemic research from the Mental Health Centre found children from low-income backgrounds showed elevated mental health difficulties throughout lockdown. This includes feelings of worry and anxiety, feeling isolated, demonstrating obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviours.

As a community organisation situated at the heart of the Preston community, Preston North End Community and Education Trust is very familiar with the impact COVID-19 and national lockdown is having physically, mentally and emotionally on the young people and families within our community. Our Physical Education in Schools programme and Alternative Education programme, targeting the most vulnerable young people in Primary and Secondary schools, have found some concerning trends throughout the pandemic which has highlighted the need for SafeSpace. These include:

  • Limited parental support at home
  • Poor nutrition as a result of financial difficulties within the household
  • No access to essential educational/sports equipment
  • Impact on educational attainment
  • Impact on young people’s mental health with over 80% of our participants aged 10-14 saying they felt COVID-19 has had a negative impact on their mental health.
  • Retention of participants’ engagement was poor digitally.

Our partner schools have supported our concerns, highlighting the need to support now more than ever young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who, without intervention, are at risk of falling into the ‘widening gap’ between vulnerable and non-vulnerable young people. This crisis may impact society for years to come (Children Commissioner 2020). Currently, the impact of the pandemic has resulted in up to 80% of pupils being behind academically as a result of no physical activity, poor diet and the reduction of in-school learning. When we take into account lockdown, and the impact this has had on vulnerable young people, it is a major cause for concern.

For this reason, we have designed SpaceSafe to address the nutritional, mental and physical health needs of some of our most disadvantaged children and young people during the school holiday period when they are most vulnerable. As well as physical activity sessions, SafeSpace will provide each child with a nutritional lunch and an activity work pack which will allow them to capture the thoughts, feelings and emotions whilst completing activities that will support them in dealing with challenges and in developing coping mechanisms and emotional resilience.