Guest blog: Joanne Phillis, Cwmbran centre for young people manager

The Cwmbran Centre for Young People was established more than 30 years ago in response to a number of suicides in the area. Local councillors at the time came together to create a safe space where young people could access help and support.

I started working at the centre 12 years ago on a Welsh Government funded project. I went on to become the child protection and safeguarding lead for the centre, running projects for vulnerable young people, and I became centre manager about two and a half years ago.

Over the years the remit of the centre has expanded and today we offer a huge range of support services such as education provision, employment projects, counselling and a drop-in centre.

The centre is run as a charity, so we must bring in our own funding. The funding we receive from the Police and Crime Commissioner’s Police Community Fund allows us to run drop-in sessions on weekday evenings. These are badly needed in the town as there are many issues with youth crime and antisocial behaviour.

Since the outbreak of Covid-19 these sessions have had to stop, but as support workers we have never been busier.

Our staff are running activities such as quizzes online every evening and we have also created activity boxes which have been hand delivered to the young people’s homes and contain everything they need to complete the activity themselves. For example, for cooking activities we provide all the ingredients and cooking utensils they need to make that week’s recipe.

We are still running many of the qualifications we offer, such as employability, health and safety, and first aid. Young people can complete these online and it means that they can still get their certificates during lock down which will help them to get employment in the future.

As we move away from lockdown we hope to start to fully open and provide education and training at the centre again but, sadly, we won’t be able to offer our evening drop-in sessions for a while.

However, we are still here for the young people that need us most. We have been having regular, socially distanced meetings with those who need the most support, such as those with drug or alcohol issues, or those experiencing difficult home lives, and will never turn someone away if they need our support.