Singer-songwriter and presenter Jamelia was in Kennington Park, Lambeth, in July to back a sports and mentoring programme that is helping young mums from Brixton to take back control of their lives.
The entertainer and mother of four met 12 of the latest graduates from the Street Elite project and heard how they are overcoming the challenges they have faced as young parents.
She was joined by hundreds of local school girls who enjoyed sports games and activities teaching them about self-confidence and wellbeing. One of the sports coaches, Grace, is herself a graduate of the course and is now able to pass on the skills she acquired.
Street Elite is run by youth charity The Change Foundation and funded by the Berkeley Foundation, with additional contributions Mayor's . The nine-month programme was supported by Lambeth Council and targeted unemployed young women in the borough. It started with 12 weeks of personal training and mentoring, followed by group activities designed to build confidence and prepare them for the world of work.
Jessie, a 2018/19 graduate said:
"I feel like the programme was very inspiring. It's one of the best ways to motivate a young person encountering social problems. What I found particularly great was the fact that Street Elite understood that young women are disadvantaged in the workplace especially when they have children due to the difficulty arranging childcare. Street Elite has given me more confidence in my ability to multi task and greater ambition to succeed as a young mother."
"Motherhood can be tough - and when you're a young black woman, getting the right support can be even harder. Street Elite is empowering mothers and giving them the tools they need to achieve their potential.
"It's refreshing to see a course that focuses on practical life skills and building self-esteem. By mentoring women in this safe, inclusive environment, Street Elite is helping them to realise what we are capable of and helping them to feel in control of their futures."
Debbie Weekes-Bernard, Deputy Mayor for social integration, social mobility and community engagement said:
"I'm delighted that we have been able to support this project through the Mayor's Young Londoners Fund, which we created to provide young people with positive alternatives to crime and to help Londoners to get out of gangs and violence and into employment and training. Projects such as Street Elite are so important because they reach our city's most vulnerable young people and provide clear pathways to stable employment. The Mayor and I continue to be convinced by the unique power that sport has to change a young person's life and will continue to support organisations like The Change Foundation."
Rob Perrins, Chief Executive of the Berkeley Group and Chair of Trustees for the Berkeley Foundation, said:
"This programme is all about helping young people overcome barriers to work and giving them the confidence they need to achieve their true potential. The talented Street Elite graduates we've welcomed into Berkeley have become great assets for our business and fantastic role models in their communities."
Andy Sellins, Chief Executive, The Change Foundation, said:
"The fact that Grace has come through the programme and is now a sports coach herself, supporting other young women, says it all. We've been running Street Elite since 2012 and we've seen first-hand the real-life impact that it is having on hundreds of young lives.
"Street Elite graduates benefit from a powerful mix of sports training, practical advice and emotional support through one-to-one mentoring. This sets them up for the long term, giving them the confidence and life skills they need to thrive."
A 2018 survey by the Young Women's Trust found that 44% of women aged 18-30 were anxious about not earning enough to live; compared to 30% of men of the same age.
Previous research by the Trust suggests that young mothers want to get into work but often find it difficult because they care for a child or family member. 61% of the mums reported that they only just manage financially and nearly half that they regularly missed meals to provide for their children.
400 unemployed young Londoners have already completed a Street Elite course, with 84% of those who complete the programme successfully moving into education or employment.
15 Street Elite graduates have been employed directly by Berkeley Group.
Government figures show 467,000 young people aged 16-24 were unemployed in January to March 2019, giving an unemployment rate of 10.8% for this age group.
According to the ACEVO Commission on Youth Unemployment, youth unemployment is expected to cost the UK taxpayer an estimated £28bn between 2012 and 2022.
The Street Elite model was first developed by The Change Foundation and the Berkeley Foundation in 2012.
Find out more about Street Elite online.