Our Co-Founders on what we’ve done to tackle COVID-19’s impact

3rd April 2020

Immediately after the government announcement that all gyms must close by Friday 20th March, our priority was to speak to all young people who have 1:1 or small group sessions across Bristol and South Wales as they are the most vulnerable young people we work with.

Helen, our family liaison officer, along with the wider team’s support rang every parent, carer or young person (whoever was most appropriate) and asked them if they wanted to continue sessions remotely.  The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and we quickly moved to invest in new remote delivery technology.

We launched our emergency support telephone system online that allows you four options to speak directly with a relevant team member:

  • Contact a Welsh mentor for emergency support
  • Contact a Bristol mentor for emergency support
  • Parents who need to speak to family liaison
  • People who need to schedule a session

We took great care to tackle the most vulnerable first as this is a completely new way of working for everyone, but we are proud to confirm that 135 young people are being supported by Empire’s coach and mentors.

All young people that were previously receiving therapy services prior to the lockdown are continuing with therapy. This figure will now increase weekly.

We now expect to increase our reach to young people by between 15-25% a week for the next two weeks, and then we will take stock and review again.

We have contacted all the schools we have been working with in 2019/20 and are in discussions with 20 schools this week about how we continue to work with their most vulnerable young people.  We have visited a few schools this week -respecting the government social distancing guidelines – and aim for a larger rollout of our coaches going into schools to do 1:1 sessions and small groups after the Easter holidays.

Our Careers service has adapted its approach and is actively targeting young people needing additional support with a range of new offerings to accessed remotely. More can be read on our fortnightly Careers Blog.   

From a safeguarding perspective, we are using Zoom video conferencing as we can record calls, and we have asked the safeguarding team plus the external safeguarding expert to review practices, amend policies and ensure that we are doing all we can to protect young people. 

We have received food parcels from the Pasco Group who own 35 Subway franchises, and the team have been supplying food parcels of perishable goods, bread and frozen meat to those families most in need. These deliveries will continue weekly covering Bristol and South Wales. 

We launched our new #breakingboxingdown campaign this week that provides great original online content for our users from fitness workouts, boxing technique tutorials and why boxing is so effective as a vehicle for positive change. We have some great content planned and in production for everyone during lockdown with 22 videos already shot this week. 

Our coaching team – along with sports psychologist Sam Kotadia – are producing short but impactful videos to reinforce the personal development messages we implement into our sessions around nature of mind, especially setting mini goals in this current climate.

It’s certainly unprecedented times that we face but we are proud of the work the Empire Fighting Chance team, our partners and most importantly the young people we work with in tackling the impact of Covid-19 on our communities. 

Martin Bisp & Jamie Sanigar