Celebrating Small Charity Week: Live Unlimited

We are continuing our celebration of Small Charity Week by highlighting Live Unlimited - a small charity set up to help Barnet’s children in care and care leavers. They do this by providing schemes to reduce social isolation, improve mental health and wellbeing, teach new skills, boost employability, confidence, self-belief and help care leavers to find jobs they enjoy and to lead happier, independent lives.

In April 2020, they received £5,000 through the London Community Response. Hear from Sue Cocker, Live Unlimited’s Project Manager, on the impact this funding has made for the organisation and what they are up to now, one year on.

The pandemic has had a devasting impact on the young people we work with. Living on their own, without family and having small social networks to begin with, the pandemic meant that many care leavers found themselves unable to connect with their friends, do their coursework, listen to music or occupy themselves. The lockdowns meant they couldn’t go out or go to college, and with limited data on their phones were unable to access the internet. We’ve heard harrowing stories of young people, already very vulnerable, sitting in silence for hours with nothing to do.

One young person with PTSD told us, “Being on my own all this time is making me feel very afraid. I don’t have anything but my phone to get online with and I would really like something I could use to take my mind off of all the bad things.”

During Lockdown 1.0, we saw a 300% increase for our services. Juggling applying for funding, while sourcing in demand items such as dongles, sims and media tablets as cheaply as possible - with all the associated admin - meant our team of two part time workers found ourselves working two extra days unpaid per week to keep up with demand.

In April 2020, Live Unlimited received £5,000 through the first wave of the London Community Response for Pay as You Go Wi-Fi dongles and SIM cards loaded with data for care leavers living alone with no Wi-Fi.

It was a quick learning curve and we initially struggled to find dongles due to the huge demand. But we were able to support 67 care leavers to stay connected with friends, access training courses, and find information about the pandemic and support available to them. The ability to stay connected and pursue hobbies and extracurricular activities has helped Barnet’s care leavers to build their skills and confidence and allowed them to progress with their lives.

I am really grateful for the tablet and SIM. Now I can contact my friends, check Facebook and look for new courses during this COVID-19 lockdown. Thank you all.

During the recent lockdowns, we have spent our time liaising with our beneficiaries and have developed two new schemes; one which focusses on helping 16–25-year-olds boost their confidence and employability skills through careers networking events and the other aimed at reducing social isolation and developing new skills for pre-teens through an outdoor activities programme. In the future we plan to develop a further scheme aimed at reducing social isolation among looked after children and care leavers, based on a social prescription model aimed at developing community networks through connecting young people with local groups, activities and volunteering opportunities in the borough.