All recipients of Youth Matters Awards gather on stage for a group photo with arms raised in celebration.

2022 #YouthMattersAwards


After a beautiful night of celebration, congratulations to all of our finalists and, once more, congratulations to everyone who submitted a nomination or was nominated this year.

We received an overwhelming response and have had the pleasure – and the challenge – of reviewing all the fantastic nominations with our external judges over the last couple of weeks, including a record-breaking public vote with more than 14,500 votes cast.

Young Campaigner of the Year

Amy-Beth McCarthy | YMCA Swansea - WINNER

Amy-Beth is a dedicated campaigner, focusing on raising awareness of Young Carers so that they can be identified, recognised, and receive appropriate support. Amy-Beth leads the Young Carers Awareness Program at YMCA Swansea, raising awareness of Young Carers to pupils in schools and to professionals working across a range of different sectors. She also delivers PSE sessions to over 2000 pupils annually.  
YMCA Swansea’s Young Carers Service was selected by the Welsh Government to implement the National Young Carers I.D. Card Scheme in Swansea – one of the first local authorities to be chosen. This is testament to the quality of provision that Amy-Beth plays a major role in, with the program successfully supporting schools to recognise the card and issue cards to Young Carers for use in schools when their caring responsibilities are impacting their schoolwork and life. 
Amy-Beth also played an essential part in the creation and delivery of YMCA Swansea’s ‘Understanding Young Carers’ accredited training, focusing on raising awareness of Young Carers to professionals including teachers, social workers and GPs. Amy-Beth designs all training sessions in consultation with Young Carers themselves, championing their voices and the support they need. 
Additionally, Amy-Beth developed an animation with Promo Cymru and a group of Young Carers to raise awareness on Young Carers, which involved hours of work on Zoom, supporting Young Carers to write scripts and produce voice-overs. Two of the Young Carers who volunteered to be the voices of the animation had speech impairments, so found it difficult to stay motivated, but Amy-Beth’s dedication and commitment empowered them to continue – she supported them every step of the way.  
Amy-Beth represents Young Carers voices locally, nationally and globally. As a YMCA England & Wales Youth Ambassador, she attends large conferences and forums, including COP26, and she continues to advocate on behalf of Young Carers, changing the outcomes for numerous young people. 

Martin Bushaway | YMCA St. Paul's Group

During the past 12 months, Martin has been actively campaigning for the issues of housing justice and food poverty with his work at YMCA St Paul’s Group and Merton Citizens. 

He is currently representing YMCA SPG with Merton Citizens where he has been promoting an empathy-first approach for frontline staff working with vulnerable people facing homelessness, after going through his own negative experience and hearing many more from residents.  

Martin has been instrumental in getting council leaders to agree to work with YMCA residents to create a training course for support staff, addressing how to speak to young people when they are facing the prospect of being homeless. To do this, Martin has spoken at many Merton Citizens meetings, including speaking alongside Merton Councillor, Eleanor Stringer, and will be supporting the training process by giving his insight.

Martin is passionate about campaigning for genuinely affordable and social housing and openly shares his own YMCA journey with key stakeholders and influencers. Most recently, he was also a key speaker at Labour London Housing Group’s discussion on ending homelessness. Speaking alongside Sarah Owens MP, Martin ensured the voice of the resident was heard and also promoted YMCA SPG’s Cubes project (even launching his ‘#YCubesEverywhere’ campaign). He also met with LandAid to share his personal experience of living within affordable, move-on accommodation YCubes. 

Not only has Martin been influential and campaigned himself, he is also engaging and encouraging residents at YMCA Wimbledon to join him in campaigning and volunteering themselves.  He is also currently working on a project to create a mobilised food bank, exploring funding and forging relationships with the local community to turn his vision on to a reality. 

Shaquille Porteous | YMCA Robin Hood Group

Shaq has worked for YMCA Robin Hood Group for six months as a hostel youth sport co-ordinator, and in that short time has had a massive impact on the young people and project partners that he works with. 

Shaq works with young people who live in homeless hostels in both Mansfield and Newark, co-ordinating and delivering sports programmes. He has built positive relationships with young people, encouraging and supporting them to get involved in programmes and to take positive steps in their lives. Shaq has a passion for working with young people, his enthusiasm is infectious, and not only encourages young people to make life changes, but also colleagues to excel in their positions.  

To continue to make a positive impact on young people he works with, Shaq decided to enter the Edinburgh half marathon to raise money for YMCA Robin Hood Group’s project partner hotel, the Emmaus Trust. Shaq used social media and his personal contacts to raise as much money as he possibly could, setting his targets high at £1,500 0 but it wasn’t a surprise to anyone to see him smash this target, which is currently standing at £1,745 and counting. 

YMCA Robin Hood Group are proud to nominate Shaq for the young campaigner award, for his passion to make a difference to young people he works with, and for the positive impact he has had on their lives.

Young Leader of the Year

Leo Williams | YMCA Lincolnshire

Leo joined YMCA Lincolnshire in December 2020 in the middle of the pandemic.  He picked up a youth service that had largely been closed for many months due to Covid 19, and in the space of just six months had reshaped it into a dynamic new offer for young people. As a result, this service now provides a much wider range of opportunities for young people to engage positively with activities which positively impact their mind, body and spirit.  

In addition to the many open access youth clubs YMCA Lincolnshire is known for, the support team are now delivering hugely impactful one-to-one work with vulnerable young people, detached youth work in towns and villages across the county, and arts and music programmes, alongside significant social action projects. 

Leo’s drive and passion for quality delivery, aligned with a strategic outlook that recognises exactly where YMCA as an organisation can have the most impact, simply shines through.  He has driven the creation of a new youth strategy, developed a formal offer for commercial schools’ engagement, and ensured that YMCA Lincolnshire bounced back from the pandemic with a service that has already seen more than 8000 interactions with young people. 

