September 28, 2023

‘I was one of those kids.’

As a kid growing up in Epsom, Andy Reid, 41, understands more than most, the value of a good role model in young people’s lives. “I wasn’t academic. I got into trouble at school and was ‘one of those naughty kids’.”

“When I was younger, there were five big youth clubs here; free places open at weekends and after school, somewhere to hang out with your mates. None of them exist anymore – so, it’s bus shelters or MaccyD’s! It’s hardly surprising antisocial behavior is on the rise but lack of funding meant these community spaces closed. So, now you’ve got young people in the area, many struggling with poor mental health, financial difficulties with nowhere to go. I know firsthand how challenging that can be. We need to fund these catalysts for positive change. It’s about being proactive, not reactive.” 

“It’s the reason I set up Buddy Up. I know how a mentor can make all the difference to a young person. At 16, I was given the opportunity to shadow a youth worker and help out with the younger groups. This was such a powerful move because when an adult gives a young person responsibility like that, what they’re in fact saying is, ‘I trust you. I believe in you’. 

I was given keys to lock up – I could’ve nicked so much stuff – but it made me realise I’m being treated with respect and trust here – and it works both ways. It was a real turning point.” 

Our work in schools

“Currently we’re in 19 schools across Surrey. No school says, ‘No thanks Andy, we’re OK’. More often we’re asked, how many? Many pupils are struggling in lessons. Every school is saying this; post-Covid, mental health in young people has sky rocketed and while we’re not mental health professionals, we are a safe space to use us how you wish to. For some, that’s careers advice and guidance. Others want to moan about how much they hate their teacher. It helps that I was once, just like them; I hated exams, got into trouble and a lot of disruptive behavior stems from a frustration. Our role is to listen and show them all the options. I’m a big advocate for apprenticeships, colleges like Nescot
in Ewell are brilliant.”

What can parents do?

“Some parents feel a failure if they access support but it’s OK to admit you don’t know how to manage certain behaviours or why your kid feels depressed. It’s not a reflection on you, it’s the modern world we live in that’s impacting them. I’m a parent, it makes me anxious but access support when you can than wait for it to get worse. Early intervention, before they get to this point, can make a huge difference. A lot of the mentoring we do is rooted in listening and confidence building. Good things happen when we encourage kids regularly that, ‘You’ve got this!’.”


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