Twelve months ago we as a YMCA entered the New Year with a sense of energy and optimism for the year ahead. We had new plans, projects and programmes to launch. Sadly, COVID came and as we all know too well, in March, the world pressed pause.
As we got used to the new normal and some restrictions lifted, we were able to bring back some services as well as launch our re-imagination project. This re-imagination project was our road to our new Strategic Plan, it took us back to basics – seeking to be clear about all we do and the impact it is having. Alongside this it sought to be ambitious stretching out beyond the horizon so we can do more than we thought possible before.
We now enter 2021 in a strange liminal space that is caught between vaccinations and lockdown, one where we now have a plan for the future but challenging circumstances in which to operate today. As one of London’s largest supported housing providers we are pleased that our frontline staff have been considered a priority group for the vaccination. We continue to campaign to have all our residents and Children and Youth workers treated as a priority group as well.
That said, we know that Lockdown 3 feels harder than Lockdown 1 for a lot of people. In the dark and cold winter nights, people’s physical and mental wellbeing is affected and with nightly news talking about new viral strains and ongoing restrictions the light at the tunnel can seem further away than ever before. During this time, we will continue to do all we can to support people with our online fitness offer as well as emotional support through Release, our counselling service.
We look forward to a time when we can be back together, when we can hug family and friends and not be concerned about walking too close to someone else. As a YMCA we look forward to opening our doors with no restrictions, of welcoming you back and seeing our residents being able to socialise, eat and create community together.
CEO, YMCA St Paul’s Group
20 January 2021
A fairer, greener and more caring World
Since March 2020 we have all been forced to stop, step back and appraise that which is important to us. From time with families to work place commuting we have all found our everyday lives affected in ways that would have seemed unbelievable only just a few months before. Along the way many of us have lost loved ones, seen long standing injustices exposed more than ever before.
According to one well known commentator the word of the year should not be unprecedented, lockdown or Covid but simply ‘2020’ as for years to come this will be known as the year which where everything changed. From here on, when we experience a turbulent time in our lives we could be described as having a bit of a 2020.
That said, as we near the end of this 2020 we do so with some light at the end of the tunnel. The way the world has pulled together to develop vaccines has been remarkable and as such we can start to hope that 2021 will be a year when we can find some normality.
Here at YMCA St Paul’s Group we are committing to not simply returning to the old ways of being but are looking to create a fairer, greener and more caring World. Over the last 6 months we have engaged in what we have called out Re-Imagination project, a process by which we went back to basics to review all we did before looking ambitiously to the future as to what we, with the support of other community collaborators can achieve. We believe that out of the moment that is 2020 we can all work together to create a fairer, greener and more caring World we describe this as the World we want to see and it is the basis of our new Strategic Plan.
Over the coming weeks and months we will, as a charity, need to work with our young people and communities to ensure we stay safe and strong to navigate this winter Covid months but with the excitement and anticipation of what the future holds.
CEO, YMCA St Paul’s Group
25 November 2020
As YMCA St Paul’s Group we are busy at work working out how we can both re-imagine and remobilise our services so that we can provide the support needed as we continue to come out of lockdown.
The safety and wellbeing of our young people and communities are at the heart of what we are all about and so we will do what is necessary to manage the lifting of restrictions, whilst keeping our buildings safe for those who use them and the staff who work in them. This will look different in different buildings and there will inevitably be restrictions on movement and access of spaces that we are all becoming used to. As well as doing what we can to ensure safety, we will also encourage our residents, members and service users to suggest ways in which we can all work together to ensure a safe and positive environment at the YMCA.
Over the last few months, the coronavirus has challenged priorities, caused concerns as well as given a chance to stop and reflect. We know that more than ever people need the support of organisations like the YMCA to support them in body, mind, and spirit. So just as we have done in response to other global threats, we continue to be here for the people in the many different communities we serve. Our housing projects will continue to give people a safe place to stay, our Health and Wellbeing services will enable people to be physically and mentally well, our children and youth services will look to provide vital programmes and activities that are needed and our chaplaincy service will continue to ensure all we do is motivated by the love and compassion seen in the life and example of Jesus.
We all expect there to be uncertainty for some time yet. Despite this we as a YMCA will look to be a constant source of hope that we can create places where young people thrive and communities flourish.
