The Trust – Column
Tuesday, 7th Apr 2020 14:15 by Simon Dorset
With the coronavirus crisis showing few signs of abating, AKUTRs columnist Simon Dorset turned his attentions to the work of the QPR in the Community Trust down the years and how it can continue in the current crisis.
In the face of the Covid-19 pandemic and guided by the government’s escalating measures to limit social interactions, the QPR in the Community Trust has had to drastically scale back its operations. Having already taken the decision to suspend the delivery of Trust activities that were not taking place within schools, the subsequent closure to all but the children of key workers and vulnerable children left little to no scope other than to support the remaining staff at these schools.
I doubt that everyone reading this will be aware of the scale and breadth of the Trust’s interaction with the local community and therefore the impact this forced reduction of services will have; I certainly wasn’t until a year or so ago when I received an invitation to the Trust’s 10th anniversary reception at the House of Commons which prompted me into doing a little back ground research.
Andy Evans, who is the Trust’s CEO, launched QPR’s Football in the Community scheme back in 1994 with four staff and a few apprentices whose primary focus was providing football sessions for local primary school children. Now, with 37 full-time and 68 part-time staff, the Trust runs in the region of 300 sessions per week for all age groups throughout seven London boroughs focusing on its core aims of health, education, social inclusion and sports participation.
As Evans has always been keen to stress, the trust is not solely about coaching football, but openly utilises the power of football to reach people. The Trust’s work in developing young people's potential, breaking down social barriers and improving people's everyday lives has received various awards including being inducted into the Show Racism the Red Card’s Hall of Fame, winning the 2010 Football League Award for the Best Disability Community Project for the Tiger Cubs and being named the EFL Community Club of the Year for London in 2019.
In addition to these awards, Evans has also been personally recognised for his outstanding contribution and services to football as part of the FA’s 150th anniversary celebrations in 2013. Along with 149 other “grassroot heroes”, he was invited to Buckingham Palace where he received a commemorative medal from The Duke of Cambridge.
Last year the Trust engaged with over 24,000 participants, the youngest being only two-years-old, the oldest over 90 highlighting the vast array of projects in operation. Without attempting anything approaching an exhaustive list, I’ll try to give a flavour here of the Trust’s work which can be categorised under six headings: Health, Education, Employability, Youth and Communities, Inclusive Projects and Participation although many of the schemes cross the notional boundaries between them.
Extra Time: Provides weekly social and physical sessions, such as aerobics, tai chi and archery along with health, financial and general well-being talks, for local residents aged 60 and over. Its reach has been extended into Brent where the Trust started to run sessions at the Hub Club in Stonebridge thanks to a new grant from Hyde Housing.
Premier League Primary Stars: Mentors children and staff at local primary schools in academic and physical education, with additional focus on Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) and life skills. The resources available for this project have recently been bolstered with home education options.
Premier League Works: The Trust engages on a one-to-one basis with young people who are not currently involved in education, training or employment with a view to help them develop the skills and confidence to either resume education, enrol on a beneficial training scheme or start working.
Youth and Communities
Kicks: A national scheme funded by the Premier League which the Trust have been involved with since registering as a charity in 2009. Kicks focuses on providing young people between the ages of 8 and 25 with positive and constructive activities to help them to realise their potential and steer them away from crime and anti-social behaviour.
Tiger Cubs: I’m sure we are all familiar with the Tiger Clubs, the Trust’s football team for children and young people with Down’s Syndrome which is, in part, funded by the annual Tiger Feet walk.
Multi Sports: Encourages children from all backgrounds to participate in a range of club-based sports such as tennis, hockey and athletics.
All of these projects are continually augmented by player involvement. At the House of Commons reception Steve McClaren, QPR’s manager at that time, was a great pains to stress that, whereas at some previous clubs where he’d been manager he’d had to cajole players to get involved with their community schemes, at QPR he had to ration the players’ involvement such was their appetite to be involved and had to regularly disappoint the players by restricting their participation. He put this down to both the outstandingly professional way in which the sessions were run and how enjoyable they were to take part in.
And then, of course, there is Grenfell. Winning the London Football Awards Community Project of the Year was the furthest thing from anyone’s mind when the Trust unhesitatingly threw open the gates of Loftus Road to help the survivors of the Grenfell tragedy, but it was deserved recognition for their magnificent response. As he grew up in the shadow of the tower, this was especially personal for Ferdinand who, at that House of Commons reception, spoke proudly describing how the whole club had rallied to help. The centre piece of this initiative was the celebrity match at Loftus Road in September 2017 which raised over £450,000 - a figure subsequently matched by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea – but the Trust have not lost focus on the greatest single loss of life from a fire in Great Britain since the 2nd World War and are still heavily involved with the survivors, particularly at a primary school where 80% of the children are still suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Under Andy Evans’ guidance, the Trust has blossomed into a vital social provider. One which is trusted with the hard earned funds of various notable charities, organisations and associations, such as the Worshipful Company of Ironmongers, the Prince’s Trust, the Royal British Legion and The Mayor’s Office because they excel at their objectives of combating exclusion, isolation for the older generation and childhood obesity, diverting teenagers from crime and anti-social behaviour and improving people’s health, well-being and quality of everyday life.
Even in these unprecedented times the Trust is still reaching out to the local community. As an example, they are making weekly phone calls to every member of the Extra Time club, which is especially valuable to those who are self-isolating because they are in the high risk category. While I’m sure that Andy Evans and his team will find other ways of engaging with the community, hopefully it won’t be too long before they can restore a full agenda of activities enabling a senior citizen contact with like-minded people, a young lad with Down’s Syndrome to be able to enjoy the same team spirit as his able bodied peers or a vulnerable young person to be able to approach the world with more confidence.
Simon’s previous >>> Accounting for success >>> Gambling with FFP >>> Tough battle in ongoing FFP war >>> EPPP, the greater evil >>> Terry Venables, my first hero >>> Farewell to the King >>> Gordon Jago: A soccer pioneer >>> QPR’s fairytale of New York
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