Coin Street, a social enterprise working in Waterloo and North Southwark, explain how they have adapted during the global health crisis to support the needs of local families, key workers, individuals who are isolating, vulnerable adults, tenants, small enterprises and anyone that needs a bit of much needed TLC.

From a derelict site in 1984 they have created a thriving, diverse, vibrant and welcoming place for people to live, work and play.

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Walking along the riverside by Oxo Tower Wharf, it’s hard to imagine that 35 years ago the area was bleak and unloved, with few shops and restaurants, a dying residential community and a weak local economy. That all changed thanks to an extraordinary campaign by local residents, which led to Coin Street’s purchase and redevelopment of a 13-acre site.

As a social enterprise, the income Coin Street receives from commercial activities, such as letting spaces to restaurants, independent businesses and conferences, helps to fund their many community activities, including childcare, family support, wellbeing services and much more.

Now, the Coin Street site is at the heart of a neighbourhood with co-operative homes, parks and gardens, shops and design studios, galleries, restaurants, a family and children’s centre, sports pitches, and a range of community programmes and activities.

Although COVID-19 has presented new challenges, Coin Street has supported one thousand and forty residents of Waterloo and North Southwark weekly and welcomed new businesses to their site.

Health and Wellbeing for Everyone

Living in a big city can be difficult. A recent survey (GLA, 2019) found that “one in six children in the capital experience food insecurity, along with one in five adults, 36% of single parents and 32% of black Londoners. The survey also found that half (49%) of parents with children experiencing food insecurity are socially isolated.”

During the lockdown isolation, food poverty and anxiety became much bigger problems as Natalie Bell, Head of Youth and Community Programmes, explains “people who we thought would be ok are not ok. They have lost jobs, careers, income, health, loved ones and support mechanisms in a sudden, chaotic, random way. As the head of my team, I had to think creatively and carefully about what my team of staff and volunteers’ day to day could and could not do in this crisis.

“We changed our way of working overnight to ensure our community could access help and support in new ways, over the phone, email, Zoom and post. We began by working with our 320 registered participants. I think people respond best to a familiar face or voice and in times of crisis they are more able to ask for what they need.”

“Our strength is the fact we are locally based with a high level of independence, huge range of skills, mixed resources and trusted relationships with both individuals and organisations. We are helping families and the vulnerable with holistic support ranging from providing printing services to food parcels to shopping and providing resources and activities to children living in temporary accommodation or crowded flats.”

“I think Coin Street will come out more accessible, flexible, wiser and resilient at the end of this.”

Natalie’s team have delivered over 13,000 meals to people’s homes, given out over 263 activity and care packs to toddlers, children and adults, helped children attending Coin Street’s summer camp access 168 take and make food boxes, provided 70 grocery packs for the most vulnerable and run countless virtual sessions weekly for people of all ages to stay connected to their community.

Best Start for Children and Families

Coin Street’s Youth and Community Programmes team and Family Support team worked together to identify the local families that were most in need of help to ensure they had access to support.

Hommie Beharry, Family Support and Outreach Manager, is committed to creating positive outcomes for children and parents, and says “leading the Family Support team, I have been able to improve outcomes for young children ensuring they get the best start in life. This reduces inequalities later in life for those families in the greatest need. Our team provides each child and family with access to the support they need. Improving health and life chances is at the core of the work we do.”

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By moving many of their parenting sessions online during the crisis, Coin Street’s Family Support team has provided a lifeline for parents and carers with young children. Virtual school readiness sessions have supported families with the transition to school after the extra-long break and the families have access to health and wellbeing activities, including outdoor games sessions and nature trail packs to use in their local parks.

When Coin Street’s nursery reopened in June they ensured children, parents and staff felt happy to return by focusing on safety and wellbeing. Safety measures included splitting children into ‘bubbles’ of approximately 8 to 12 children with a qualified first aider, a first aid kit for every bubble and PPE for all staff.

The professional and personal approach of staff working in partnership with parents has been praised by parent’s who said “We thought the reopening was handled extremely well. We loved the efforts to entertain children with balloons, bubbles, and costumes. We really appreciate the hard work.”

The emotional wellbeing of children is a key factor for Coin Street staff, their nursery team have created a programme of settling in activities, a re-settling guide for parents and trained staff to support children returning to the nursery. One mum said, “This is a fantastic nursery, great facilities, lovely location and amazing staff.”

Supporting local businesses

Coin Street provide enterprises with the space and support they need to thrive. COVID-19 has been a challenging time for Coin Street’s commercial activities but one they are rising to!

At Oxo Tower Wharf, 30 designer maker units give small craft and design businesses a prominent position in the heart of London. And Gabriel’s Wharf is home to an exciting range of restaurants and independent shops.

Coin Street has welcomed five new businesses, Limin’ Beach Club, The Green Room, StreetEat, Hola Guacamole and Hartex to the South Bank this summer. Coin Street’s diverse site, with abundant outdoor space, has allowed all these businesses to open safely, adhering to strict social distancing and hygiene measures, while making the most of the British summer.

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Sham Mahabir, Owner of Limin’, said: “We started as a pop-up in Old Spitalfields Market so it’s hard to believe that we are now open at Gabriel’s Wharf. It’s been quite a journey! The global pandemic has affected the hospitality industry more than most, restaurants and bars are closing, so we were determined to offer Londoners something not done before.”

Bernie Spain Gardens- A Campaign for Green Spaces

Now more than ever, communities need access to green spaces to maintain wellbeing and improve community relations. Spaces such as Bernie Spain Gardens are vital as they offer sanctuary to local residents, workers and visitors who want to escape the busy South Bank.

Based on consultations with local people that use the Gardens and designed by landscape architects West 8, the proposed “Pollinator Garden” will focus on biodiversity, sustainability and community. We’re seeking council and mayoral funding to cover the cost of transforming and extending Bernie Spain Gardens north. Find out more or support this garden campaign at 

Coin Street are proud of how quickly staff, tenants, residents and volunteers adapted to the new ways of working, showing how durable, flexible and resilient our tight-knit community is.