Leo has also been instrumental in embedding a whole new service into the organisation. YMCA Lincolnshire (along with a consortium of other local YMCAs) successfully bid to deliver Airplay, the RAF Benevolent Funds flagship youth delivery programme for children living on airbases.  This was a huge undertaking which meant embedding 15 new staff members, and in just four weeks ensuring that around 20 sessions per week were being delivered across five different airbases in Lincolnshire.  Leo took all this in his stride, quickly taking a leadership role in ensuring that quality activity for over 350 children was delivered. 

He is an outstanding young leader, whose confidence and expertise grows by the day, and is a major asset to YMCA Lincolnshire.  

Nissi-Kay Black | YMCA Northumberland - Lewis Sewell Memorial Award

Nissi initially became interested in youth work when she realised the difference that youth workers had made to her life. She was the main carer for her father, who struggled greatly with his mental health, and and sadly took his own life when Nissi was 11. This was her driving force to go on to support and encourage others. 

Nissi has the wonderful ability to inspire, lift, lead and connect young people, especially through the use of music, and is currently studying for a BA Hons Music Practitioner degree. In a relatively short period of time, Nissi has learnt many useful youth work skills and is really keen to implement these into daily youth sessions. She is particularly good at being able to ‘read the room’ when sessions are in play, and identify young people who are perhaps feeling low or in need of a little extra support that day. She takes her love of music and performing to a whole new level by encouraging young people to ‘sing it out’ and will burst into song, encouraging everyone around her to join in and create a powerful sound throughout the youth lounge, which has created a whole new dynamic to the open access sessions.  

Nissi has also shown great maturity and ability, which has led to her being given additional responsibilities within the new Airplay programme at RAF Boulmer, and she is flourishing in the process. Her enthusiasm in leading the way and ensuring this project is not only a place of fun, but also a place for young people to develop and thrive is wonderful to watch. Nissi has introduced the ukulele to children as young as five years old and continues to encourage expression through music daily. It is a privilege to watch Nissi develop and pursue a career in youth work, and YMCA Northumberland look forward to supporting her in that journey.  

Rebecca Davies | YMCA Swansea - WINNER

Rebecca has been a Digital Marketing and Design Coordinator at YMCA Swansea for just one year, and if that time has transformed the organisation and astounded with her brilliance. At the age 23, Rebecca’s ability to lead, mentor and manage is phenomenal. She has become a main cog at YMCA Swansea, not only keeping everything going, but developing.  

Rebecca has the upmost professionalism and always exceeds expectations. She has created a whole marketing department which she leads, and has supported the individuals in that department through mentoring them with compassion, patience and holistic focus on their personal and social development.  Rebecca’s knowledge of marketing has helped raise the profile of all YMCA Swansea’s services, resulting in many new opportunities for the future. Her talents and skillset have also been recognised by YMCA England and Wales, as Rebecca sits on the National Brand Development Group, helping to transform the Marketing Strategy and influencing the Welsh and bilingual versions of the developed YMCA branding.

Rebecca is a natural leader who inspires others. She flourishes when facing new challenges and succeeds in everything she sets her mind too. She has coordinated a project that saw the creation of a YMCA Swansea History Documentary, and often has several projects in operation at any one time. She planned a fundraising event as part of LGBT+ History Month which led to an influx of donations and other exciting opportunities.  

Rebecca also volunteers at YMCA Swansea’s LGBTQ+ Youth Group, and is hugely valued by the young people involved in it. From re-branding the project and working with them to create advocacy logos, Rebecca empowers and encourages them to communicate their visions and uses their ideas as a driving force. She truly believes in the voices of young people.

Young Worker of the Year

Callum Bruce-Phillips | YMCA Swansea

As a young person himself, Callum leads the YMCA Swansea team on the Peer Action Collective project, supporting and mentoring the less experienced members to progress and develop within their roles and build personal confidence.  

The aim of the project is to collate research directly from young people on the topic of youth violence and presenting this to create change, thereby helping these young people to have their voices heard. 

Callum continues to empower young people to find their voice through his sessional work with YMCA Swansea’s youth groups – which he does on top of his full-time role. Callum is an integral part of the GoodVibes, Young Carers and Y-HUB groups, where he has become a role model and safe person for the young people who attend, many of whom are extremely vulnerable and are facing adversity on a daily basis.  

Callum has overcome many personal barriers, and as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, he is particularly passionate about advocating for the members of the LGBTQ+ youth group, GoodVibes. He has become a shining light in these young people’s lives. 

Callum ensures he’s there for these young people when they need him most, and is always the first to step up and help anyone in need – whether that be a young person or colleague. The impact that Callum has already had during his time at YMCA Swansea is nothing short of immense, and he has done all of this while completing his Masters degree and studying for his youth work qualification. 

George King | YMCA Norfolk - WINNER

George joined YMCA Norfolk as part of the Life Ready team, leading on the project’s horticulture and gardening programme. Based at their Great Yarmouth youth hostel, he was given a small budget to work with residents on transforming the grounds of the property and bringing its garden to life. 

Alongside working on the garden, George was tasked with teaching YMCA Norfolk’s young people how to plant and grow fruit, vegetables, plants and flowers, in addition to supporting them in gaining ASDAN qualifications – of which a number of the project’s participants have achieved.  

George regularly reaches out to local nature reserves, garden centres and community projects to arrange educational day trips for the young people, boosting their mental wellbeing through spending time in nature and socialising with peers. 

Over the last year George has gone completely above and beyond to transform the hostel’s garden – which now features a seating area, a greenhouse, an allotment, flower beds, sleepers and a most importantly a peaceful, colourful outdoor space for young people to enjoy. Through taking part in the project, YMCA Norfolk’s young people have learnt about nutritional eating, sustainable living, the positive environmental impact of gardening and how to reduce food costs during the cost of the living crisis.  

Over this time YMCA Norfolk has seen a huge transformation in the young people George has worked with on the project, with many becoming more self-confident and transitioning towards independent living through gaining their own accommodation and employment.  

