UPTOWN, which has been operating within Merton for over 20 years, provides support to young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, with disabilities, young carers and those involved in gang activity, crime, drugs etc. Support is provided via a youth club environment which has operated in two different locations in the borough, offering five three hour sessions a week during term time and targeted at youths aged 11-17, or up to 25 for those with disabilities. Access to UPTOWN is open, but most have been referred by social services (youth offending, key workers from local schools and children in care). UPTOWN is open to all young people regardless of ethnic background but most are BAME.
Within a youth club environment UPTOWN provides a safe venue to get young people off the streets, to meet with friends, play pool and partake in activities such as music, dance and drama, sports, and arts and craft and has also provided homework support: offering a quiet room, access to computers, internet and printers.
Youths with physical and or learning difficulties are fully included in the youth club and encouraged to develop their social skills and make new friends.
The core philosophy of UPTOWN has been to provide mentoring to the youths – providing them with positive role models and helping them to ‘see another way’ and make better life choices. We arrange speakers to talk about personal experiences: youths who have benefited from UPTOWN services; ex-offenders talking about life in prison; parents who have had kids killed as a result of knife attacks. Workshops are hosted covering areas such as: budgeting, health, cooking, drugs ,alcohol, domestic violence, mental health, bullying and anger management UPTOWN has also provided Red Cross First Aid training tailored to specific issues such as knife crime.