Youth service workers smile in front of new Wandsworth youth bus

New mobile youth centre inspires Wandsworth youngsters

Wandsworth’s first mobile youth centre launched this Monday as part of the Alton Estate Regeneration project.

The launch party saw hundreds of people gather in attendance at Devas Club in Battersea in celebration of the youth bus rolling out. The centre will provide key mental and sexual health services for young people.

Putney MP Fleur Anderson and Wandsworth Mayor Juliana Annan also attended the event and praised the initiative.

Cllr Kate Stock, Wandsworth Council cabinet member for children, said: “This is great news for children and young people in our local communities. 

“It takes a village to raise a child, but it also takes a community to raise a generation.” 

Alton Estate Regeneration, a project which aims to revamp one of the largest social housing estates in the UK, largely funded the new youth bus alongside assistance from the Mayor of London’s Violence Reduction Unit.  

Jernel Chisholm, 39, housing officer, helps run the music studio on the bus and emphasised the importance of good role models for children in poorer communities. 

Jernel Chisholm smiles next to music equipment

Chisholm said: “There has been a massive rise in knife crime for youths and lack of support is the issue.” 

A report by the YMCA found that approximately £1 billion has been cut from budgets supporting youth services across the UK in the past decade, with London seeing a 66% decrease in funds between 2010/11 to 2018/19.

The youth bus represents an investment in a sector that has been underfunded in recent years. 

The new mobile youth centre operates six days each week, with a mapped route targeting areas identified as most in need of youth services

Roehampton is the main location of the bus, where it is based two days each week, but the route also includes areas such as Battersea and Tooting.

Jade Blake, area coordinator for youth services in the Battersea region, said: “It’s been difficult due to a lot of funding cuts from the central government.”

Jade Blake sits inside the new Wandworth mobile youth centre

Blake works directly with the children who go to clubs around Wandsworth and was overseeing the new mobile youth centre while it was stationed at Devas Club in Battersea.

The SWLondoner visited the bus this Thursday, where 25 children were using the new facilities which include a music studio, an interactive whiteboard and various games consoles.

Blake said: “It’s very worrying, especially following from the back of COVID children missed out on core social skills due to schools being closed. Mental health amongst the younger population has been amplified.”  

The new Wandsworth youth centre bus parked at Devas Club, Battersea.

The bus enables local authorities to offer youth services and a safe space to socialise for vulnerable children in areas that typically see high levels of anti-social behaviour. 

Blake added: “With the cost of living crisis, we do try to feed the children every day. You don’t know who is going home to have a meal and who is going home to nothing.”

Other important educational services are provided by the bus, such as access to laptops and high-speed wi-fi to help young people apply for jobs and receive career advice. 

The funding cuts between 2010/11 to 2018/19 for youth services, which have continued, have resulted in 750 youth centre closures and over 4,500 youth workers losing their jobs. 

Chisholm said: “A lot of children have problems at home and school. To have someone there for them and give them advice is important.

“There is a lot more going on than just the music.”

More information about the bus can be found at this link:

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