George is a reliable, trustworthy and inspiring role model for young people – who always puts their needs first despite living a busy lifestyle as a local sixth form teacher, alongside his role with YMCA. He always has a smile on his face and is quick to make those around him smile too. 

Tayler Tookey | YMCA Milton Keynes

The national charity ‘5 On It Foundation’ reported an increase of 90% in knife crime in Milton Keynes with children as young as 13 being groomed by postcode gangs. In Milton Keynes alone, there were five fatalities in under 25-year-olds as a result of knife crime in the year before lockdown. According to latest figures, Milton Keynes has the highest overall knife related crime numbers in the whole of the force area, with more than 280 incidents in the past year. 

To help address this, in April 2021, YMCA MK recruited Tayler Tookey as a Navigator Coordinator to lead on their Hospital Navigator Scheme – a hospital-based violence intervention project within the A&E department at Milton Keynes University Hospital.  

Tayler manages a team of volunteers who act as navigators to young people aged 13 – 35 who have been affected by serious violence. When in hospital, there is a reachable moment when the young person can be reflective and open to intervention. YMCA MK’s Hospital Navigator Volunteers seize this opportunity to support the young person by helping them to access local services and agencies to gain the support they need.  Within less than a year, YMCA MK volunteers have already supported 100 young people. The success of this project is a reflection of Tayler’s ongoing effort in recruiting, training and supporting her team of volunteers. Tayler regularly goes above and beyond in her role, often covering evening and weekend shifts in the A&E department to ensure continuation of support in the absence of volunteer availability. 

In March this year, the impact of this project was recognised when the Hospital Navigator Scheme won first prize at the 2022 National Crimebeat Awards. In addition, the scheme was awarded the High Sheriffs’ Association Special Award, which is chosen from all adult-led and youth-led projects.

Young Volunteer of the Year

Ella Payne | YMCA East Surrey

Ella has been a fantastic volunteer over the past year for Y’s Girls, YMCA’s mentoring project for young girls aged 8 to 14 who are at risk of developing poor mental health. Ella was keen to support and help young people after experiencing her issues with mental health and well-being when she was younger.  

Ella has been living in supported housing at YMCA Hillbrook House since May 2021 and felt she would like to give back and support others through sharing her experiences and how she has learned to positively help others. Through the Y’s Girls project, Ella has supported her mentee to take part in different activities and grow her confidence. 

Ella’s mentee was having trouble with friendships at school and issues around confidence and leaving the house. Ella has supported her to challenge herself and achieve goals that she has set herself by taking trips into the local park and town together and learning new cooking skills. As a result, her mentee’s attendance at school has improved and she feels more confident talking about things that are worrying her.  

Ella has embraced volunteering wholeheartedly. She is a fantastic problem solver and has great empathy and listening skills. We are extremely grateful for her hard work and commitment to this project and her mentee. 

Kamila Trojanowska | YMCA Black Country Group

Kamila is a volunteer mentor on our Y’s Girls mentoring programme.  Kamila’s commitment to Y’s Girls as a project has been exceptional! Her flexibility and availability to keep in contact with her mentee in difficult situations imposed by both personal and covid-related restrictions have been so integral to the project. 

Kamila has formed a great relationship with her mentee and encouraged her to engage in a multitude of activities and build her confidence and independence. Kamila is also a great communicator and is always so vigilant with returning documentation and informing me of how the mentor/mentee relationship is progressing. 

Kate Clews | YMCA Lincolnshire - WINNER

Kate Clews has been volunteering for Lincs YMCA across a range of projects – most notably, our ‘Moorland Monday’ youth club which works with young people from one of the most deprived estates in the UK.  This club is critical in ensuring that the local young community has access to positive activities, trusted adults and a safe space.

The club can be busy, to say the least, with up to 50 young people attending on a single day.  These high attendance numbers are a testament to our staff and volunteers who not only keep things safe with a watchful eye but also keep activities fun, relevant and accessible to all young people in attendance.

Kate’s voluntary work was of so high quality, that she was taken on to work across other areas of the YMCA including youth clubs, Airplay provision and conferencing events.  Without volunteers like Kate, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do and reach the diverse and ranging audience we work with. 

Young Achiever of the Year

Sponsored by SIDLEY

Adi Detemo | YMCA Downslink Group - Lewis Sewell Memorial Award

Adi is an unaccompanied asylumseeking young person from Eritrea. Shortly after he arrived in the UK, he was placed at Guildford Foyer and he was keen to get involved in anything on offer

Adi has started volunteering at an outdoor theatre event in town. After an introduction to a local partner theatre, he took up the offer of using a studio to practice and choreograph his work. The theatre was also able to involve him when touring dance companies were in the theatre and with workshops, career advice etc...Following another introduction and some additional volunteering he was offered a funded place at Guildford Shakespeare youth company and shortly after starting that he was successful in his audition to play Hamlet in their production.

At first, Adi wasn’t able to enrol at college until after the summer holidays, but shortly after he started, he was fasttracked from ESOL up to GCSE level classes & will shortly be sitting his GCSE English & Maths.

Adi was moved to a more independent accommodation shortly after his 18th Birthday, and although support is reduced he is committed to his education so is managing to travel the 3-hour round trip journey back to Guildford to finish his classes and sit his GCSEs. He hopes that his future career will include the arts.

