Staff holding balloons

The Holly Project, YMCA Wellington and District

The Holly Project is a free, independent support service for survivors of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) and their families, run by CSE survivors. It was borne out of need, and the vision of local CSE survivors.  They felt there was not a safe place for survivors or their families to go to or people they could talk to who truly understood their experiences – no qualification could offer more than lived experience. The Holly Project offers that support and advice from people who have experienced the trauma and impact of CSE.

The Holly Project aims to help survivors rebuild their lives and offer hope for the future, with a focus on support, health and emotional wellbeing. The service offers run drop in sessions 5 days a week to allow survivors and their families the chance to talk to other survivors and provide direct access to services.  Waiting times for other specialist counselling services were around 12 months+, however this project can offer counselling with no waiting, and has also set up a direct access route with the local sexual health service so that lengthy waiting times are avoided and alternative access to buildings can be arranged where necessary. There are also links to women-only sessions with a local Boxing Academy, allowing women to channel any anger in a constructive way and to build confidence, health and wellbeing. The project can also signpost service users to the Freedom Programme which is run by YMCA Wellington.  The Holly Project has been funded for two years by Telford and Wrekin Council, following a successful six month pilot in 2018. The project is currently working with around 40 individuals aged 18+.

The project takes its name from local survivor and author Holly Archer, who successfully campaigned for an independent inquiry to be held in the Borough.

Rapid Response, YMCA Norfolk

YMCA Norfolk’s Rapid Response and Return Team is a pioneering service that guarantees a speedy and effective response to families in crisis; particularly where children maybe on the edge of coming into the care system.

Since May 2018, 74 families across the county have been supported by the team; totalling 1034 hours of family support throughout the year. Among the team’s 74 cases, an outstanding 85% of families were either offered further support, made significant improvement, or were reunified with their family.

An example of their fantastic, progressive work is a case study from earlier this year with a young girl (OA) and her mother; who were referred to the rapid response team to prevent a family break down. OA had ran away for four days over the Christmas period, therefore was referred by the Norfolk’s Children’s Services. The Rapid Response team arrived at the mother’s property on the day of the referral; the mother was extremely happy to be offered the support. Through a restorative approach, the mother was given respite while OA was taken out of the property to engage in positive activities and discuss the dangers of CSE and internet safety (as she was running away being put at risk through meeting people online). The team built a strong, professional relationship with OA, who in turn was honest and open about her feelings. OA rebuilt her relationship with her mother, and the Rapid Response team supported her whilst her education options were explored and Children’s services were satisfied OA was safe. OA stated that RRR engagement workers were amazing; the mother said that this was the ‘best support’ she had ever received.

This is just one of their many life-changing engagements; the team work tirelessly to ensure every family is listened to, and are directed towards a safe stable, healthy and inspiring future.

Worker and young child reading together

Yipee & Yip4Youth, YMCA East Surrey

Yippee (age 5-11) and Yip4Youth (age 12-18) are YMCA East Surrey’s play and youth Short Break schemes for children with disabilities and complex needs. The schemes provide a stimulating, welcoming and safe environment for children to play and make friends, whilst also benefiting their families by giving them a break from often very demanding caring responsibilities. We offer peace of mind to parents through trained staff, high staff ratios and bespoke care plans. Activities are tailored and aim to promote social interaction, with each day having a theme, e.g. arts and crafts, cooking, magic and swimming.

We have been successfully delivering these play schemes in Reigate and Banstead for 15 years and have recently expanded into four new districts. In 2017/18 the schemes provided over 26,000 hours of care to 370 children.

We cater for children with one-to-one care needs, with around 40% of our places available for this level of need. Around 70% of attendees have Autism and we run specialist clubs in the holidays, designed specifically for those on the autistic spectrum. Children and their families benefit enormously from our range of short break services.

Every year the parents of the children who access the play schemes are invited to complete a survey. Findings from the 2018 survey show that 93% were happy or very happy with the service and 94% thought that the service helped improve family relationships.

One parent said, “Please just keep doing what you are doing – for some of us, it is a vital lifeline, especially as we don’t get any respite for our child.”

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