Hammers launch pioneering Advantage programme to help young people
West Ham United, working with Arsenal and Leyton Orient, have today launched a new mental health improvement scheme for young people, called Advantage.
With increasing evidence that mental health problems are one of the main consequences of the ongoing pandemic, the three clubs are working with NHS specialists to develop coordinated support for young people to improve their self-esteem, create a better sense of connection and provide opportunities to get back on track.
The Advantage programme will focus on improving education, employment options and physical activity, to help the youngsters with the transition from lockdown to a ‘new normal’ in a more uncertain world.
Football clubs across London are coming together under the umbrella of London United to tackle some of the key issues resulting from COVID-19. The Hammers, Arsenal and Orient have partnered with the Apax Foundation and the Royal Free Charity, working alongside the East London NHS Foundation Trust and the North East London NHS Foundation Trust on the initiative.
NHS and the power of football
At the beginning of the pandemic, West Ham United rapidly announced a pledge of support for local NHS Trusts across east London and Essex and committed to driving fundraising initiatives to help them deal with COVID-19.
As lockdown set in, the Hammers established an array of support initiatives, including volunteering schemes, production and delivery of parcels, Hammers at Home daily challenges, calls to elderly fans, newsletters and Facebook groups.
Now, the Club are teaming up with Arsenal and Orient to look at how they can support their local communities, providing professional help in a less formal, trusted and recognised setting.
Speaking on the importance of the initiative, West Ham United Foundation CEO Joseph Lyons said: “At West Ham we are committed to delivering real value in the community and this programme is another fantastic example of that. We’re incredibly proud of our work to tackle the immediate impact of COVID-19, but we are here for the long-term, responding to local need in ways which will have a lasting impact.
“The pandemic has created an increase in mental health problems, while demand on the NHS is also increasing. Therefore, working with NHS experts and led by the need they are seeing, we have an opportunity to intervene through this Advantage programme; giving regular, direct and bespoke help for young people to overcome the health and social issues they are facing so that they can thrive again.”
Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Nick Barnes, has helped to shape the programme recognising significant local need from his role within Newham Child and Mental Health Services (CAMHS), stating: “Due to the pandemic, there are a group of people emerging now, who are very anxious, feeling stuck and not knowing how to move forward.
“Evidence has shown us that there’s a gap amongst 14 to 21-year-olds who are transitioning to adulthood, which is hugely interrupted due to COVID-19.
“This programme is a way to help them find a way forward.”
Young People are referred to the local CAMHS within East London NHS Foundation Trust (Newham and Hackney) or North East London NHS Foundation Trust (Waltham Forest) from school, youth clubs or their GP doctor, and those assessed with mild to moderate mental health need, which has been brought about or worsened because of the COVID pandemic, will be invited to join the programme.
From there they are matched with one of the football clubs’ community foundations; Newham – West Ham, Hackney – Arsenal, Waltham Forest – Leyton Orient. At this point the individual receives an initial consultation with a support coach followed by training and mentoring and is subsequently entered into a selected scheme which matches their goals, whether it’s on or off the pitch – receiving consistent support throughout.
West Ham have recruited a Youth Worker Project Coordinator who will work alongside their Health Manager; providing assistance across Arsenal and Leyton Orient, connecting with the CAMHS specialists and ensuring that outcomes are being met.
In order to maintain a person-focused approach, initially there will be 30 people taking part with more spaces available as the programme progresses.