Testament of youth !
By Abygail Fossett
Have you ever wondered what there is around here for young people to do in the evenings? If they live in or around Felixstowe including the nearby villages, chances are, they can be found at the Level Two Youth Project. Running for 18 years now, it supports youngsters locally with the goal of promoting the welfare of young people, aged 7-25, through supportive relationships and positive experiences, all designed to enhance their personal and social development.
Children’s services and youth groups such as Level Two have suffered a real knock back in the past few years of austerity. Unison has reported that since 2012, 760 youth clubs have been shut down across the country, with a loss of 4,500 youth worker jobs. Many fear that the effect of this is to isolate young people, depriving them of the opportunity to participate in community life, with an increase in issues like bullying or mental and sexual health problems.
Luckily Felixstowe’s Level Two has proudly withstood setbacks, and continues helping the young people of Suffolk to flourish. They offer a wide range of activities, from workshops to chill-out spaces. Their “Hub” above Tesco’s in Felixstowe is equipped with pool tables, table tennis, table football and Wii, computers, areas to relax and other facilities. Each session also includes time focused on a weekly topic, supervised by qualified youth workers. Chosen topics so far have been issues such as healthy eating, the benefits of exercise and, last April, the problem of gangs and county lines. With reports showing that gang culture is beginning to migrate to more rural areas, Level Two clearly have their collective fingers on the pulse of the issues faced by the youth of today.
Supporting young people struggling with mental health difficulties is also a priority at Level Two. There has been a massive upswing in the number of young people reporting mental health difficulties in recent years. Anxiety and depression are on the rise, and self-harm has become a worrying trend; a report commissioned by the Ministry of Justice found that by March 2018, the number of documented self-harm incidents had increased by 40% in just one year. Level Two employ a qualified registered counsellor, who offers counselling to those aged eleven plus. They also work closely with other agencies and organisations within the community, such as the Early Help Team, Children and Young People’s Services in Ipswich and youth offending teams, aiming support and advice for young people that is consistent and dependable.
“Always there to support us”
Former Level 2 user and Living In … writer Abygail Fossett on what the youth club meant to her …
“Whenever I am reminiscing with my friends about our school days, the youth workers of Level Two always feature prominently. We got to know the youth club in 2010 when they were operating out of the tiny community education centre in our school carpark, appropriately naming their sessions Chat and Chill. We often spent our lunchtimes there talking with the staff, who were always friendly and willing to listen to our teenage melodramas. I remember them always being very generous with their time and advice – and their snacks!
As we got older and closer to leaving school, we felt incredibly lucky to have this network of adults there to support us. They helped us through exam stress, friendship worries and anxiety about what the future held for us beyond the playground. I am so pleased to know that Level Two are still around, supporting the current youth of Suffolk the way they were always there to support us. “
* Level Two, 54 Cobbold Road Felixstowe Suffolk IP11 7EL. For more info, call 01394 272521 . Or go to: www.leveltwo.org