Oxfordshire youth schemes invited to bid for £1m fund
Voluntary and community organisations are being invited to bid for a share of Oxfordshire County Council’s new £1m Youth Opportunity Fund.
The fund is aimed at groups that can provide activities and opportunities for young people between the ages of 11-18, and 11-25 with special educational needs.
Feedback from Oxfordshire residents points to strong support for improving community-run youth services. This new fund is available to help existing projects expand and new ones get started. Grants of up to £70,000 are available.
By offering start-up funding in previous years, the council has already helped many community-run groups provide support for younger children and families. Now the aim is to do the same for youth services.
Community-run youth schemes complement the work of the county council’s children’s services, which target resources at young people and families with additional needs and those at risk of abuse and neglect. The council also has a desire for more youth clubs to be established.
The county council believes communities are well placed to provide universal services and this is already an established model in Oxfordshire.
A fund was launched in 2016 to provide grants for local groups to start services for children such as ‘stay and play’, with the creation or continuation of around 40 projects. A similar fund was created for voluntary and community groups to start up day services for older and disabled people in Oxfordshire.
Councillor Mark Gray, the County Council’s Cabinet Member for Local Communities, said: “People in their individual local areas, towns and villages know best what is good for their community and where they’d like to see more on offer.
“This is an exciting scheme, designed to offer teenagers in those communities the chance to have their own space to pursue their own interests and the company of other young people in a safe environment. This fund gives community-based organisations the opportunity to fund staff to work with young people.
“Oxfordshire’s thriving communities share the county council’s ambition to give every child a good start in life and we are looking forward to working with them with this additional money.”
Oxfordshire Youth is a voluntary organisation that has been providing support and advice to youth projects for over 70 years. It believes that youth work and non-formal learning is essential to improving young people’s quality of life.
According to Oxfordshire Youth, there are over 200 organisations working with children and young people across the county. This shows the commitment of voluntary and community groups that the Youth Opportunity Fund will build on.
David Cruchley, Partnership Manager for Oxfordshire Youth, said: “Young people are at the heart of their communities. Let’s give them more opportunities and support to decide what type of projects matter and benefit them, their friends, and the whole neighbourhood.
“I’ve witnessed hundreds of teenagers flourish, gaining confidence through leadership responsibilities and collaboration. The Youth Opportunity Fund offers the financial seeds for many more successful and varied youth projects across Oxfordshire.”
James Fawcett, Outgoing Chairperson of VOXY (Voice of Oxfordshire's Youth), said: "I think the Youth Opportunity Fund is a great initiative, investing in young people is so important and I can't wait to see what projects can come out of this."
There are many example of great youth projects in Oxfordshire, including:
Didcot TRAIN works to seek out, engage and empower young people in Didcot, particularly those who may be going through a difficult time or engaging in anti-social behaviour in the local area.
The charity offers support through a range of activities and services, including detached and outreach youth work, group and one to one mentoring, youth participation and social action.
Youth Work Facilitator for Didcot TRAIN, Charlotte Jenkins, said: “Having witnessed young people’s immense enthusiasm to plan and deliver social action and community focused projects, it has been clear what confidence and sense of achievement such experiences can cultivate.
“When supported to channel their energy into positive activities, the results can be incredibly inspiring. Not only can such opportunities benefit the local area, loosening the often-perceived divides between the generations, but can be so meaningful to young people themselves.
“The Youth Opportunity Fund will be hugely valuable in ultimately helping encourage the realisation in young people of their personal potentials and their motivations to continue making positive choices.”
OYAP Trust is Oxfordshire’s youth arts charity. Based in Bicester, it was recently honoured with the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service. The charity is committed to opening up spaces for cultural activities, equipping young people with the skills to make significant contributions to their community, and to their own self-development.
Director of OYAP, Helen Le Brocq, said: “Our Youth Action Teams develop ‘kindness art projects’ for their wider community. Participants are constantly working on bigger and better projects to bring joy to their own towns, whilst developing as individuals. It’s about boosting confidence, self-esteem, team working and communication skills.’
Youth Challenge Oxfordshire (YoCO) supports young people aged 14 -21 to develop resilience and confidence; working across Oxfordshire where a need has been identified. The young people follow an “exciting programme” which helps them to overcome challenges such as pressures of social media, bullying, and peer influence to take unnecessary risks. The programme, designed and delivered by YoCO, is run by youth group leaders at weekly meetings with a professional team in support.
Director of YoCO, Kat Booth, said: “We play an important role in the Oxfordshire community, engaging young people from all backgrounds in this once in a lifetime opportunity. They finish the programme with a real excitement of what they have achieved and a new determination to set exciting goals and aspirations.”
Aquarius works with young people aged 8-25 across Oxfordshire that are at high risk of using, already using or affected by someone else’s drug and/or alcohol use. The work is non-judgmental, using a range of specialist techniques to support each young person’s goals.
Further information – how to make a bid