Alliance, collectively supporting young people
Equity Trustees is committed to deepening community impact and showcasing examples of best-practice in the for-purpose sector. We recently discovered a new collaboration in the area of Mental Health and Wellbeing and asked the CEOs of two members, PROJECT ROCKIT and The Reach Foundation to share more about their work.
From the desk of Rosie Thomas OAM (PROJECT ROCKIT) and Philippe Magid (Reach)
We are a newly formed Alliance of eight mental health and wellbeing school providers in Victoria who support up to 300,000 young people each year. Traditionally, we have been viewed as competitors. But now, we have united with a deep concern for young people and an urgent necessity to work together to support them.
COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted young people with 74% of youth reporting that their mental health is worse since the outbreak of the pandemic (headspace, 2021).
But in our work, we see beyond stats and percentages. We’re seeing young people utterly up against it. We don’t judge as they turn off their cameras because they can’t face seeing themselves, yet again, on a screen. We listen as young people tell us that they’re grieving the loss of their childhood. And we see how bloody incredible and resilient they are.
Schools are reporting to us an amplification of existing wellbeing needs and an increase in anxiety amongst student cohorts. They are witnessing at least 6-month delays in the social and emotional development of their students. The skills that we collectively provide to young Victorians to strengthen their mental health and wellbeing has never been more essential.
Young people are at the hearts of our businesses. We recruit, develop and employ youth, many of whom are already at risk. Since 28 May 2021, 127 people across our Alliance have lost their jobs or had their hours significantly reduced because of our inability to work in schools - 112 of these are young people. These are the young leaders that we pride ourselves in nurturing through extensive training and on-the-job experiences to create positive impact in their communities as part of our mission as purpose-centred organisations.
The harsh reality is that organisations like ours – who have supported young people for decades – are at serious risk of closure. If we close our doors, the social cost will be enormous.
THE IMPACT ON OUR SECTOR
Unfortunately, the fundraising income we receive isn’t quite enough to support the delivery of our school-based programs. We rely on fee-for-service income from schools. The frequency and velocity of lockdowns in Victoria, means collectively, Alliance members stand to lose close to $2.3M in school revenue during the period of the first May 28 lockdown to the end of the school year. That’s at least 150,000 school students that we have been unable to support during this period.
For our member organiastions, we have all experienced heavy financial loss, we have had to let staff go and we’ve had to slow down the development of the young people who lead and deliver our work.
WHAT DO OUR BENEFICIARIES SAY?
“The general attitude of my peers about a return to school is one of excitement. Some tell me that coming back to school will be much better for their mental health. Some feel the return will be bittersweet. Another thinks that returning to school for such a short time may be ‘too little too late’
- Year 11 student
“Our students have been highly anxious and distressed as a result of continuous lockdowns, lacking significantly in hope and motivation and feeling very isolated. As a school, we need the invaluable support of services such as REACH to enhance wellbeing and improve educational outcomes for our students.”
- School Wellbeing Officer, regional Victoria
“My students are deflated, lacking motivation, and missing social interaction with their peers. When transition back to schools finally occurs, students will need the support of PROJECT ROCKIT more than ever. Teachers can be pretty amazing, but we can’t do it all”
- Primary School Teacher, metropolitan Melbourne.
LACK OF GOVERNMENT SUPPORT
Members of our Alliance have received minimal or no financial support from governments during the 2021 lockdowns.
But while we continue our dialogue with Government to lobby for a support package, we also continue to do the essential work that we are best equipped to do. We truly value the interest from the Equity Trustees team and know that our story will resonate more powerfully with the Government if there is also support from the philanthropic sector. We are bringing our services together for the first time to meet the variety of challenges that young people are facing right now and to deliver the tsunami of support that we know young people will need as we find our way to ‘COVID normality’.
TOGETHER WE ARE STRONGER
In July 2021, we decided that the dire situation facing our organisations, our staff and young people across Victoria required action.
We are bringing our services together for the first time to meet the variety of challenges that young people are facing right now and to deliver the tsunami of support that we know young people will need as we find our way to ‘COVID normality’.
Because of the lack of financial support from governments during the 2021 lockdowns, our first action as a collective has been to start a dialogue with Government to lobby for a support package.
We need support from Government, philanthropy and the community to re-engage our young teams, replenish our resources and ready our organisations to ensure we can meet the spike in demand when the transition back to school begins.
We can’t do it alone. Together we are stronger, and we can continue our work to support young people for decades to come.
A number of Alliance Members are supported by trusts managed by Equity Trustees