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Mike Summers – ‘We want to channel our support to as many people as possible’

Palace for Life Foundation Chief Executive Mike Summers reiterates our commitment to the local community at this difficult time.

Our very reason for being at Palace for Life Foundation is to support those people in our south London community who need it most. Our passion and our means to reach out is football, but we are here to offer a helping hand, an ear to listen, or a word of support when it is most needed. Right now the demand for help is higher than ever and we are determined to adapt what we do so we can channel our support to as many people as possible.

Despite the challenges, our coaches are still delivering in local primary schools, running activities for children of key workers and others who remain in education, using the power of Palace to bring joy to young lives. Provision ranges from our coaches delivering curriculum subjects like English and Maths, but with a football twist, to coaches supporting pupils in specialist schools with football and other sports. We are also supporting parents and children at home with video challenges and activity plans for the whole family.

We have unfortunately had to cancel many of our other sessions in line with Government advice to protect the health of the people we support, our staff, our volunteers and the wider world. However, our team has reacted quickly and positively to change the way we work in order to offer a support network where we can.

One of our key focuses this season has been mentoring young people who are at risk of being caught up in crime or anti-social behaviour and we are committed to continuing this. Many of the young people we work with experience difficulties at home or low self-esteem and the relationships that they have built with our mentors are pivotal in their lives. Our mentors will be using video or voice calls to check in with the young people they have been supporting to listen to any concerns they have and flag these to the appropriate services when necessary.

We have also launched the new programme, Palace Pad Chat, which will allow our mentors to engage with young people through gaming and allow them to open up about life in isolation, while also hopefully having fun. This programme has been generously supported by Croydon-based gaming retailer, Go2Games, who have been gifting consoles to families in our community.

Our pathways and learning team are continuing to run courses for young adults remotely, hosting video workshops in order to help young people complete the work they have started. For many this was their route back into education and employment and we will fulfil our commitment to helping them achieve that and continue to support them with their next steps. Our brand-new NCS programme is due to take place in the summer for 16 and 17-year-olds and while planning continues, we are preparing for this to also be delivered remotely and I know our team will make this a huge success.

We are also working closely with our parent club, Crystal Palace FC, to maximise the expertise we have in our teams in areas such as physical and mental wellbeing to provide guidance and advice to the general public. In the coming weeks and months we will expand this and share as much information as we can to try and help people with the uncertainties they are facing around keeping their families healthy, active and happy when faced with isolation. Our mental health coordinators are acutely aware of the challenges many people will be facing at the moment with anxiety and loneliness and are preparing regular updates and activities to be shared.

Our staff will be supporting the club to contact season ticket holders aged 70 or over (of which there are more than 1,000) to offer practical help with shopping or other errands, or simply to have a chat and check they are OK.

In the coming weeks we are committed to continuing our ‘Super Draw’ matchday lottery, which typically takes place during Palace home games at Selhurst Park and raises money to support our work. We will instead be running this virtually, with proceeds going to local frontline causes and we were delighted to raise £2,500 for the Norwood and Brixton Foodbank at the Burnley ‘game’.

No one has all of the answers at this time but we are committed to doing our best to be there for our community.

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