Jamie Dial | YMCA Derbyshire - WINNER

Jamie was unfortunately kicked out of his family home in 2020 due to a family dispute. He spent months sofa surfing, sleeping in sheds and taking refuge in his sister’s foster home. Of course, this was completely unsustainable and thankfully, Jamie found YMCA Derbyshire in January 2021. 
After a successful 6 months of growing his confidence and independence, Jamie decided to move on to independent living. However, after a few weeks, he realised he needed extra support from the housing navigators at our campus. Since moving back in August 2021, Jamie has achieved an incredible amount. 
Jamie found school very difficult, he didn’t work well with teachers and found himself getting into trouble. However, with the help of YMCA Derbyshire staff, Jamie got into college and began studying agriculture, a subject he is very passionate about due to his grandfather owning his own farm. 
Throughout his course, Jamie has been achieving distinctions and merits, which he never believed he would be able to. He has also qualified in health and safety. 
On campus, Jamie puts himself forward for every activity, getting involved in anything he can to improve his independence and create relationships with those around him. He has even become a buddy for several unaccompanied minors on our campus, helping them to learn English and involving them in football games whenever he can. 
His confidence has grown so much that Jamie even stood up at a supporter’s dinner and told his story to a room of 30 people. 
Now, Jamie has secured himself a job with a local demolition firm and is hoping to save up his money to move on to independent living.   In a few years, he wants to go to university to study agriculture and get his very own dairy farm. 

Josh Punchard | YMCA Swansea

Josh became a member of YMCA Swansea Young Carers Service in 2016 due to providing care for his mum. Josh helps his mum with everyday tasks such as cooking, and cleaning and provides physical and emotional support when needed. Josh has been an active member of the service; he has always taken pride in being a Young Carer and advocating for other Young Carers in Swansea.

Josh was attending mainstream education, but due to his caring role and his health challenges his grades and attendance dropped significantly. Josh and his family decided for him to be home-schooled, he is now achieving high grades and looks forward to exploring becoming a vet in the future.

Josh was one of the first nine members of YMCA Swansea Young Carers Youth Forum, an elected group of Young Carers who represent the views of YMCA Swansea Young Carers Service and work to raise awareness of the challenges faced by Young Carers. Josh has attended every single Forum meeting, even joining online when ill with COVID.

As part of the Forum, Josh has helped plan and deliver the National Young Carers Action Day event for Young Carers and their families. He is also currently working in partnership with Swansea Local Authority on the new Carers Strategy, shaping the strategy so that it enables Young Carers to be identified, recognised, and supported.

Josh’s dedication to the Young Carers Youth Forum led to him being unanimously voted as chair by the other members. Josh is a fantastic role model for new and younger members of the service, helping them settle in settings they may feel nervous. During a recent residential stay, Josh supported another member, who found it challenging being away from the person he cares for, for the first time. 

Health & Wellbeing Project of the Year

Food Market | YMCA Downslink Group

The YMCA DLG Food Market is an innovative Youth-Led, sustainable, social grocery store responding to increasing food insecurity experienced by young people in the Brighton.  

Since opening its doors in December 2021, the Food Market has provided more than 300 ‘shops’ for young people aged 16-25, providing affordable, healthy and sustainable food. The Market has 101 current members and is growing, with young people paying a small weekly membership fee, and in return have access to a varied and discounted weekly shop.

The project enables young people to access healthy, low-cost food and shopping products at a simple one-stop shop, offering easy access to supermarket surplus for those struggling to afford the rising cost of goods, thereby providing a modern and sustainable approach to food waste and food poverty.

The Food Market empowers young people throughout the project, ensuring their voice is at the heart of the market, driving development and growth, and reflecting the needs of our community.  It is important that young people see themselves reflected in the products stocked, and are encouraged to let YMCA DLG know if they need anything specific, whether that’s dietary needs, cultural foods, or hygiene products, and they will try their hardest to access those.

While the Food Market is not a foodbank,it has supported memberships for people who are in a food emergency so they can access food for free and in a positive and empowering way. The Food Market strives for equity and solidarity with the aim of ensuring that everyone has access to the best quality food, regardless of their situation. With that in mind, their two-tier membership is specifically designed so that those more financially stable pay a bit more than those who are struggling. 

Khalsa Karate at YMCA Hawker | YMCA St. Paul's Group - WINNER

In 2001 Satinder Sehra started a karate club in his local community at YMCA Hawker (Kingston), and with initially only one student, it was here that the club’s journey began. Since then, the club has grown immensely under Head Instructor Satinder, and became its own Karate Association in 2018 as Khalsa Karate.  

The club’s values continue to echo those of YMCA in encouraging young people to be active and flourish by building their self-esteem and confidence. Over the 21 years since it began, the club has been a sporting success, nurturing the talents of hundreds of young people within Kingston, many of whom have gone on to represent Great Britain internationally at competitions, including the Commonwealth Games.

For young people like Sophie, who joined Khalsa Karate with Satinder when she was just six after witnessing domestic violence in her home, the club represents a positive escape, and now, at 26 years old, Sophie is a 15x England Karate Champion. By her own admission, without the club she could have gone down a darker path in life. 

Khalsa Karate at YMCA provides local young people with a safe space to go and trusted, positive role models to inspire international sporting achievement. The instructors volunteer their time to the club and often bridge the gap between the young people and their parents, and encourage peer-to-peer support. 

Mental Health Services | YMCA Trinity Group

Over the last year, YMCA Trinity Group’s Mental Health Services have seen a 44% rise in referrals for clinical services as communities struggle to deal with the impact of the pandemic, with data suggesting that an equivalent of 15hrs of therapy was delivered to service users every day, and more than 1300 adults received training.


What was already an established service encompassing a range of preventative and clinical programmes, has seen widespread growth in both reach and capacity.  Not only have schools benefitted from timely counselling support and confidence building training to address needs; but the Mental Health Services team have adapted seamlessly to support the wider YMCA family.  


Counselling sessions were taken on site to residents who were isolated and unable to access external services; a series of parent webinars were developed to support struggling parents; and clinical supervision was offered to staff to help them cope with the new challenges faced daily. And the impact of these programmes has been significant: 92% of delegates said they improved their confidence through training and 75% of clinical referrals despite their challenges.


It has been remarkable how the YMCA Trinity Group team have not only maintained a service during lockdown when many expected it to close, but expanded provision in order to meet the needs of a whole range of communities.  As well as direct services, the team has been instrumental in influencing both the local crisis response and taking on a coordinating function to support the wider children’s mental health offer, in collaboration with a range of statutory services. All of this work has taken place without significant commissioning, but instead through effective planning, marketing and funding applications. 

