LifeLine Community Projects is the latest winner of a Prime Minister’s Big Society Award for its work with local volunteers in Barking and Dagenham, transforming lives and sparking community change.
LifeLine’s projects to help people transform their local community include SW!TCH ID, a youth-led project set up to change negative perceptions around young people, and switch them to something positive, Young volunteers are encouraged to design and carry out community initiatives to improve their local area, and the success of the scheme has been endorsed by Boris Johnson and the London 2012 Olympics Team. So far it has helped 200 volunteers develop leadership skills and confidence while doing valuable work in their community like supporting vulnerable peers, cleaning up local streets, and organising community fun-days.
Prime Minister David Cameron said:
LifeLine Community Projects has grown to take on a huge range of projects to transform communities. Its work to not only do the most it can, but also to help other social enterprises grow is impressive.
Engaging young people in their local communities is vital in ensuring they are empowered to be active members of that community. From litter picking to community fun days LifeLine projects have given hundreds of young people in Barking and Dagenham the chance to get involved and give something back and this Big Society Award recognises the difference they have made to the whole community.
So far, SW!TCH ID have:
- run 6 litter-picking flash-mobs and 3 community fun-days
- involved over 900 local residents in a flash mob, 6 park and litter cleanups and 3 community fun-days amongst other campaigns
- engaged 200 local school children across Barking and Dagenham to organise events and training, as well as planning and running campaigns of their own to spread the word
- won 6 awards including the Mayor of London’s 2012 Olympics Inspire Mark and the Royal Society of Arts Innovation Award
LifeLine also supports young people to stay in education or training. The SW!TCH pre-apprenticeship programme targets16-17 year olds to support them back into learning, preferably into an apprenticeship. Another apprenticeship programme is Lifeline’s Alternative School commissioned by the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham. It targets disadvantaged 14-16 year olds who have dropped out of school, and offers extra support like a mentor from their local community and includes interpersonal skills on the curriculum order to address the multiple barriers faced by those attending who are often single parents. So far it has enabled 150 school children to become re-engaged in education.
Avril McIntyre MBE and chief executive of Lifeline said:
The SW!TCH initiative involves ‘switching’ local perceptions of their generations as thugs and hoodies, into something more positive by developing and running their own community initiatives. As well as working closely with local neighbourhood policing teams, and also connecting with local businesses to run their own enterprises, young people have been involved in promoting social action on a more strategic level through involvement in the Cabinet Office Social Exclusion Task Force, and Youth Citizenship Commission, to discuss LifeLine’s approach to promoting volunteering and social action.
LifeLine engages hard-to-reach groups through outreach, volunteering opportunities, confidence-building, health-awareness and employment and skills, providing them with opportunities to develop their voice in shaping programmes so that they have a say in how decisions are made in their area, and are the major drivers of service improvement. We encourage service users, particularly those who arrive feeling isolated, vulnerable and powerless, to take active ownership of the challenges that their local community faces, and work with local businesses and statutory bodies to achieve positive outcomes for their community.
Eloge, 14 said, “SW!TCH has changed my life because there was stuff I didn’t do before that I can do now. I like helping people - that’s what I learnt from SW!TCH - to give away my time when I’m not doing anything. I can just go and see people who need help, and do things like gardening; I can just go and help them. Like last week I saw an old man who wanted to cross the road and I helped him cross and that made me feel good.”
LifeLine Community Projects is a social enterprise that started in 2000 in Barking and Dagenham by a group of volunteers, has grown to employ110 full time staff with a turnover of £5.5 million, making it one of the largest community-based, social enterprises in the capital.
It now empowers other communities across England to work with central and local government to find their own local solutions based on their learning, and has delivered in excess of £11million of public sector contracts since 2005. LifeLine’s projects tackle a range of community issues by providing services such as Careers Service (IAG), a National Offender management programme, and “Totally Mums” peer support training.
Notes to editors
LifeLine’s Ambassador’s Programme, which promotes social action by providing volunteer training to become community leaders and develop their own initiatives. One parent set up a Children’s Centre Parent’s Forum, inspiring her peers to develop and lead parent peer support networks, run fundraising events and family days at Children’s Centres, and initiative after-school clubs. She then went on to receive the Barking and Dagenham Mayor’s Borough Recognition Award in May 2011, for establishing and developing the largest and most active Parent’s Forum in the borough. In this way, LifeLine takes Children’s Centre provision a step further by drawing inspiration from the ‘Big Society’ agenda, encouraging parents to not only access services, but become part of the solution, empowering them to develop and run initiatives which address the very real needs of vulnerable families and easing the pressure on local services.
LifeLine is also the lead partner and accountable body for FaithAction, a national network of faith-based and community organisations. FaithAction aims to build the capacity of faith-based and community organisations that are engaged or seeking to become engaged in the delivery of public services, empowering and equipping them through practical support. Bringing together grassroots faith-based organisations, community groups and local neighbourhoods together Faithgroups generates momentum and enthusiasm for volunteering and social action at local, regional and national levels. FaithAction includes over 1000 member organisations across the country, promoting and delivering social action opportunities. Using the FaithAction network, LifeLine trained 1,300 youth intermediaries who work with school-children, for the FSA Young People and Money Programme.
LifeLine’s Alternative School commissioned by the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham for disadvantaged 14-16 year olds has so far enabled 150 school children to become re-engaged in education. Having dropped out of school, many of the young people attending are single parents, and will little or no access to mainstream education, which is why LifeLine incorporates interpersonal mentoring into all activity in order to address the multiple barriers these young people face. Mentors are individuals from the local community, who have collectively volunteered 1,600 hours of their time to support these vulnerable young people. Students and parents have responded very positively to this support, with one parent commenting that their son’s attendance ‘has improved from 20% to 100%!’ LifeLine’s Alternative Schools have won 3 Children and Young People Now’s Learning Awards for the impact that combined statutory and voluntary services are making to young people’s lives.
As well as the Parent’s Forum, activities at LifeLine’s Children’s Centres have inspired parents to volunteer to develop and run their own initiatives including: Play and Chat, a weekly parent and toddler group, and the Bumps and Babes and Bumps and Babes for Teenage Mums Programme, offering weekly antenatal support run by trained volunteers. LifeLine’s Breastfeeding Peer Support Network funded by Barking and Dagenham and Havering PCTs provides one-to-one specialist support to breastfeeding mothers. This inspired the mothers to develop a Totally Mums volunteer-led Breastfeeding Support Network. 108 Breastfeeding Peer Supporters have now been La Leche trained to work alongside midwives in maternity wards and children’s centres and new breastfeeding cafes across Barking and Dagenham and Havering. Our Children’s Centres have won 3 awards from Children and Young People Now in recognition for their work assimilating volunteer-led activity with statutory services in a way that provides service users an integrated package of support which addresses their social, relationship, health, and economic needs.
Other awards include:
- Children and Young People Now’s Volunteering and Participation Award
- the Royal Society of Arts Innovation Award
- the Philip Laurence Award
- the Mayor of London’s 2012 Olympics Inspire Mark