‘Alarming’ rise in referrals leaves charity that trains marginalised young people struggling cope

Chief executive Lorraine Bliss at the St Edmund's Society charity which offers education and trainin

Chief executive Lorraine Bliss at the St Edmund's Society charity which offers education and training to youngsters who have struggled in mainstream schools. Picture: Antony Kelly - Credit: Archant

A charity that helps train marginalised and vulnerable young students for jobs says it has seen an “alarming” increase in referrals due to coronavirus.

Some of the construction students at work at the St Edmunds Society. Picture: Denise Bradley

Some of the construction students at work at the St Edmunds Society. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2018

The St Edmund’s Society provides alternative education provision for children who have struggled in mainstream schools, including those who have special educational needs or are at risk of being drawn into criminal activity.

Running since 1965, the charity provides young people with vocational learning for jobs in sectors like construction, transport maintenance, catering and hair and beauty.

Pressures from lockdown and coronavirus measures that have left some pupils even more in schools has seen a big rise in the number of young people being referred, said chief executive Lorraine Bliss.

MORE: Technical school aiming to train future engineers sees student numbers soarIt has left the charity struggling to cope with training both school age children and post-16s while still complying with social distancing at its centre, based on Oak Street in Norwich.

The St Edmunds Society head of welfare and operations Tara Bliss-Appleton.
Picture: Simon Finlay

The St Edmunds Society head of welfare and operations Tara Bliss-Appleton. Picture: Simon Finlay - Credit: Archant Norfolk

She said: “We just can’t take anymore at the moment because of social distancing and bubbles. The logistics are a nightmare.”


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Tara Bliss-Appleton, head of welfare and operations, said: “Since September the welfare demand has massively increased from schools who are identifying that young people are having problems, behaviour is a lot poorer since returning following the pandemic lockdown resulting in potential exclusions.”

Rio Bygrave, welfare support manager, added: “Safeguarding issues that have been heightened since lockdown include mental health, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect.

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“The impact that the pandemic has had on families and the loss of jobs, means the uncertainty that has spread from parents to kids.

St Edmunds Society student learning vocational health and beauty skills in the nail salon.
Picture:

St Edmunds Society student learning vocational health and beauty skills in the nail salon. Picture: Simon Finlay - Credit: Archant Norfolk

“We have seen an increase in lots of different barriers to education.”

MORE: Skills minister ‘meets’ first T-levels students on virtual college visitNot directly funded by the government, the charity has been trying to secure help for items like laptops to ensure education can continue despite the restrictions caused by the pandemic.

Ms Bliss said: “These are kids that are very vulnerable to things like crime and county lines and exploitation.

“Our priority is that they are safe as well as trying to get them some sort of education because there are going to be so many people that have got experience looking for jobs so what hope is there for these kids who have got no qualifications?”

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