A YOUTH charity supporting young carers, victims of crime and those facing challenges in their lives in Swindon will be able to help more of them gain confidence at activity days thanks to a Covid fund grant.

Youth Action Wiltshire, the youth arm of Community First, has been awarded £5,000 towards a new minibus from Wiltshire Community Foundation’s Coronavirus Response and Recovery Fund. The fund has distributed more than £1.5 million through more than 300 grants in the last 15 months.

YAW delivers the Splash Young Victims of Crime service for youngsters across Swindon and Wiltshire who have been subject to prolonged bullying or have been victims of other crime. Its general Splash programme works with hundreds of young people aged nine to 16 across Wiltshire.

“We support young people facing challenges in their lives including young people who are in care, young people with special educational or additional needs, young victims of crime and those experiencing isolation or mental health issues within the home,” said Splash manager Dawn Whiting.

YAW also supports hundreds of young carers across the county providing support, respite activities and advocacy through its Wiltshire Young Carers Service. The service has adapted during the pandemic and introduced online activities and one to one support, alongside ‘walk and talk’ sessions when permitted.

Normally the charity provides dozens of activity days for young people to take part in days out including water sports, swimming, climbing, arts and crafts, photography and multi-media, mountain biking, and pony trekking.

As it takes a step towards normality, YAW has been ferrying young people groups from each of its programmes to activity days at its Oxenwood Outdoor Education Centre near Marlborough.

The charity’s five minibuses are essential for helping isolated young people get to the activities, but with one bus now too old and finances decimated by lost fundraising over the last year, getting the grant has been a huge boost, said Mrs Whiting.

"Young carers tell us spending time with other young carers who understand what it is like to be a young carer is really valuable and beneficial as is having access to our young carers support workers, who offer time to talk, express feelings and provide coaching to help young carers to understand their caring roles, remain safe within those roles and develop in confidence and self-esteem,” said Mrs Whiting.

“Young victims of crime really benefit from positive experiences with peers, developing new skills and spending time with other young people who have had similar experiences is really comforting and helps them to move on from the negative experiences they have had, develop in confidence and self-esteem and develop resilience for the future.”

The next stage for the group is to begin regular activities across the county again, which is where the new minibus will come into its own. “When we are back to where we were before Covid it means that we can provide more activities for young people, remove barriers to engagement such as family finances, rural isolation and so on and offer equality of opportunity.

“It’s also important because those young people who have been bullied don’t want to do activities near where they live in case they see those people who have been bullying them. They want to be able to enjoy themselves somewhere else where they aren’t looking over the shoulder all the time.“

As part of the return to normality, the charity will be launching young carer youth clubs later in the year in the evenings in the north, south, east and west of the county as well as monthly Saturday youth clubs for five to nine year old young carers.

“Our young carers youth clubs will still be activity and fun-based providing localised provision which young carers can access as and when they need or want to,” said Mrs Whiting. “Not everyone needs one-to-one support but if they can just touch base with us we can maintain contact and help them to deal with issues as they come up.”

Wiltshire Community Foundation joint chief executive Fiona Oliver said: “Youth Action Wiltshire’s wonderful support for young people has never been more needed and we are pleased to help that work with this grant.”

“Our fund is all about aiding the recovery from the pandemic for groups who have lost so much fundraising and this is a perfect example of how it can make a difference.”

Find out more about Youth Action Wiltshire at communityfirst.org.uk/yaw and learn about the work of the community foundation at wiltshirecf.org.uk