LifeLine Community projects wins Big Society Award

Organisation inspiring youth across Barking and Dagenham wins award from Prime Minister.

LifeLine Community Projects is the latest winner of a Prime Minister’s Big Society Award for its work with local volunteers in Barking and Dagenham, transforming lives and sparking community change.

LifeLine’s projects to help people transform their local community include SW!TCH ID, a youth-led project set up to change negative perceptions around young people, and switch them to something positive,   Young volunteers are encouraged to design and carry out community initiatives to improve their local area,  and the success of the scheme has been endorsed by Boris Johnson and the London 2012 Olympics Team. So far it has helped 200 volunteers develop leadership skills and confidence while doing valuable work in their community like supporting vulnerable peers, cleaning up local streets, and organising community fun-days.

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

“LifeLine Community Projects has grown to take on a huge range of projects to transform communities. Its work to not only do the most it can, but also to help other social enterprises grow is impressive.

“Engaging young people in their local communities is vital in ensuring they are empowered to be active members of that community. From litter picking to community fun days LifeLine projects have given hundreds of young people in Barking and Dagenham the chance to get involved and give something back and this Big Society Award recognises the difference they have made to the whole community.”

So far, SW!TCH ID have:

• Run 6 litter-picking flash-mobs and 3 community fun-days 

• Involved over 900 local residents in a flash mob, 6 park and litter  cleanups and 3 community fun-days amongst other campaigns

• Engaged 200 local school children across Barking and Dagenham to organise events and training, as well as planning and running campaigns of their own to spread the word

• Won 6 awards including the Mayor of London’s 2012 Olympics Inspire Mark and the Royal Society of Arts Innovation Award

LifeLine also supports young people to stay in education or training.  The SW!TCH pre-apprenticeship programme targets16-17 year olds to support them back into learning, preferably into an apprenticeship. Another apprenticeship programme is Lifeline’s Alternative School commissioned by the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham.  It targets disadvantaged 14-16 year olds who have dropped out of school, and offers extra support like a mentor from their local community and includes  interpersonal skills  on the curriculum order to address the multiple barriers faced by those attending who are often single parents. So far it has enabled 150 school children to become re-engaged in education.

Avril McIntyre MBE and chief executive of Lifeline said:

“The SW!TCH initiative involves ‘switching’ local perceptions of their generations as thugs  and hoodies, into something more positive by developing and running their own community initiatives. As well as working closely with local neighbourhood policing teams, and also connecting with local businesses to run their own enterprises, young people have been involved in promoting social action on a more strategic level through involvement in the Cabinet Office Social Exclusion Task Force, and Youth Citizenship Commission, to discuss LifeLine’s approach to promoting volunteering and social action.

“LifeLine engages hard-to-reach groups through outreach, volunteering opportunities, confidence-building, health-awareness and employment and skills, providing them with opportunities to develop their voice in shaping programmes so that they have a say in how decisions are made in their area, and are the major drivers of service improvement. We encourage service users, particularly those who arrive feeling isolated, vulnerable and powerless, to take active ownership of the challenges that their local community faces, and work with local businesses and statutory bodies to achieve positive outcomes for their community.”

Eloge, 14 said, “SW!TCH has changed my life because there was stuff I didn’t do before that I can do now. I like helping people – that’s what I learnt from SW!TCH – to give away my time when I’m not doing anything. I can just go and see people who need help, and do things like gardening; I can just go and help them. Like last week I saw an old man who wanted to cross the road and I helped him cross and that made me feel good.”

LifeLine Community Projects is a social enterprise that started in 2000 in Barking and Dagenham by a group of volunteers, has grown to employ110 full time staff with a turnover of £5.5million, making it one of the largest community-based, social enterprises in the capital.

It now empowers other communities across England to work with central and local Government to find their own local solutions based on their learning, and has delivered in excess of £11million of public sector contracts since 2005. LifeLine’s projects tackle a range of community issues by providing services such as Careers Service (IAG), a National Offender management programme, and “Totally Mums” peer support training.