children playing in the park

Children's mental health

Supporting Loughborough Community Centre

We’re providing core funding to Loughborough Community Centre in Lambeth, South London, so that they can implement their exciting new strategy and support even more children and families.

What we are doing together

We are providing core funding investment to Loughborough Community Centre (LCC), a safe, compassionate and fun space for children and families in Lambeth, South London. Based in the Max Roach Adventure Playground and One O’clock Club, the centre is located in the ward of Brixton North ward, previously Coldharbour Ward, an area with the most deprivation in the borough. Many families that access the centre are living in unsuitable housing conditions and are stuck in a cycle of poverty. Experiencing entrenched inequalities, access to statutory services for support is limited by systemic bias (not being referred, not getting the right support in a timely manner and the dissolvement of community-based services), or by historic mistrust caused by persistent bias and discrimination.

LCC was set up in 1981 by local tenants in response to the Brixton riots. It has been a consistent presence for 40 years, trusted by generations of families. Throughout that time, it has listened to families and changed to meet their needs, for example during the pandemic and now as the cost-of-living crisis worsens.

Loughborough Community Centre currently supports over a thousand children and families with projects and services that help people access the things we all need to be healthy and happy. Their current offer includes:

  • Rosebuds Preschool for children aged 2-5 years old. Practitioners prioritise protecting children and their families from the stresses they face every day, creating a nurturing space that positively supports children’s safety, mental wellbeing, learning and development.
  • the Holiday Play Project for children aged 0-13 years old. Provides children and young people with access to free nutritious meals, play activities, and a safe space to hang out with friends through the school holiday periods.
  • Family Support for parents and carers through regular Stay and Play sessions provides opportunities for parents with young children to offer peer-to-peer support and advice, as well as for LCC staff to get to know families better, build trust and provide more tailored support or signposting where appropriate
  • An inclusive, supervised after-school club for young people 8-15 years old, it offers a bridge between our holiday provision, providing the opportunity for play, learning and access to nutritious food and meals after school.

Providing a core investment means the Loughborough Community Centre team has more time and space to implement their revised strategic plan. This will support them to improve their financial sustainability, build new partnerships, maintain core services, and ultimately help more families.

Impact on Urban Health provided investment to Loughborough Community Centre at a crucial moment post-pandemic, coinciding with a surge in demand for our services. This has offered an unprecedented level of security, granting us the freedom to strategically contemplate and plan for the community needs, in addition to the organisation’s needs, and allows us to focus on what we do well - delivering high quality and impactful provision for the improvement of people’s wellbeing and mental health.

Candice James Director of Loughborough Community Centre

Aims of the partnership

We started working with Loughborough Community Centre through our Covid Emergency Fund in 2020 and have learned a lot from their expertise and relationships with local families. When the initial fund ended, we knew it was crucial the centre had support to keep doing its vital work. Over the next 5 years, they plan to implement their new strategy and business plan, with specific aims including:

  • To strengthen their governance by recruiting new board members, diversifying skills and increasing participation from families
  • To establish relationships with other community partners to deliver a wider range of services throughout the year
  • To diversify income streams including long-term funding, earned income, and co-bidding with new partners

Some of our shared aims include:

  • To deepen understanding of what really helps children and families, especially those facing the huge stressors of inequality like homelessness, food poverty, insecure and low-paid work, etc
  • To better understand the distress caused by social isolation and lack of stimulation/play, to build evidence for support and services that work
  • To plan how we use what we are learning with families to influence policy change around children’s mental health

Childrens’ mental health thrives when they have safe spaces to play and call home. Deep, trusting relationships with people who can offer families support is also critical. LCC at Max Roach is one of these anchor institutions, at the heart of the local community.

Stephanie Woodrow Portfolio Manager, Children’s Mental Health, Impact on Urban Health

Strategic fit

Our local boroughs of Lambeth and Southward benefit hugely from organisations like Loughborough Community Centre, that are deeply trusted by families and build support around them where other statutory services do not feel safe or accessible. We have so much to learn from them and the families they work with. Both in terms of the ways children might be shielded from the impacts of poverty, unconscious bias’ and systemic racism, and the ways mental health support can be trauma-informed and compassionate where that impact has already happened.

We have also learned a lot about the importance of parents’ mental health, how their distress affects their children, and naturally how their children’s distress affects them. Loughborough Community Centre offers support to children and their families, sometimes together and sometimes separately, largely through peer support that we have heard from many parents helps to create a space with less stigma or judgement.

These kinds of community assets are historically underfunded and the expertise of their leaders is chronically overlooked. Our Covid Emergency Fund demonstrated the value of core and unrestricted funding that gives community organisations the freedom to meet the changing needs of the people they serve. But short-term ‘emergency’ funding is not enough. One of our strategic priorities is to build the capacity of trusted, community-led organisations, especially those creating safe spaces outside of existing services, so that they can be more financially sustainable long-term and focus their efforts of reaching as many families as possible. We also want to amplify the voices of leaders and local residents so that their wisdom becomes a greater part of decision-making, especially with policymakers and other funders.