- Toby Price
CONNECTING, EMPOWERING AND HEALING PEOPLE AND COMMUNITIES THROUGH CYCLING
Poor mental health and long-term unemployment: a reality for many of our young people today
The UK's young people are facing a mental and physical health epidemic with the number of A&E attendances by young people with a recorded diagnosis of a psychiatric condition more than tripling between 2010 and 2018-19, and the problem is only growing, with 80% of young people with mental health needs agreeing that the coronavirus pandemic had made their mental health worse. At the same time, while the record number of job vacancies in the UK suggests there is a world of opportunities for young people, figures show one in eight of those aged 18 to 24 are not in education, employment or training. Moreover, young people have been hit the hardest by rising unemployment during the pandemic, with those under the age of 35 accounting for almost 80% of jobs lost in the past year. Official figures show youth long-term unemployment has hit a five-year high, with the number of young people unemployed for more than a year in July to September 2021 increasing by 19% year on year.
Cycling Minds: aspiring to inspire
Cycling Minds CIC was incorporated in Hexham (Northumberland) in November 2021 by three locals with a love of cycling to address both these major issues by providing young people (initially 16-24) struggling to engage with society and the job market, find their way in life and achieve their full potential – especially those experiencing poor mental health and/or from disadvantaged backgrounds – free access to an e-bike and guided cycle rides, principally to help enhance their mental and physical health but also to encourage them to join Cycling Minds which will act as an anchor organisation, providing them with opportunities to interact with the local cycling community, receive training as bike mechanics and ride leaders and in customer service to be able to volunteer (and eventually gain paid work) with Cycling Minds in a fun, sociable and nurturing environment.
From the beginning, Cycling Minds' core social purpose and how it will fulfil this has been inspired by and informed through extensive talks with numerous local social and health care providers, principally: The Living Well Coordination Service (managing social prescribing for the 14 GP surgeries in West Northumberland); Northumberland County Council's Public Health, Well-being and Adult Social Care Services; the charities Adapt North East (working to improve the quality of life of people with mental health problems and who are disadvantaged in being able to access services because they live in a rural location); and Acorns Project (providing therapeutic and support services to young people affected by domestic violence); as well as other local charities and community initiatives such as Hexham Youth Initiative, Gateway into the Community, StopGap Supported Housing, the Hextol Foundation and Number 28 Community Project.
They have been hugely enthusiastic about Cycling Minds because, as they have pointed out, it targets an age group that is currently underprovided for in Northumberland. Referrers report a lack of options for them to signpost the young people they care for to organisations offering sports-related activities for that cohort, particularly sports that are non-competitive and outdoors. Cycling Minds will help fill this gap while also going a step further and giving our young beneficiaries a chance to gain a foothold in the labour market.
A link in a bigger chain
While having the aforementioned core social purpose to help young people improve their mental and physical well-being, employability and engagement with society, Cycling Minds will also serve as a springboard to develop a larger project: a community cycling hub in Hexham (The Link), which will be home to a bike shop and bike upcycling service; a refreshments bar; cycling events such as a sportive, cycling festival, film nights, book-signings, and evenings with VIPs and experts; as well as rentable workspaces for cycling-related businesses and meeting and event spaces.
As its name suggests, The Link will provide a base where local community groups such as cycle clubs, charities, sustainable travel campaign groups and cycling-related businesses can meet, share ideas, network and ultimately forge partnerships and synergies that will be mutually beneficial. The Link will therefore contribute to boosting cycle use, developing a cottage cycling industry and promoting sustainable transport and local economic and community revitalisation through a raft of cycling-related services in Hexham and the rest of West Northumberland.
Ultimately, Cycling Minds aims to establish a virtuous circle where we leverage cycling as a sport to engage young people initially and then foster a long-lasting relationship with them so that they can develop the skills and knowledge needed to work with us as active participants in developing The Link and ambassadors for cycling in their local communities.
They will also help Cycling Minds generate revenue to put back into the project through the following initial revenue streams:
• Bike repairs
• Bike recycling, sale and hire
• Guided rides and tours for the paying public
• e-Rickshaw taxi service in Hexham (still at a preliminary stage of development)
The project will be funded through these services and a supporters' scheme, as well as some grants on start-up for major capital items and training. Any surpluses generated from the aforementioned offering will also be used to supply subsidised and free second-hand bikes to our young beneficiaries and low-income customers and run free bike repair and skills sessions and guided rides for the local community.