AVAH – Vale of Glamorgan Young Carers Forum, YMCA Cardiff

AVAH (All Voices Are Heard) is a young carers forum within the Vale of Glamorgan. The forum was set up to give all young people with a caring responsibility a voice and to empower them to make change and a difference in their community. AVAH meets monthly and discusses the challenges and limitations that young carers have and we work together to find solutions that would be best suited to all carers.

Since AVAH, a homework club was developed for young carers as a young people were finding it difficult to balance both school and caring responsibilities. Many of our young carers were doing school work within youth club making them miss out on socialising and having a break from caring. This homework club was created by young carers for young carers has given them time to focus on school and then have fun afterwards. The forum is a great opportunity for young carers to voice their thoughts and opinions and make a real change in their community.

“AVAH is like another family to us”-Young Person/ Forum Attendee.

Cafe Thursday – YMCA Exeter

In 2018 we began a community wellbeing café on a new housing estate, in partnership with a community association and wellbeing agency. The vision was to encourage our residents living on the estate to have a positive impact on their community by engaging in meaningful occupation and building their mental health resilience.

We also recognised that there were no community activities to unite the other residents living there and people were experiencing high levels of loneliness. The café is run every week, and our YMCA residents run the café twice a month. Volunteers run the café the other two weeks. At the café we serve free refreshments and residents take a lead on running craft, IT support (including typing up CVs for unemployed members of the community) and providing hospitality.

One of our residents, who previously has not wanted to even leave their bedroom, is now teaching knitting at the café and has recently asked to take on responsibility for the IT support provided to members. Another resident, who passionately led the IT support at the café, has since moved on from YMCA accommodation and is now employed by us as an IT technician. The fact that he spent time volunteering as an IT volunteer meant he could build his CV enough to be employed in this sector!

The success of our innovative café approach is spreading through the community so much that weekly attendance is sky-rocketing, including single mums and elderly people.

Volunteers are increasingly stepping forward to support our residents in the running of the café, and we’ve now been approached by a large regional housing association to run a ‘Holiday hunger’ group during August, tackling food poverty on the estate.

Heads Together – YMCA East Surrey

YMCA East Surrey’s Heads Together has been providing counselling in East Surrey since 1994 and has recently become a partner in the Mindsight Surrey CAMHS service.

The service provides free and confidential counselling for young people aged 14-24 and aims to help young people to cope with difficult emotional, family or personal circumstances, enabling them to lead fuller and more satisfying lives.

Last year the service saw a record number of referrals (789), an increase of nearly 30% on the previous year. 25 counsellors offered sessions in the largest ever number of community venues across East Surrey.

With support from the Community Foundation for Surrey, Heads Together has been able to run new mental health and anxiety awareness sessions in schools and community settings. The project also delivered workshops for parents to help them to support their children’s mental health needs, reaching around 120 parents of teenagers.

The most unusual assignment was speaking to a group of 23 young people at a
Young Farmers group – the presentation was well-received and we were pleased to have the opportunity to reach this specific community of young people who often miss out on activities available in urban / suburban areas.

Feedback from workshops and group sessions has been consistently good and attendees – both parents and young people – report that the sessions have given them improved understanding and made them feel better able to cope with the challenges they are facing.

two men talking in football kit in locker room

YMCA WiSE – YMCA DownsLink Group

YMCA WiSE (What is Sexual Exploitation) was set up in 2010 to prevent and disrupt the sexual exploitation and abuse of children and young people. We do this through 1-to-1 support to victims, group-work, training and consultations for professionals, campaigns and awareness-raising amongst the wider community.

WiSE started in Brighton & Hove, and today also operates across East Sussex and Surrey. This is a unique safeguarding provision within the YMCA federation.
WiSE continuously makes significant contributions to ensure that fewer children and young people are sexually exploited; and more recently has successfully pushed the agenda around recognising and responding to boys and young men as victims, and not just perceived as perpetrators of crime or sexual harm, as was so often the case.

In the past 12 months WiSE has delivered relationship-based, child-centred, trauma-informed support to 131 children & young people who were victims or considered at significant risk of child sexual exploitation (CSE).

The support involves focused, yet not time-limited work on protective behaviours to reduce risks around CSE, as well as crisis support in times of need. The team responds to each referral with flexibility, patience and perseverance, working with the child to develop a tailored support plan to address issues such as relationships, family, self-esteem, body image, assertiveness, consent, online safety, grooming and exploitation.

We trained 400+ professionals, including police, social workers, school staff, children’s homes providers & GPs, to equip them with the knowledge, skills and confidence to identify and safeguard those at risk of or experiencing sexual exploitation.

Our specialist boys & young men’s worker delivered targeted group work programmes to 40 boys & young men.
All our work protects, improves and promotes positive health and wellbeing of children & young people.

Our small, passionate, committed team make a big impact in many young lives.

Youth Provisions – YMCA Norfolk

YMCA Norfolk Youth Clubs started back in 2012 with only 2 provisions, to date we now have around 19 across the whole of Norfolk.

It has secured a Silver Ambition Quality mark for its work with the youth in Norfolk
It recently received an Active Futures Recognition which highlights the work the youth clubs have done in promoting health and wellbeing through the use of physical activity and healthy eating.

We work with local councils, community trustees and external funders that allow us to successfully create provisions in external venues within the Norfolk communities that allow us to support and help young people.
The project works with youths that range from as young as 5 years old right through to 25 years.

The youth clubs are all different and all allow for different outcomes, these include
Anti-bullying/ abuse support groups for 11-18 year olds.
School partnership work in which we train young people to become anti-bullying peer mentors to provide peer support. All abilities welcome Multi sports provisions across the whole of Norfolk and hosted in Leisure Centres.

Drop in’s for LGBTQ+, Mental health, Drugs and Alcohol in which we work in partnership with such organisations as Community Fund, LGBTQ+ Norfolk, MIND and Matthew Project.

The Youth club team have also develop numerous youth drop ins, clubs and centres to allow safe spaces for young people to come and socialize and hang out.

The Youth Club team have also began to run detached and outreach work known as the *Peacemakers project* which is a initiative started at YWCA Kenya and brought over to YMCA Norfolk after visiting YWCA Kenya and seeing the Outreach/ Detached work they perform. This allows staff to go out into the deprived areas of Norfolk and help support the youths within those areas.

During all of our Provisions we work closely with the local police teams, councils and the overall community. We aim to provide provisions that can help with the reduction of Anti-social behaviour as well as serving a purpose to provide safe areas for the youth within Norfolk to go.

These areas are managed by YMCA Norfolk but we like to try helping the young people take ownership of them so that they feel like they have a place to call their own within their communities.

Youth Matters Awards categories