Support network

Pandemic pressures may be easing, but for London Youth challenges remain. We take a closer look at their residential centres, Youth Board and the importance of their charity partner, KFH.

19 July, 2022

When we spoke to London Youth’s CEO, Rosemary Watt-Wyness, for the first issue of London Property Matters, their much-loved two residential centres were still shut to the public. “It felt so sad that, at a time when we knew that many young Londoners were stuck in really small places during the intense lockdowns, we were not able to open our centres to them,” Watt-Wyness recalls.

London Youth is a charity that seeks to improve the lives of young people in the Capital, supporting youth centres and giving them many opportunities that they may not have otherwise had. The residential centres are one part of this – located in Ashdown Forest and Amersham – where young people get to experience a whole host of outdoor activities.

However, lockdowns forced their doors to be shut, but the costs of running did not stop at the same time. “Essentially the centres pay their own way,” Watt-Wyness explains. “We still had a lot of the costs, but none of the money coming in.”

It was where the support from London Youth’s partners, such as KFH, proved to be invaluable. “KFH have really stood by us in a difficult period,” Watt-Wyness says. Thankfully, both centres are now open again and Watt-Wyness’s pride in what they offer London’s young people is abundantly clear. “They just have an astonishing experience, with the adventure activities and also just being in a wholly different environment.” 

London Youth - KFH

That’s why the support we get from KFH, who really care about London’s people, is absolutely crucial."

At the time of writing, most Covid-19 restrictions have been eased and the focus is now turning elsewhere – in particular, away from London. “The government’s levelling up agenda essentially means there’s no real support for the youth sector in London,” Watt-Wyness laments. “There’s a real risk of London’s young people being abandoned by central government. Because London is a successful city, we forget it is also the place in the UK with the highest rate of childhood poverty. That’s why the support we get from KFH, who really care about London’s people, is absolutely crucial.”

Conversation moves on to their Youth Board, a collective of young people aged 16-25, who together support the work of London Youth as either ambassadors or advisors. “They get involved with us in a number of ways,” Watt-Wyness says. “They attend round tables to feed into policy that affects young people, they will do media opportunities, they will have public speaking opportunities, a really broad set of activities. At the heart of it is we want young people to be informing what we do as an organisation, but we also want to support young people to make their voices and their views heard in government and funding circles.”

Watt-Wyness reflects on an event, pre-lockdown restrictions, attended by London Youth’s president, Sir Kenneth Olisa, where some of the Youth Board spoke about their experiences. “Just hearing from the young people at those kinds of events is immensely powerful,” she enthuses. “To hear young people partly talking about what we have done with them directly as an organisation ourselves and their opportunities through the Youth Board, but also what their youth club has done for them locally, is truly inspiring. It’s amazing to hear young people say straight from the heart that they are following opportunities that they would just otherwise not have had.” It shows in a nutshell what London Youth is all about and why the support of KFH remains so key. “What is wonderful about KFH is that they are a consistent partner, who are with us for the long term.

Their funding comes to us in an unrestricted way so that we can use it where we need it most.” It’s a partnership that will ensure many doors remain open to London’s younger generation in the years to come.

London Youth - KFH1

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