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Rugby At The Heart
IMPACT OF COVID-19
Since our inception in April 2019, we have worked relentlessly to make positive social change in the communities we work with, whilst continually striving to diversify and improve our services. However, like so many across the world, all of our work and planning was brought to an abrupt stop when the Covid-19 pandemic struck our shores in 2020. With the announcement of the national lockdown, it was apparent that our delivery had to be halted and critical fundraising events had to be cancelled, raising concerns over the future of our charity and our team.
Following the shift from national lockdown to local tier systems, we were able to return all staff members from furlough and begin adapting our services to ensure we were able to reach individuals in need of our support without face-to-face delivery.
An example is our HITZ project which offers support and guidance for young people (16-24 years old) who are Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET) to provide them with the skills and knowledge to re-enter one of those pathways.
We were able to establish ‘virtual’ delivery and enable young people to socialise with their peers and engage with our staff as HITZ helped them to aspire for more with their lives. It has been an incredibly testing period, but one that has made us stronger and more versatile. Importantly, it has reinforced the value of the work we provide.
As we now move towards a brighter “new normal”, I would like to give a special thanks to the staff of our Foundation whose commitment, tremendous work rate and dedication to those we work with have seen us come through the past 18 months with incredible momentum to push on and make 2021- 2022 a success for us all.
OUR IMPACT IN NUMBERS
HITZ - a long-term education and employability programme underpinned by the ethos of sport for 16-24-year-olds who are NEET, (not in education, employment, or training). HITZ uses sport to develop transferrable life skills whilst providing high-quality education around Maths and English, qualification opportunities, and work placements. It supports young people to progress to positive destinations within further education, training, or employment. Since the Foundation started we have delivered over 1250 hours to over 100 young people.
Prince’s Trust – an employability-focussed project aimed at young people aged 16-24 based within Reading, whereby we upskill them to better prepare them for future employment opportunities. This project is led by us, with the support of The Prince’s Trust to provide BTEC Level 1 qualifications to young people, in addition to networking opportunities with local businesses which offer apprenticeships, work experiences and full-time employment opportunities
Since starting Prince’s Trust we have delivered five cohorts resulting in 1500 hours of delivery and reaching over 150 participants. This has resulted in a 96% positive pathway destination.
Easter Camp – our Fit & Fed Easter Camp for youngsters from underprivileged backgrounds. The project saw us successfully deliver free physical activity sessions during the Easter holidays, whilst educating them on the importance of a healthy lifestyle and providing them with free nutritional meals each day.
Unfortunately due Covid-19, we were unable to deliver this project in 2020, so seeing the joy, excitement and thrill of the children made the delivery extra special in 2021.
UNDERSTANDING OUR COMMUNITIES
We pride ourselves in best placing our services within the communities in which we work. To ensure this is always the case, we undertake regular consultation work and research to ensure our projects meet the needs of the local community. By targeting specific audiences in our programmes, we can maximise successful outcomes. From our research and consultation, we know that in areas such as Berkshire, Surrey, Middlesex, Hampshire, and London (our main areas of work), over 5% of 16-24-year-olds are NEET. Therefore the programmes we deliver through HITZ and Prince’s Trust are even more essential in bridging that gap and providing critical services for young people.
We work with these communities as we are passionate about making a difference and want to see a tangible impact. Developing local sport and education provision can improve local wellbeing, increase employment rates, reduce the proportion of people who are NEET and decrease anti-social behaviour.
To achieve our objectives, we collaborate with an array of partners who support our work. This includes:
- The Metropolitan Police - Working with London Irish and Kensington Aldridge Academy has given local police officers and officers from South West Territorial Support Group the opportunity to engage with, and build trust and confidence amongst, young people in Kensington and Chelsea that they serve daily. Using rugby and its core values of teamwork, respect, enjoyment, discipline and sportsmanship has given us a great opportunity to break down barriers and show our officers in different light. This project enabled police officers to start difficult conversations with young people on stop and search, gangs, county lines, knife crime and life choices.
- Premiership Rugby - provide funded programmes for all Premiership rugby clubs. These funded programmes allow us to deliver to vulnerable groups where rugby might not be accessible
- Greggs - provided funding for our Tackling Health programme which is a targeted intervention for children to tackle in activity and healthy eating.
- Adviza - have been a key partner in our Prince’s Trust programme.
- Prince’s Trust - have provided ongoing support and guidance with our TEAM programmes in Staines and Reading.
- DofE - We are now working with the Duke of Edinburgh to run the Bronze award as part of our HITZ programme.
- Wooden Spoon - provide funding for our Hitz programme as part of their partnership with Premiership rugby.
- Coach Core - have been working with us for the past 18 months. We have been part of their consortium for the Apprenticeship scheme. From this our apprentice Ben Nutt has now signed a full time contract with the London Irish Foundation.
- BT - Supported our Foundation with a post 2019 Rugby World Cup lunch which was held at the BT Tower in London. The event provided fantastic exposure for the launch of our Foundation that year and provided an op - portunity for us to champion some of our partners and, more importantly, showcase the success stories and progress of the beneficiaries we worked with.
What our partners say about us:
- Grant Funding Partners:
- Postcode Community Trust
- Education Skills Funding Agency
- National Lottery Covid response fund
- High Sheriff Sport Youth Awards
- Shanley Foundation
Thanks must go to the directors, management, staff, and players of London Irish for their support of the Foundation since its launch. We are also very grateful to the companies and organisations that collaborated on programmes and activities, including Premiership Rugby and its sponsors, the Rugby Football Union, BT, Pump Technology, SEGRO and Studio Republic. In addition, we would like to give special thanks to the funders who have supported our work over the past 18 months. Your support and trust in our work have been remarkable and as a result, our beneficiaries are receiving the aid, support and guidance needed throughout this incredibly testing time.