Housing Project of the Year

Easy Peasy Pods | YMCA Trinity Group

Easy Peasy Pods is a project designed to encourage learning and development through stories and play with the residents of the parent and child provision at YMCA Trinity Group.  


The project focuses on various much loved children’s stories and uses these themes to teach young parents housed within YMCA about different parenting topics, such as night-time routines and healthy eating, as well as encouraging them to help their child with socialisation and development to meet their milestones through a range of activities such as sensory play, messy play and crafts.  


The project also liaises with other outside agencies to help deliver activities and experiences for the parents and children who attend, which they may not have the confidence to do themselves, such as working with local children’s centres to encourage attendance with the services, and working in-house and with the local museum who offer interactive sessions to encourage children to learn about the world through play. 

Easy Peasy Pods has also provided some new experiences to the young people using the service, such as being a regular participant in the annual Christmas tree festival hosted by Ipswich and Colchester museums, working alongside the Lullaby project to create bespoke songs for their children with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, and working alongside the More than Mum programme to help parents build on their well-being and self-esteem. These experiences also help encourage young residents into work or training activities and collaborate with the Ipswich family bank to help not only provide supplies to young people in need, but also giving residents the opportunity to give back to the local community. 

Housing First as a Basic Human Right | One YMCA - WINNER

In January 2021, One YMCA successfully #endedroughsleeping in Watford, thereby changing (and in some cases saving) the lives of 83 highly vulnerable homeless people who had been trapped in the revolving door of homelessness for between up to 10 years.  

One YMCA found that their traditional and new complex needs-led routes to providing supported housing wouldn’t work for everyone, particularly where they’d experienced repeated trauma due to recurrent tenancy breakdown and eviction. And so, from frontline to trustees, they embraced a new attitude towards innovation and risk by placing #housingfirst at the top of the agenda.  

In order to do this, they designed, mobilised and scaled up a high fidelity model of #housingfirst, working collaboratively with local authorities, registered providers and DLUHC to secure capital and revenue funding. This was all done by building on the success of the initial pilot to create 20 new homes and change 20 lives.

Using the full separation of landlord and support functions to maximise outcomes of being there for each individual (no matter what), the scheme delivered results no one thought possible, helping residents to maintain their own tenancy for the first time in their lives. And the results speak for themselves, as residents really are beginning to connect, belong, contribute and thrive in their local community.

As an example, Fred was street homeless for over ten years, and in that time lost all contact with his family including his daughter, who had since given birth to his first grandchild. He now has a home, a settled life and is able to move away from the myriad of negative influences he had experienced while homeless. As a direct result, his daughter has made contact, meaning that family ties are being rebuilt – and best of all Fred has now met and spends time with his grandchild.
#HousingFirst changing, saving and connecting lives! 

New Beginnings @ Newlands | Southend YMCA

New Beginnings (NB) is an accredited housing support programme developed with and for young residents living at the SYMCA Newlands Building, a trauma-informed environment (since 2018) housing 36 children and young people who have complex needs. 
Through NB, residents prepare for independence across a range of foundational topics designed to remove life barriers. For example, many young-people start NB with junior school reading/writing ages (aged 7-9) as a consequence of disruptive child experiences. With NB, residents are supported to overcome this and gain a level 1 Award in Progression which builds their CV, supporting their journey to further education, volunteering and employment.  
Some example outcomes (from 25 residents) include:  
• 100% self-report improved understanding of how to live on a budget/make informed money choices  
• 90% self-report improved skills, knowledge and confidence to apply for employment leading to raised aspirations for future careers  
• 89% have an enhanced ability to participate in social situations, manage stress and set goals that increase self-confidence  
• 75% understand the importance of expressing emotions in a safe way, and in addition gain strategies to diffuse or resolve an emotional situation. 

Training & Education Project of the Year

Employment Programme | YMCA Milton Keynes

Recently, YMCA MK created an employment and activities team. The team’s role is to promote, develop and support young people in building their self-confidence, and self-esteem and to encourage their belief that they can belong, contribute and thrive in their community.

The Employment Programme exists of daily drop-in sessions and workshops that cover physical, therapeutic and employability-specific skills. The purpose of this holistic approach is to build the confidence of our young people to prepare them and give them the best opportunity to find meaningful and sustainable employment that meets their aspirations. Rather than focus on just getting our residents into work, our emphasis is to help our residents to consider their long-term career goals. During this journey, they assist their residents to identify any training, educational or developmental requirements that they may require to achieve their employment aspirations.

Monthly various local employers visit the campus to actively recruit from our pool of residents. Groups of residents have been taken to local companies to participate in employment days, which included mock interviews and trial days that have led to permanent employment. Over the past year, 99 residents were supported into jobs in a wide variety of sectors, including construction, hospitality and warehousing. Two of the 99 roles are employed by the social enterprise café, HomeGround.  

The campus t inspires new residents to follow the pathway of support and development. Seeing their peers succeed and thrive, creates a positive environment that encourages all residents to identify, work towards and achieve their personal goals.  

Southend YMCA Community School | Southend YMCA - WINNER

The hard work and dedication of the staff at the school have significantly impacted the young people and the decisions they make in their lives. This positive change in their mindset has resulted in improved GCSE results year on year, but more importantly, has allowed all students to experience success and become better global citizens who go on to be successful beyond their time at school. Many students come back to share their successes year after year and thank staff for what they have done to support them, a feeling that is also shared with the families of the young people who also receive support where needed.  
As an OFSTEDrated ‘Good’ school, they continue to raise the bar and provide education outside of mainstream schools that ‘stands in the gap’. I believe, The Southend YMCA Community school has been a credit to the national and global YMCA charity, leading the way to educate and train the most vulnerable children in society from High level SEND needs and gang affiliation to students that have social care involvement or are in care. The school to many of these young people is their safety net and sometimes the only place they feel valued and their voices are heard.  
Since the annual conference in April, the Southend YMCA Community School have shared their experiences with other YMCA family members, offering support and advice to other YMCA’s that offer training and education to a range of young people. They have also shared their vision for the future and the development available within the charity. Currently, they are offering support to the local schools, including one of the highest performing schools in the country for academic achievement, to support staff with challenging behaviours.   