As of 20 March YMCA St Paul’s Group’s Health and Wellbeing centres and cafes (including Hampton Pool) will be closed. Along with pubs, clubs and gyms across the country this unprecedented step was taken under government instruction.
Whilst some of our services are closed teams in other aspects of what we do are working harder as ever. Teams in our hostels and housing projects are providing an essential frontline service, supporting over 1,150 vulnerable people who need a safe place to stay and someone that they can trust. Alongside the key workers in our accommodation work, our early years work team are planning to run many of our excellent after school clubs, pre-school and nursery so that we can provide the support to those key workers who are involved in essential services.
As a charity we are committed to Health and Wellbeing and supporting families and so we will see how in the current context we can evolve to provide that support in new and accessible ways. We will also need to focus on essential services to ensure sustainability during this period of financial challenge. Anyone who would consider supporting us at this time is encouraged to get in touch.
Whilst the news headlines can cause panic, in the midst of the challenge there are some wonderful signs of hope. Communities are rallying together to support each other, within families people are focusing on what is truly important. Issues which seemed major hurdles weeks ago are now put into context and relegated to history.
We ask everyone to follow government advice in your lifestyle choices but in so doing find ways to ensure you look after your own wellbeing and you and your family support each other in new and innovative ways
For over 175 years the YMCA has been at the heart of the community supporting those who are vulnerable and challenging systems to make life fair for all. Through two World Wars and constant political change, we have sought to evolve and emerge so that we can support people to find fullness of life in Body, Mind and Spirit.
Here in London and surrounding areas, the vision of YMCA St Paul’s Group is of places where young people thrive and communities flourish. The outbreak of the Coronavirus is a new challenge to both aspects of this vision yet it is in the midst of this challenge we will evolve and emerge in both the short and long term that see people and communities find life in all it’s fullness.
What are we doing?
1. We have reduced our staffing levels and adjusted rotas, where possible we have asked people to work from home
2. We have reduced our travel between sites and replaced face to face meetings with digital conferencing
3. In each of our sites members of our teams have been provided with additional hygiene products to use and we have put in place extra cleaning rotas
4. Our housing projects and hostels provide an essential service, providing over 1,200 people a safe place to stay each night. As well as providing a roof over their heads, we support those individuals so that they can realise fullness of life themselves. To ensure we do this in the safest way we have identified the most vulnerable people who live with us and put in place special support for them. We have also provided information to our residents on how to ensure their wellbeing is adversely affected during this period.
5. In our Health and Wellbeing services, including Hampton Pool, we have closed centres. Our counselling service is running a telephone service so that we can ensure that everyone is given the support they need.
6. Across our Children, Youth and Family department we are following advice from local commissioners and falling in line with information provided to schools. Our nursery and pre-school will close to the general public from Friday 20 March until further notice, but will remain open to provide vital childcare services for key workers. Our Youth Centres are now closed until further notice, but youth workers will still be contactable to provide 121 advice and support to our Young People.
7. The steps we have introduced to manage COVID-19 risk in the workplace, include working from home and staying 2m away (we have marked up the workplace entrances at 2m increments) from each other in the workplace if at all possible. We issue regular updates to the workforce, which includes a Q&A from HR and provide each project with up to date guidance from the government, as it is published.
When managing the risk of COVID-19, additional PPE beyond what we normally provide is not beneficial, this is because COVID-19 is a different type of risk to the risks you normally face in a workplace, and needs to be managed through social distancing, hygiene and fixed teams or partnering, not through the use of PPE. We are not encouraged to allow the precautionary use of extra PPE to protect against COVID-19 outside clinical settings or when responding to a suspected or confirmed case of COVID-19, however we support our workers in using face coverings safely if they choose to wear one. However, following consultation with the workforce, we have decided to provide face masks, from week commencing 25 May, where workers have not been able to provide face covering for themselves, we will provide them upon request.
Our team are working hard on creating resources for Children, Young People and families who find themselves self isolating ensuring that every family gets the support it needs.
Finally, we find ourselves in an unprecedented situation with the Covid-19 pandemic affecting our families, our businesses and communities. We know that in such times it is more important than ever to keep in touch and look out for one another. As YMCA we have been through global challenges before and we will continue to be here and support through this one.
Let’s come together as community.
Some useful resources