The Matthew Project Voicebox Project – Lakenheath Skate Park

I have recently asked for a report from the team who ran the sessions at Lakenheath Playing Field for the teenagers who gather there and asked them to come up with a proposal to re-run the programme in the Spring with funding from my Locality Fund.

This is their report, and its an insight ito young people today and their attitudes towards drink and drugs – I would welcome comments as a to what you think about its contents and the proposal.

The Matthew Project Voicebox Project – Lakenheath Skate Park

February – March, 2012 Proposal                                   


Grants from the Transforming Suffolk and Suffolk Foundation’s Safer Suffolk Funds allowed The Matthew Project Youth Team to run a 16 week Voicebox caravan project at Lakenheath skate park on Friday nights from 6-8pm.

The project aimed to  work with young people aged 13 years plus, the local community and partner agencies to help address issues identified in the local community, including  antisocial behaviour, underage drinking and drinking/drug use. We worked in close partnership with the local Safer Neighbourhood Team, local residents, other agencies and the District and Parish Councils, as has been the case in previous projects where our mobile youth caravan has successfully been used for many years to engage with young people in local communities bringing positive change. Two Matthew Project staff and a volunteer delivered structured and informal educational sessions and activities with a focus on personal and social development.

The main aim of the work was to help address the issues being experienced in the local area by; 

  • Providing drug and alcohol support to individuals
  • Helping young people reduce alcohol consumption/problematic drug use and associated anti-social behaviour
  • Enabling young people to make more informed and safer choices by providing information and education about the risks of drugs and alcohol
  • Engaging young people in positive activities and experiences
  • Providing links to education/employment and volunteering opportunities for individuals to encourage them to fulfil their potential
  • Enable young people requiring specialist support to access services
  • Develop relationships between young people, the police and the local community

Summer 2011 Lakenheath Voicebox Project

Total number of sessions – 16                    Total number of young people – 55


The workers cultivated an environment of respect for adults, resources and people in the local community by setting ground rules which also acted as a challenge to anti-social behaviour such as swearing and littering. Two young people we encountered were known in the community for anti-social behaviour and we had the opportunity to talk to them about why this was the case. It was understood that their behaviour was a result of boredom and a reaction from difficult situations they had experienced in life. We delivered brief interventions for them and other young people accessing the project and provided information and advice regarding their specific issues and needs.

The sessions contained activities and discussion on a wide range of issues but tended to focus on alcohol and cigarettes as they seemed to be the substances that many of the young people were using and knew most about. We were able to give harm minimisation advice around alcohol and drug use. One particular young person disclosed that they used alcohol every day and we spoke about the risks and advised regarding getting structured support. We outlined the effects of both alcohol and nicotine on the body and mind.

Staff Evaluation

The Voicebox began as a safe place for young people to go to talk and receive information and advice about drugs and alcohol. We believe this was achieved at Lakenheath skatepark as most of the young people were over the age of 13 so cannot attend the local youth group for under 13’s in the Pavilion. Voicebox was especially popular in bad weather as there is no other shelter that the young people can use. The young people greatly appreciated the fact that we could offer them hot drinks and biscuits for free. We quickly developed relationships with the young people who use the skatepark and other local young people, and rapport and trust was developed over the weeks we were there.  Young people disclosed issues they were experiencing and we provided support and information to meet their needs. Young people were given relevant and factual advice and information about drugs and alcohol and experienced positive activities.  Young people were sad to see us go and we believe would welcome us back and engage again if the project were to recommence at a later date.

Young Peoples’ Feedback

Young people said the following about the project:

[workers were] friendly and helpful, nice and taught us stuff, we can talk to them about anything. I can talk to young people’s worker but not my parents.

[I like that they] come every week, keep us entertained

[I liked] sitting down and talking and meeting new people.

When asked to evaluate the quality of the project overall, 95% of the young people asked said it was excellent.

Community and Professionals’ Feedback

The Voicebox provided an opportunity for professionals to meet with the young people to build relationships and consult with them to hear their opinions and concerns. For example, a PC and PCSO visited one session and talked about the legal side of alcohol use as an underage drinker.   County and Parish Councillors came to speak to the workers and engage with young people, and well as staff from the District Council and a local church youth leader.  One local resident, said I wish there were more people and things like you……it was good to see the police and young people talking together.


  • With the information we provided, we enabled the young people to “make better choices” about drugs and alcohol as 95% of the young people asked felt they were more informed to do so.
  • When asked what they would do if they needed further advice and information about drugs and alcohol, the majority of young people said they would call The Matthew Project number.
  • 79% of the young people asked felt they now knew more about the risks of using drugs and alcohol and unsafe sex.
  • Individual young people felt they had achieved/learnt the following as a result of the project: drugs can ruin your life, I don’t think I’m gonna spliff up any time soon (referring to the use of cannabis)

2012 Proposal

After a discussion with Councillor Colin Noble it is felt that an additional 6 week Voicebox project in 2012 would be beneficial to the community and local young people.  It is proposed that the 6 week programme would start in the February half-term holiday to engage with the maximum number of young people and then finish in March.  The aim would be to reconnect with those young people previously accessing the project and to engage with new young people, providing interventions and a safe place to discuss local needs and issues relating to young people.

Monitoring and Evaluation

All elements of the project will be recorded and evaluated in the form of contacts and feedback.  We will be asking for feedback from professionals, young people and the local community

Project Aims

We aim to make a difference to the lives of young people and the community as a whole.   We hope that as a result of our project young people will feel more confident, able to communicate with other members of the community, have a better relationship with law enforcement professionals, be engaging in positive diversionary activities, have higher self-esteem, have higher aspirations and have gained more knowledge around risk-taking behaviour and have reduced their drug or alcohol use.

Let me know what you think?

About askcolinnoble
I'm a Conservative politician-lite, I dabble a bit in Party Politics with my main focus of working hard and being a strong voice for my community making sure local government delivers quality services and fellow residents get value for money for their hard earned money they pay in Council tax | Where this Gravatar appears and I am expressing my views or liking something I do so in a personal capacity and does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of Suffolk County Council, Forest Heath District Council, the Conservative Party or come to think of it anyone else | But having said the above at an election time and to stay legal, anything I write is promoted by Lance Stanbury on behalf of Colin Noble, both at West Suffolk Conservative Association, Park Farm Cottage, Fordham St. Genevieve, BurySt. Edmunds, Suffolk IP28 6TS

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