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Annual Report

CEO Message

The last 18 months have been difficult for all of us, not least due to the Coronavirus pandemic, a series of lockdowns and social distancing measures that have changed the makeup of our daily lives. The pandemic has severely affected young people, but further everything and everyone around them - including family, friends, and the opportunities, social spaces and education that is available to them. 

For those that don’t know, Youth First has also been working through its own challenging transition during this period, due to the end of our first contract with Lewisham Council. 

The majority of Youth First's funding comes from Lewisham Council, and to date it has allowed us to deliver youth services to thousands of young people from their youth clubs and adventure playgrounds across Lewisham. Our initial three year contract started in 2016 and after a series of extensions officially came to an end on 31 March 2021. Over the last 15  months we have been working hard to secure a new contract with Lewisham as well as seeking additional funding.  Although delayed due to COVID continued funding during 2020 allowed us to support young people during the lockdown and a new contract with LBL commenced on 1 April 2021. 

This new contract shows a real commitment by Lewisham to Youth and play provision and Youth First. We are thankful for their continued support, despite their need to manage difficult financial decisions due to continued cutbacks from central government and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

The new contract is however less per year than our previous one and as a result there will be reduced delivery at the five youth clubs and five adventure playgrounds and, unfortunately, some staff loss. At the moment, the Adventure Playgrounds are also funded for one year only with all other services for up to six. 

Positively, the contract adds new support to Lewisham young people in the form of targeted 1-2-1 youth work (starting Oct 21) and new themed-based group work. We will also continue services funded by some of our other funders, such as the Lewisham Street Based Team (Children In Need) and the Woodpecker Carnival Project (Young Londoners Fund).

Perhaps most importantly the Lewisham funding offers us a solid platform to not only survive, but also to thrive - as we continue to invest in young people and empower them to build a positive future.

In this, our fourth annual report, there are some great examples of what Youth First can do and why it is so needed for our young people. The secret to us having any success positively impacting young peoples' lives is the relationships which our brilliant Youth and Play workers build with young people and I want to thank all the team for their hard work, passion and dedication, especially over the challenging period we have just had. I hope people see in this report just a few examples of the challenges we know our young people face - before, during and now post Covid, and the ways in which Youth First can help them face and overcome these. 

To our young people I ask that you stay involved, encourage your friends to become involved and tell us how we can best support what you want to do and be. We at Youth First understand the challenges you face and are committed to continue to empower you and putting Youth First for a long time to come.  

Mervyn Kaye
CEO, Youth First