Y Perform | YMCA Scarborough

Y Perform is a Musical Theatre School that runs on a Saturday during term times that has a wide range of ages attend from aged 3 right up to 17/18. The classes work on putting on two shows a year presented in the 290seat YMCA Theatre, one musical and one showcase. The young people work incredibly hard to produce great quality shows while learning their craft. Y-Perform is a lot more than a musical theatre school, it is a community. Creative skills are used as a foundation to build key life skills; communication, teamwork and problem solving to name but a few.

Y Perform is led by two young leaders: Evie McGlinchey (19) and Jasmine Towes (23). Both Evie and Jasmine attended YMCA projects when they were younger and are a perfect fit to run and shape Y Perform into what it is today. The community spirit of the school is most evident in the 10 minutes before sessions start, these sessions let the young people talk about the week’s events, and what happened at school/college or use the sessions to vent. Y Perform becomes an all-around support network with the ability for young people to build resilience and safe space each week.

The last twelve months have been a recovery and development process for Y Perform, the pandemic saw the closure of Y Musical Theatre, the previous version of the Saturday sessions. Y Perform was first created by Evie and Grace Kille. Jasmine took over the role when Grace left to join a performing arts school. Since starting the project has gone from strength to strength working regularly now with 55 young people each week spread over five classes.  

Support & Advice Project of the Year

Brighton Youth Advice Centre | YMCA DownsLink Group

The Youth Advice Centre (YAC) in Brighton has been a valued institution for more than 25 years, providing a single open access front door for young people in the city under the ages of 26 to access a wide variety of support and advice.  

Reaching around 2000 young people every year, the YAC is the single point of advice for anyone 16-26 in the city who is insecurely housed or homeless. This enables YMCA DLG to offer wrap around holistic support, providing family support and mediation, sexual health services, emotional and wellbeing support and benefits and money advice.  

The YAC closed its physical doors at the beginning of the pandemic, however during the past two years the service has been busier than ever before. While the building may have been shut, the service most definitely wasn’t with the team moving all support to remote delivery without any pause in service.  

After an initial 61% increase in young people seeking support around housing – largely due to family or relationship breakdown – the YAC is now working with a 37% increase compared to pre-pandemic. The service has not only coped admirably with this increase but also adapted the service, extending the length of time cases are held, and adapting opening hours to meet the changing need. Young people access the YAC in times of crisis and in times of anxiety and worry, and truly appreciate the fantastic work the team does.  

Mental Health Support Boxes | YMCA Derbyshire

Since the pandemic, YMCA Derbyshire has seen a sharp rise in young people experiencing difficulties with their mental health. After seeing the struggles many of those he works with were going through, Housing Navigator Matt Sewell, decided to take action and created mental health support boxes.  


Many young people find it hard, especially in their first days living with YMCA, to communicate their feelings with their support worker. These boxes are filled with items that can help a young person during this time, including positive words of affirmation which aim to help grow confidence.  

Alongside the positive words, the box includes plasters and bandages for those struggling with self-harm, as well as distraction techniques and elastic bands for when a young person is having intrusive thoughts.  

The box also includes non-verbal cues which can be handed to support workers when a young person may be having suicidal thoughts. Instead of having to speak out loud about their struggles, they can pass over a card which will alert support staff.  

At YMCA Derbyshire, their teams work extremely hard to promote healthy minds and provide space for their young people to talk openly whenever they need it. They also have an on-site therapeutic counsellor, which can be utilised by both staff and residents.  

Since the first boxes were given out, YMCA Derbyshire have seen a huge reduction in self-harm and an increase in openness in conversations around mental health. The team are exceptionally proud of the hard work Matt has put in to keep their young people safe and well.  


Onyx | One YMCA - WINNER

Tackling Sexual Violence in Society

ONS home office data reports the number of sexual offences recorded by police in Bedfordshire during 2021 was 1710, and 2243 in Hertfordshire.

One YMCA created and implemented Onyx, a free, confidential sexual violence support service working innovatively to meet the practical and emotional needs of children, young people, adults and their families through our Independent Sexual Violence Advisor (ISVA) and Perpetrator services.

Supporting victims of unwanted sexual contact, recent or not. Giving survivors the confidence, support and information to take control of their situation and, ultimately, move forward with their lives. Supporting victims to tackle behaviours and the system and enable understanding, changing and saving lives! Working on a multiagency basis with police, local and county authorities and third sector partners to deliver the best possible outcomes.

Supporting 435 clients in the past 12 months with many going through the Criminal Justice System. Huge success and recognition has enabled the service to be scaled across two counties, with increased funding and requests to expand further. Achieving Lime Culture national accreditation for both adults and children in the first year of delivering the Bedfordshire contract! Accreditation has begun for the Herts ISVA service – the contract only started in April this year!

Onyx took over the Beds service with no staff and have grown an incredible team. Progression was inspired by securing ISVA training for those unqualified and investing in their development to achieve this qualification in the first year of their employment. They smashed it!

The Onyx team are now working collaboratively with our housing team to create a network of specialist refuge and supported accommodation services for those fleeing sexual and domestic violence. Leading on the sexual harms agenda to bring the survivors voice to the front of any decision making and shape services.

Family & Youth Work Project of the Year

Crime Diversion Project | YMCA St. Paul's Group

The YMCA SPG Crime Diversion Project, running in Hayes, supports young people facing immense challenges and barriers to reaching their goals. The young people they support are largely involved in complex serious violence, crime, gang affiliation and other challenges. Referred by the Ealing Youth Justice Service, YMCA SPG supports young people, their families, schools, social workers and statutory services to provide holistic and impactful support over one-three years.  
To date, the project has worked intensely with 23 young people, giving them a safe space to belong, feel a sense of community, and provided support and care in a non-judgemental environment. They engage the young people with 1-2-1 sessions, personal development programmes, sports for development schemes (such as boxing), provide support when in crisis and spend on average 80 hours a year with each young person, giving them opportunities and equipping them to take their next steps to success.  
Through their approach, skills and lived experience, the project Youth Workers break down barriers and lead a positive path forward for these young people, integrating them into larger open access youth programmes, including sports, employability, creative and youth sessions. As a result, the Hayes Youth Team has supported young people into university and careers, to sustain their education and access mental and physical health services.

Y's Girls | Southend YMCA on behalf of participating YMCAs - WINNER

The Y’s Girls mentoring programme was a pilot funded by the Tampon Tax Fund, Garfield Weston and The Penny Appeal that began in January 2021 to September 2022.  The 10 participating YMCA’s across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland match trained volunteer mentors with young women aged 9-14 years old at risk of poor mental health in order to build their self-efficacy, engage with their local community and support them to thrive.

Over a 12-month period, the mentors and young people meet regularly for 1.5-2 hour sessions and work together to identify achievable goals that will empower the mentee and build their resilience to enable them to lead fulfilling lives and improve their short and long-term mental health and wellbeing.  The sessions offer an informal environment with the opportunity to discuss anything that might be worrying them, from family and personal relationships to lifestyle and education. 

Y’s Girls is an early and effective mentoring initiative that has been adapted and replicates the successful Plusone Mentoring programme model, designed by YMCA Scotland.  Early indications from external evaluation of the project show that it is effective in improving social and emotional learning outcomes for girls.   

Despite the challenges of setting up a face-to-face mentoring project through lockdown, Y’s Girls have matched over 220 girls with mentors, and are now working hard to take the learning, evaluation and sustainability plan forward to refine and embed the project into business as usual.  Feedback from Y’s Girls mentees, their parents and carers, and mentors is that the project has been transformative for all; improving interpersonal relationships, increasing a sense of belonging and providing personal and professional development opportunities.  

This Y’s Girls application was submitted on behalf of the eight YMCA England & Wales delivery sites; North Tyneside, Cardiff, East Surrey, Black Country Group, Bradford, Robin Hood Group, Southend and Downslink Group.

YMCA Y-Kidz HAF Provision | YMCA Derbyshire

In June 2021, YMCA Derbyshire’s childcare provision – YMCA Y-Kidz – expanded their offer to respond to the government’s Holiday Activity and Food programme, which supported families receiving free school meals.  

The aim of the programme is to provide healthy food and enriching activities to children, and to do so it worked with three schools in Derby and provided a total of 960 hours of childcare covering four weeks in the summer, one week at Christmas and one week at Easter. The team supported 207 individual children, providing them with a hot meal every day, cooked by YMCA Derbyshire’s very own Claude’s café.

Over the summer and Easter periods, the team made 1360 meals for children, who during normal school time would receive their meals for free, and many of the families worked with were struggling with poverty.

During the Christmas holidays, due to a rise in COVID-19 cases, YMCA Derbyshire were not able to provide face-to-face provision. However, they still ensured that families were not left without by creating 78 food boxes with specially designed recipe cards and delivering them to homes. They also created online cooking and fitness sessions to combat loneliness and isolation.

The highly qualified and experienced Y-Kidz team continue to provide high quality, cost-effective and tailor-made sessions in a range of specialisms including physical education, childcare, music, and dance in three Derbyshire schools, encouraging children to develop through play. Their childcare offers inclusive safe environments for all young people regardless of needs, background, abilities, or interests, all aimed towards increasing the child’s confidence and self-esteem. 

Diversity Award

16-18-year-old Asylum Seekers | One YMCA

One YMCA provides young people aged 16-18 who have fled their home country, having to leave their family and friends behind, with a safe space to live and prospects of a bright future in an inspiring, nurturing and energising place to call home.

The dedicated and experienced team take on the role usually filled by parents or carers. Teaching those all-important life skills enables each young person to progress towards a full and independent life. On hand 24/7 to provide practical, emotional and spiritual support, addressing trauma and poor mental health, whilst working with partner organisations and statutory services.

The power of the YMCA model brings together the skills and experience of our youth, health & wellbeing, chaplaincy and housing teams to deliver a resource greater than its parts. Focusing on body, mind and spirit as we introduce young people to what life here can offer.

Mo left Ethiopia at only 15 years old after his father was killed, travelling alone through 5 countries before arriving in the UK. Speaking no English and without personal belongings, he was determined to turn his life around and make his father proud.

The team helped to develop his cooking, cleaning, budgetary and wellbeing skills, we also supported Mo to enrol on English language courses, access National Citizen Service activities, join our One YMCA football team, explore the local community and make new friends.

Mo is no longer isolated, alone, scared and confused! He has his own home and is a confident and sociable young man who works and is making his father proud! 

GoodVibes LGBTQ+ Youth Group | YMCA Swansea

GoodVibes is an inclusive LGBTQ+ Youth Group, based at YMCA Swansea, which operates on the foundation of inclusivity and diversity. It supports young LGBTQ+ people between the ages of 11-25, providing a safe space where their identities are respected and supported.  
GoodVibes is a group where young people are surrounded by likeminded individuals in an environment that promotes respecting other people’s choices, citizenship and cultural identity. It provides young people with the confidence to explore their identity and be 100% themselves, without fear of judgment, harassment, bullying or discrimination and social pre-conceived norms. This crucial environment empowers young people to introduce themselves, their names, preferred names, pronouns and more. What they receive from each other, and youth workers, is acceptance; without question. 
The young people who attend describe it as their only safe place, their family away from home. Many young people rely on the group as being central to their lives and identity.  
Young LGBTQ+ people are more likely to face bullying, discrimination, and social isolation, and in turn are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and self-harm. The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community, as LGBTQ+ young people were severed from their support networks and, in some cases, “locked down” in homophobic/biphobic/transphobic households leading to a potentially disastrous decline in their mental health.  
During lockdown, members of GoodVibes became peer educators, working together to research, design, and deliver Trans Awareness Training to over 300 school pupils and professionals. These young people went above and beyond to become role models for the LGBTQ+ community, advocating for positive mental health.  
GoodVibes membership is growing weekly which is a testament to not only the need of LGBTQ+ young people in the area but also the life-saving, life-changing and pioneering work that is taking place within it.

