Coronavirus Appeal Stories: Minehead EYE

Minehead EYE is a youth and community organisation that has been working with and for young people in West Somerset since 2010. In early April we provided an urgent grant for £3,000 to help them quickly adapt how they delivered their services as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Paul Matcham, Community Development Manager, told us more about how the team at Minehead EYE have evolved since the start of the pandemic.

“The crucial thing for us in the early days was to make sure we didn’t lose contact with the young people. At first we worked remotely, using the usual forms of communication – Zoom and phone calls. It was just about checking in, making sure they were OK, keeping in contact. A lot of them felt claustrophobic and struggled not seeing their friends.

As things started to open up, we were able to use the West Somerset College and young people from the Watchet and Williton area could come and see us if they wanted. We saw them regularly and they would tell us how they felt and what it all meant to them.

We’re officially opening our building back up towards the end of July, around the time the schools break up. We’ll be able to see groups of up to six young people at a time and we’ll also be delivering more detached work in the key areas of Watchet, Williton and Minehead, checking in to see what would work best as we start to adjust and take the next steps in this strange journey. They’ve seen the affect the pandemic has had on others, and we’re here to inform and to help them understand.

Our work has become more targeted as we’ve evolved; the generic approach didn’t work. We’ve worked alongside the local school to make sure we’re there for those most in need, to offer support and guidance when it’s needed.

It’s their choice to come to us and, in a way, this pandemic has strengthened us. They know they won’t get told off by us and by keeping in touch it’s helped them to continue feeling connected to their peers and communities.

At the end of the day it’s support that we offer.

The grant from the Somerset Coronavirus Appeal was vital. It’s allowed us to keep two youth workers active – and not furloughed. They’ve been delivering FareShare food to key families in most need in the area, meaning we’ve been able to keep the dialogue going with the young people and make sure they’re OK at the same time.

There are some young people who would have really struggled without us at the start of the lockdown. Once the schools lost touch with them, almost without a doubt the social care team and police would have needed to get involved. Without the grant from Somerset Coronavirus Appeal we wouldn’t have been able to retain a dialogue with, and be there for, those most in need.”


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