Skye Kay (Prince’s Trust Programme)
Skye is the first transgender student to have worked with the London Irish Foundation on one of our education programmes delivered in Reading. Skye is 16 years old and lives with her mum. Skye, who is transgender, had struggled with mainstream education before joining the Foundation. Skye was bullied extensively at school and college and struggled to be accepted by her peers. Skye has spoken with staff and her peers openly about her journey to becoming transgender and the challenges she has faced.
Skye said “The programme has transformed me for the better. It has given me the platform to overcome my fears of being accepted as a transgender female, improved my interview skills, and helped me get my first part-time job. I now have the confidence to pursue my dream job of becoming a Teaching Assistant”
Skye has expressed a real interest in becoming a Teaching Assistant that specialises in working with children who have additional needs. Her younger brother struggles with learning at school, and Skye wants to take on a role where she can lead by example and provide the support that unfortunately her brother has not received. Education Officer Vicky Tzanetis, who worked with Skye, said ‘Skye was always willing to help fellow students on the course with the written work and understanding of tasks. She had a natural “caring” aura and the other students found her very easy to talk to.”
Education Officer Vicky Tzanetis said “To be honest I was a little nervous about potentially saying the wrong thing, so as soon as possible I picked up the phone and we had a chat one-to-one. We bonded very quickly, and Skye stood out as a born leader. I was able to ask her to be a team leader for some activities and she rose to the challenge.
“At the start of the programme I didn’t know what direction I was going in or how to approach different situations,” said Skye. “Vicky has helped, not only point me in the right direction but she’s given me different education and personal routes to take in life. I now take a step back and look at the bigger picture.”
Having gone from being disillusioned with the education system to full-time employment with the London Irish Foundation, Ben Nutt’s life has turned around since he enrolled on the HITZ programme.
HITZ is Premiership Rugby’s flagship education and employability programme, working with more than 2,000 14-23 year-olds across England every year and using rugby’s core values to develop the personal skills, life skills and employability skills of young people not in education, employment or training. (NEET). It is delivered by all Premiership Rugby clubs and Ben is a great example of the way it can have a hugely positive effect on the lives of young people in England.
Ben - who has ADHD and autism - was withdrawn from college, struggled with low self-esteem, anxiety, obesity and became reclusive, but having progressed through the HITZ programme his life turned around. He passed his level 2 Maths and English and went onto being named BreakThru Achiever of the Year at Premiership Rugby’s glittering Parliamentary Community Awards in 2017. Ben has since completed further studies and taken up an apprenticeship at London Irish Foundation as an Inclusion Officer.
London Irish Foundation Manager Joe Pegg insists Ben’s progress is a testament to his hard work.
We were very unfortunate that within the first 12 months of our Foundation being officially registered, the pandemic put a firm brake on all of our delivery, fundraising plans and cast a dark cloud of uncertainty over the future work of our Foundation. Several challenges arose during this time, such as:
No face-to-face delivery – In light of the initial lockdown in March 2020 all of our front-line delivery had to be halted. Due to the abruptness and speed at which events unfolded, we were unable to prepare and design a comprehensive remote-based delivery plan which would enable us to continue to deliver elements of our projects and, importantly, maintain a regular line of communication with our beneficiaries. To ensure the employment of our staff and longevity of our Foundation, we were forced to furlough all staff members.
Response: Upon exiting the first national lockdown it was still clear that front-line delivery was not going to be possible. However, as a team, we felt we had a duty to our beneficiaries and communities to provide as much support as we could within the restrictions. We set about creating an array of online materials and resources which were provided to local schools and education providers to support their remote learning in addition to supporting teaching staff with the delivery of these sessions. We delivered food parcels and packages to local food banks, we successfully transitioned HITZ from face-to-face delivery to remote virtual learning, and we lent laptops and devices to individuals without access to such equipment to engage with our project. Our staff worked tirelessly to ensure the content remained engaging and fun but importantly still delivered the key outcomes we intended.
Cancelling all fundraising events – Following the lockdown and continued restrictions on indoor and outdoor gatherings we were forced to cancel all planned fundraising events. Our annual golf day, one of our flagship fundraising events which raises upwards of £75,000, was one of those to be cancelled, along with our end-of-season dinner which raises upwards of £50,000.
Response: To make up for the shortfall of income over the past 18 months we have diversified our fundraising approach, including applying to grant funders, reaching out to donors and corporate partners and increasing our cross-partner work to aid research and to support other local service providers in the communities we work within.
Inability to forward plan – The pandemic required us to fundamentally rethink project delivery, budgets, staff development, staff growth and charity growth. The ever-changing scenarios and government restrictions made it increasingly difficult to predict what the future held, but also what projects and services we would be in a position to deliver.
Response: As we now start to embrace the new normal, the roadmap (as of September 2021) fills us with optimism and hope. Not only will we soon return to full delivery capacity, but also we have been able to design new projects to meet the growing needs within the communities we work in. LIFE, a project aimed at improving the physical and mental health of the elderly in care homes across our region, is one example of us innovating our work and being adaptable to emerging needs faced by our communities.
THE FUTURE: WHAT’S NEXT?
As we enter the second half of the season, we have ramped up our delivery plans. Below is a snapshot of the projects we will be delivering over the next six months: