There are a number of high profile, multi-million pound football teams in north London that footie fans can get passionate about, but the group that has been put together by the Care Leavers teams at Brent Council, also has much to shout about.
Research shows that loneliness is one of the biggest challenges facing care leavers, and it is this notion that care leavers can feel particularly isolated, that exercises much of the thinking of Brent’s care leaver’s service. During a meeting to discuss some of their aspirations for care leavers the idea was raised of creating a youth club to give this group somewhere to meet each other and broaden their support network. Some of the team also mentioned football as another activity that could bring young people together. Within three weeks the monthly youth club ‘The Hub’ had been set up, and alongside this, weekly football.
Natasha Langleben (right), one of the Leaving Care team managers says: ‘Both The Hub and the football team are in their initial stages with room to develop, make mistakes, consult with young people and evolve ideas.
‘The football team play at the local PowerLeague and despite it being such early days we’ve had a fantastic response. It is notoriously difficult to recruit young people to different events, as they have many other priorities in their life and we’ve seen this challenge when we organise our tenancy and money management workshops. However, we saw an immediate response to both The Hub and the Football team which clearly shows there is a need for these enrichment activities.’
The team is primarily designed to enable the young people to build friendships and have fun, but there are further aspirations to play against other local authority care leaver teams and even establish a league. Of course, the next question is how to ensure the initiative is sustainable, as Natasha says: ‘We have started with our existing resources and the huge dedication of our Personal Advisers who are running the group in their evenings. We are now exploring how this can evolve into a longer-term more sustainable initiative. The group is growing quickly, so we would like to secure more space, have a kit and refreshments and explore travel so we could play other local authorities in the future.’
Anthony Egunjobi (left), 22, who is part of the team, says: ‘I heard about the team through my personal adviser. It seemed like a good idea as I’m an ex-academy footballer and I needed to get fit. It’s an opportunity to make new friends and bond with other care leavers.
‘Although I have experience as a footballer, that really isn’t important. It’s the team effort and how we encourage each other.’