Sport Relief cash helped Norwich young people to gain vital life skills

Rebecca White, who runs Your Own Place, has been supported by Sport Relief.PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Rebecca White, who runs Your Own Place, has been supported by Sport Relief.PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY - Credit: SIMON FINLAY

Community Cash grants have helped dozens of projects across Norwich. As groups are invited to apply for funding again, reporter SAM RUSSELL speaks to a social enterprise that benefited from support last year.

Former children's services worker Rebecca White feared vulnerable young people in Norfolk were being 'set up to fail'.

'They were leaving hostels and leaving care and didn't have the money skills, life skills or support to make a go of their tenancy,' she said. 'I felt there was a gap in services that needed filling.'

She started her own group to try to stop young people from falling into homelessness, and to help those who had been homeless back onto a surer footing.

Her social enterprise, called Your Own Place, has helped 150 people since it was founded three years ago.

The average age of a service user is 19 years old, and it helps people aged 16 to 25.

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'We work with young people who have been homeless, who are homeless or are about to move from an unstable way of life into a new tenancy,' said Ms White, 40.

'We give them the skills they need to keep that first tenancy and those skills are money skills, life skills and job skills.'

The group works Norfolk-wide, with a lot of work focused in Norwich as that is where most of the demand is, but also in Great Yarmouth and King's Lynn.

It does not have a main base, but goes to service users, generally meeting them at their home address.

While Ms White, who lives in south Norfolk, is currently the only member of full-time staff, she is currently recruiting for a second full-time post to expand the social enterprise.

The group benefited from a £1,000 Community Cash grant last year, which helped add extra elements to training courses.

It is one of several community groups in the Norwich area to have benefited, and fresh applications are invited in the run-up to this year's Sainsbury's Sport Relief Games.

Norfolk Community Foundation works with Comic Relief and Sport Relief in alternate years to get the cash to the groups that need it most.

Some young people are referred to Your Own Place by charities, hostels and care services, and other people get in touch directly.

What happens next is up to the individual.

'It depends on what they want,' said Ms White. 'The first thing is I go and meet them as I need to know a bit more about them.

'Everything we do is voluntary and nobody is forced to do anything.'

The group offers accredited courses to prove to prospective landlords that a person is responsible - teaching budgeting, bills and advice on how to avoid debt.

'The feedback is really positive,' she said. 'We did some follow-up last year and 90pc of people felt more confident in keeping their tenancy after attending the course and they enjoy the course.

'Once we've hooked them in with a course, they might stay with us and do an employment course.'

Typically this may involve

shadowing Ms White as she delivers a tenancy course, with the

young person serving as a 'peer expert' who has done the course already.

It aims to help people with youth work ambitions.

Ms White used to work as a secondary school teacher, then worked to help those who had been involved with gangs in south London or in prison.

She later held a strategic role at the children's services department of Norfolk County Council. Your Own Place launched in 2013 and went full-time last year.

In the long-term, Ms White wants the social enterprise to have a flat in central Norwich to deliver real-life training, showing young people how to read a gas or electricity meter, paint rooms and do other household tasks.

She is appealing for a landlord to help with this – email rebecca@yourownplace.org.uk if you can help.

For details, see www.yourownplace.org.uk or call 07530 028446.

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