Families and Community Project (YMCA Norfolk) - WINNER

The Family and Community project team stepped up significantly in response to the pandemic, delivering a wide range of therapeutic support, counselling and mental health services.  

The team took the initiative to complete virtual visits to family homes, during which time they delivered more than 7,000 hours of support through rapid response alone, supporting 393 families in crisis.   

They have worked hard to house and support single parents via their umbrella services, providing a safe and secure environment for children while offering additional support such as food parcels and parental assistance.  

YMCA Norfolk has offered both online and face-to-face counselling to more than 400 individuals and mental health services for children and young people aged 4–25 years old, delivering 75 one-to-one sessions with children and 119 with parents.    

They also delivered resilience training and external therapeutic supervision to teachers during COVID and further Mental-Health-First-Aid training for 136 young people and 24 adults while providing family therapy and support for 643 family members. Additionally, YMCA Norfolk has been working directly with schools to deliver mindfulness sessions and further support around mental health.  

Overall, the team responded brilliantly and flexibly during a very difficult time developing services, adapting training, and offering support to meet the needs of schools, families, and young people alike.    

Mediation and Counselling (YMCA Burton)

YMCA Burton’s Mediation & Counselling service provides help at critical moments and is offered to all residents, with mediation extending to young people and their families.  

Two staff members and several volunteers manage the service, all of whom worked quickly to move services online when COVID hit. YMCA Burton received 50 mediation and 66 counselling service referrals during that time before delivering 378 sessions and 624 hours of counselling support.  

YMCA Burton found that there was an increased need for clients to talk through their anxieties in relation to COVID, as well as worries around a shortage of food and supplies, isolation, relationship difficulties and loss of routine and structure.   

In September 2020, an additional ‘Return to School Tensions’ service was offered to support young people in their return to the classroom after such a long break.   

From experience and learnings over the past year-and-a-half, YMCA Burton has decided to continue their virtual sessions alongside face-to-face ones, as the format has been beneficial to the lives of so many residents, young people and their families.

Shine Allotment (YMCA Trinity Group)

The Shine Allotment was born from a lack of safe outdoor places for children and young people to learn and grow and the declining heritage of growing your own fruit and vegetables. With a long waiting list for plots, those taken on needed large amounts of work, but with the help of volunteers, YMCA Trinity Group transformed them into safe outdoor learning environments for children and young people aged 2-16 across Lowestoft.   

2020 saw the addition of a new double plot, complete with a 25-foot polytunnel, allowing for more growth over winter and for sessions to run all year round, in all weathers. YMCA Trinity Group also introduced a wildflower meadow to increase insect habitats, raised beds for nursery children to access easily, and added a large pond.  

At least 30 young people visit the site per week, including local nurseries. The allotment space allows them to engage in nature and enjoy the outdoors away from technology, as well as passing on vital skills that could so easily be lost when it comes to methods of growing, crop rotation and natural pest control.  

Educational sessions include looking at what plants need to grow, learning about cross-pollination, creating new habitats for wildlife, recycling, and why it’s important to look after the environment. The produce from the allotment is also used in youth cooking sessions so young people can see the full transition from planting a seed to eating a healthy home-grown meal.

2021 Youth Matters Awards Finalists