Our 'Inclusive Workplace' Campaign | YMCA Brighton - WINNER

The 2020-21 Equalities review highlighted organisational barriers to inclusion, resulting in a strong commitment to EDI. They started their ambitious project to increase visibility and action in all areas of EDI.  


An area of the website was dedicated to promoting EDI. Resources included:  internal publications, inclusion bulletins, staff stories, and definitions.  

For National Inclusion Week, staff collaborated to produce daily inclusion bulletins. A virtual library was created to shared stories, knowledge and experiences. This helped to broaden perspectives and celebrate diversity.  During Breast Cancer Awareness Month an employee shared their story through internal communications. This acknowledgement of awareness events continued throughout the year.  

To create culture change, an innovative series of EDI conversations, ‘LET’S TALK ABOUT…’ was introduced. These cover mental health stigma, inclusion, religion and belief. Feedback was excellent and ideas were actioned, creating reflective spaces for prayer, and devising a quarterly Religion/ Belief Bulletin. Accessibility audits were conducted, which led to actions including visual journeys and interview guidance for candidates. 

 As a result participation in the staff diversity monitoring increased by 23% compared to last year. There continues to be an overflow of discussions around all EDI topics.  

YMCA of the Year

Sponsored by Charity Bank


Providing social consistency for the children of RAF families, One YMCA led a nationallevel bid to successfully secure the prestigious RAF Benevolent Fund’s Airplay youth support scheme contract.  
The contract sees 11 YMCAs working in partnership with One YMCA to deliver 86 weekly sessions of universal play and youth work at 24 RAF Stations across England, Scotland and Wales. A collaborative approach demonstrates how harnessing the combined expertise and strength of a consortium, YMCAs can further expand our reach and enable our movement to support more young people to thrive in body, mind, and spirit. Ultimately doing more and better together!   
Within the first 5 months of opening its doors, the clubs have registered 1500 young people as members, a figure that continues to grow. 12000 attendances have been recorded with 2000 hours of highquality youth and play work sessions being accessed. Through our Special Project Fund, Young people are shaping the programme on offer, with the Airplay youth forums recently allocating over £7000 to young people’s applications, for initiatives and social action projects in their communities.  
One YMCA has also been consulting with stakeholders to design and develop a fully digital youth support portal ‘Airplay Connect’. Due to launch in September 2022, ‘Airplay Connect’ is born out of a growing requirement for an accessible and secure digital space to meet the needs of a highly mobile and dispersed group of young people. ‘Airplay Connect’ will sit alongside the fantastic portfolio of over 6000 hours’ worth of face-to-face activities scheduled each year for the next four years, providing all Airplay members with information, signposting and virtual activities, regardless of where their parents service takes them in the world.   

YMCA Derbyshire - WINNER

Over the last year, YMCA Derbyshire is proud to have supported 362 individuals in our accommodation and over 150 young people within our colleges and provided childcare across 5 local schools.

In our accommodation, we are proud that over the last 12 months, our accommodation team has introduced a staff training programme that is grounded in Psychologically Informed Environments (PIE) and reflective practice. The result we’ve seen has been incredibly positive. Our team are more conscious of how trauma can affect different people in different ways, and they are slower to react in a disciplinary way to challenging or difficult behaviour; we call it ‘elastic tolerance’.

Our relationships with the young people living at our YMCA are at the heart of what we do. We are proud to have also introduced a stronger approach to assessment and analysis, a dedicated health and wellbeing activities team, a reduction in risk aversion and more intensive staff training.

We are also thrilled that out of 75 students at our YMCA Key College, 71 completed their course, 18 went on to further education and 13 went on to employment. We have also provided many extra opportunities for our students, including work experience at Morrison’s Flowerworld, practical experience in nature with Derbyshire Wildlife Trust and arts projects with local organisations.  

Our YMCA Y-Kidz provision continued to thrive, providing 1995 breakfast club and 3686 after-school session hours (‘wraparound care’), 380 lunch club hours and 968 hours of holiday activity clubs to children aged 7-11. Alongside that, during Easter, Summer and Christmas our team provided HAF provisions to children on free school meals to ensure they did not go without. 

YMCA Norfolk

YMCA Norfolk’s expansion over the last two years has been incredible, as we continue to develop our strategic mission.   Not only to reach communities across Norfolk and to have a deeper impact with those we work with but to also ensure our organisation is sustainable for years to come.  
In the last year alone we have welcomed over 20,000 members of the community to our new hub, and in the process, we created more than 40 new job roles, introduced 90 children to our nursery, as well as housed over 381 young people who would otherwise be homeless or living in a vulnerable situation.  
As a result of the staff’s commitment to going above and beyond, 96% of residents said that they feel YMCA Norfolk provides the support they need to work towards independent living. 
Moreover, the Wellbeing Matters team has supported 242 young people experiencing a mental health crisis through therapeutic intervention in schools. Our dedicated therapists are on track to support 500 young people in Norfolk in total, as we look to reduce the strain on local GP practices and NHS waitlists.  
The E-learning service, made up of more than 40 qualified teachers, has taught 390 young people (suffering from anxiety and unable to attend school) to achieve successful outcomes in online learning – minimising pressure on several schools and significantly reducing the number of young people not in education.  
We’re proud to be recognised as a trusted delivery partner for a range of our services and regularly approached by commissioners to lead on projects around youth support and breaking the cycle of homelessness. The breadth of our work is growing in all aspects of our organisation, with transforming young lives always being at the core of our mission.