The Old Mill Fund supporting Exeter YMCA

We set up The Old Mill Fund at the end of last year to help formalise our commitment to investing in local charities, community groups and individuals within the South West. Our focus is on three key areas; building brighter futures, reducing rural isolation and loneliness, and strengthening communities. We were delighted to support the Coronavirus Appeals in Somerset, Devon and Wiltshire as part of our Fund and wanted to share some of those stories from the charities and support groups that our fund has helped. Our story below is from Exeter YMCA.

July 24, 2020

Exeter YMCA

YMCA is the oldest and largest youth charity in the world, helping young people (aged 5 to 30) to reach their potential. Their services involve and benefit vulnerable young people and their local communities, and include children’s and family work, supported accommodation and mental health intervention.

Though young people are reported amongst those at lowest risk of a serious outcome from contracting coronavirus, young people are still suffering from the effects of lockdown. School and college closures, a diminished social life, barriers to the progression into early adult life and strains on families and support networks are all having an effect. A recent survey by The Royal Society for Public Health found that 70% of 18-24 year olds are experiencing more anxiety than usual, compared with 47% of over 75s during the outbreak.

Bethan Spencer from YMCA in Exeter told us how they’re supporting young people and their families in the city with a range of support thanks to funding from The Old Mill Fund and Devon Community Foundation’s Coronavirus Response and Recovery Fund.

‘Many of the young families we support live in social housing and are often in single-parent households. They are generally on Universal Credit and/or have recently lost employment due to COVID-19, experiencing increased social isolation and food poverty. Many families are also experiencing the challenges of home-schooling and require additional support and resources to ease the stress. For example, we are supporting one family whose child is eligible to go to school but whose parent has decided not to send him because of their underlying health condition.

With the funding, and through offering additional support and one-to-one phone contact, we hope to relieve the mental and emotional suffering caused by COVID-19 on the young families and children we work with. We also hope to reduce the anxiety faced by parents and children at the moment, in particular by providing food hampers to relieve food poverty and offering guidance as to how they can best maintain a calm and stable family home.

Some of the families we are supporting are currently shielding and unable to get out the house to find resources for their children. We have produced an activity pack with additional stationary, which will mean a lot to the families we work with, especially those for whom additional resources are a financial burden.

It’s so encouraging to have been awarded this grant. Whilst we’ve been unable to support our children and families in the same way as we normally would, the grant has supported many ways in which we’ve adapted our services and kept in touch with the communities we support.’

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