Hive offers ‘lifeline’ to Wirral youngsters

Based in Birkenhead, The Hive Youth Zone offers a ‘lifeline’ to thousands of young people amid the cost-of-living crisis – and business leaders are being urged help with its £1m-a-year running costs. Tony McDonough reports

Mersey Maritime
Catherine Sandow of The Hive addresses the Mersey Maritime Face-2-Face. Picture by Tom Griffiths


Fundraiser Catherine Sandow made an impassioned plea to Liverpool city region business leaders to keep on supporting the work of The Hive Youth Zone.

Based in Birkenhead, The Hive has around 3,000 members, aged from eight up to 25, who pay £5 a year to use the centre which offers multiple facilities and services.

They include a climbing wall, a recording studio, a gym, a beauty salon, a boxing ring, a training kitchen, a football pitch and many others. It also offers a lifeline in what is one of the most deprived communities in the country.

Catherine addressed an event at Liverpool FC, organised by Mersey Maritime, and attended by multiple business leaders from across the £5bn Liverpool city region maritime sector.

At its annual Maritime Industry Awards in November 2020, Mersey Maritime announced The Hive would be its designated charity and pledged to raise at least £20,000 over a 12-month period via its members.

Each year The Hive needs to find £1m to meet its annual running costs. It gets some funding from Wirral Council but needs to raise around £800,000 through fundraising.

Addressing those present at the event, Catherine said: “What I hope to do is paint a picture for you of who we are, why we are needed, how we change the lives of local children and how you might be able to help.

“We are open after school and on Sundays, and are open to all young people aged eight to 19 or up to 25 with additional needs. Everyone is welcome, but we particularly look to engage with those who are vulnerable and who need support.

“We have around 3000 members who pay £5 a year membership and 50p every time they come. And can get a hot healthy meal for £1. The reason we charge a fee is it gives it a value. They feel it’s ‘their youth zone’ so look after it and each other.

“Our incredible team of youth workers make sure young people have a safe, warm place to go, someone to talk to and something to do.


The Hive
The Hive Youth Zone in Birkenhead has around 3,000 members


“The Hive is a place where every single person can be inspired, challenged and have fun, but for many it offers so much more, a lifeline to overcome the challenges in their lives.

“Our vision is for every young person to be happy, healthy and thrive in their community – which is the very least they deserve.”

She went on to explain why the work The Hive does has never been so urgent. Across Liverpool city region one in three children are living in poverty. In parts of Wirral this is even more acute and people are disproportionately affected by the cost of living crisis.

“Our team of youth workers have never seen so many children with so many challenges, so we have never been more needed,” added Catherine.

“In response to the growing situation we have introduced a team of wellbeing workers on every session to provide additional support, and run a number of additional projects to make sure we support and meet the needs of all young people.

“We have a dedicated outreach team – our youth workers go out into the community and find those harder to reach young people.

“They work in areas highlighted by children’s services and the police where there are groups of young people congregating, who for many feel safer on the streets on a cold winter’s night than in their homes. 

READ MORE: The Hive launches new amateur boxing club

“Our team turns up in our minibus with purple hoodies, bags of crisps, hot chocolate and a football. The magic of outreach is that the team starts off by chatting to maybe five young people.

“Then each week as their trust grows, so does the number of young people speaking to them. They engage with the wider families, getting a real feel for what challenges they are facing and see how we can help.”

Catherine spoke of the “unimaginable struggles” faced by some young people who turn up to The Hive. 

She explained: “We have young people arriving at the Hive hungry without a warm coat. And we have parents in despair having to decide whether to spend their money on food or heating, and feeling they are failing their children.

“These are the most vulnerable children in our community, and they need our help.”

To illustrate the scale of the issues faced by The Hive’s workers every day, Catherine talked about youngsters turning up to the centre cold, hungry, in poor health and with ill-fitting clothes. They live in homes where there is not enough money for even basic needs.

At The Hive they can get a hot, nutritional meal and, in some instances, have been given trainers, coats and pyjamas. The in-house stylist has offered help to children with matted hair and suffering from nit.

Catherine said: “We have parents in despair having to decide whether to spend their money on food or heating, and feeling they are failing their children. These are the most vulnerable children in our community, and they need our help.”


The Hive
Launch of The Hive Amateur Boxing Club in Wirral in 2022


“We run a mentoring project  currently supporting 28 mentees, who are young people as young as eight, who need support. We currently have a waiting list of young people needing a mentor, such is the growing demand.

“Just by giving one hour a week, we are proving to that young person that they are heard and valued. We had one young person who was non verbal, but after two months started to talk and we could really understand how we could help her. 

“Our Inspiring Futures programme supports young people who are out of education, some for as long as two years. Young people usually aged about 15 are referred to us by schools or social workers.” 

Catherine thanked those businesses who were already supporting the work of The Hive. She added: “We have an incredible family of patrons who donate anything from £1,000 a year through our corporate campaign Hive 100. All is so gratefully received. 

“But if you don’t and think you might be able to help then please come and see us, we would love to give you a tour.

“With the Hive seeing really is believing and we would love to show you how you too can join the Hive family and help change children’s lives in our region.”

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