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


Thank you for taking part in this year’s Youth Matters Awards

This year’s #YouthMattersAwards public vote is now CLOSED.

Voting closed at midnight on Friday, 18 August. 

Young Campaigner of the Year

Toni-Lea Dumper | YMCA Fairthorne Group

Toni-Lea has been involved with YMCA for 12 years, first as a resident, then as a volunteer before becoming a staff member, and since 2021 as a Youth Ambassador. Toni-Lea first became involved in supporting YMCA campaigns through ‘Move On’, where she told her own story to advocate for change. Through this campaign, she saw the importance of sharing her story and since then, has been supporting others to do the same.

Toni-Lea has been a constant champion for the young people she works with, helping to run key focus groups when YMCA England & Wales were researching the cost-of-living crisis, and bringing together residents from across her YMCA in the process. The information provided by those involved in the focus groups was crucial to the key research supplied to MPs, ministers, and civil servants.

Following this research, Toni-Lea gathered residents to write messages to their MP about how the cost of living is impacting them, with over 35 powerful postcards collected from residents. These postcards had a profound impact. The Government’s decision to implement the recommendations put forward by YMCA England & Wales was because young people shared their experiences, and Toni-Lea was key in gathering those stories and messages.

Toni-Lea has also led Small Talks activities at her YMCA, opening the discussion around mental health to her residents and embedding the Small Talks campaign into their weekly programmes.

Toni-Lea embodies a true campaigner in her ability to move others into action and create a groundswell of support. She’s gone above and beyond to enable those unheard voices in society to share their stories and have a platform for change.

Kyle Pearson | YMCA Derbyshire

Kyle is a dedicated Housing Navigator and YMCA Youth Ambassador who has made a significant impact on  the lives of young people. As a Housing Navigator, he supports residents on probation, guiding them towards realising their potential. Simultaneously, as a YMCA Youth Ambassador, Kyle serves as a powerful advocate, amplifying the voices of young people. He played a pivotal role in motivating residents at YMCA Derbyshire to write postcards to local MPs as part of YMCA England & Wales’ Cost of Living Campaign.  

Kyle’s persistence led to the participation of 27 young people in the campaign, helping to voice the concerns of young people to elected politicians, including the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. This effort resulted in tangible change, with the Government deciding to implement the recommendations put forth by YMCA. Kyle’s commitment extends beyond local initiatives. He actively engages in discussion groups with fellow national Youth Ambassadors, covering critical topics such as mental health and the creation of election manifestos. At YMCA World Council in Denmark, Kyle further contributed to discussions aligned with World YMCA’s Vision 2030, demonstrating his dedication to shaping a better future for young people globally.  

Ruby McCrea | YMCA North Staffordshire

Ruby moved into YMCA North Staffordshire in September 2022 and made every effort to engage with 

all activities on offer to her. She moved in not knowing anybody, struggling with her confidence, and feeling unsure about her future. She had had a very difficult time in the past and had to overcome some very large barriers. However, Ruby did not let past experiences hinder her engagement and was always the first person to take part in everything.

Ruby is kind in nature, and always goes above and beyond not only to support other young people at YMCA but also staff wherever she can. Her passion to help others led to her naturally progressing into volunteering for the activities team. Ruby’s focus is to support others and to ensure that young people have a positive experience with YMCA from the day they move in. 

Ruby has taken part in charity sales and raffles to raise awareness and funds for activities. She is always willing to help and encourages others to participate.

Ruby has taken part in many activities representing YMCA and been a spokesperson for its values and opportunities for young people. She is currently studying on the Step-Up access course at Staffordshire University and will return to full time study in September 2023. She hopes to support her studies with part time work in the future, maintaining her relationship with staff and customers at YMCA North Staffordshire, continuing to inspire others along the way.

Ruby has overcome many barriers to be who and where she is today, she is a caring, genuine, and beautiful person who would not hesitate to support or help anyone. Ruby has achieved so much and continues to look for developmental opportunities.  

Andrew Fountain | YMCA Norfolk

Andrew is someone who strongly believes in the promotion of young people’s voices within YMCA Norfolk services. He regularly attends residents meetings and makes sure the voices of the young people are always heard. Andrew always wants to be involved and to try and help shape how things could be made better, for himself and for others.  
Andrew has achieved great success through engaging with the Life Ready & Kick the Dust programmes, achieving several ASDAN qualifications through Life Ready, which led to him being appointed with a funded traineeship working for the museum services in Norwich, something Andrew is passionate about continuing during his career. Andrew said that working for the museum service is a dream come true. 
Andrew has also worked with a separate project – On Track – for which his dedication and hard work received high praise. He has also attended several young person’s interview panels, most recently for the appointment of a trustee. Andrew’s choice ended up being appointed and he got to congratulate her when she came to sit with him at the YMCA Norfolk 2022 annual celebration.   
Throughout his time with YMCA, Andrew has been very proactive and productive, continually looking for opportunities to better himself and grow as an individual. Despite whatever personal circumstances he may have been dealing with, Andrew knew how to access support, was brave enough to ask when it was needed, and use YMCA Norfolks support as a tool to bolster his own resilience and keep him on track, so he could continue to work on his goals. Andrew has made a positive move on from YMCA, now maintaining his own independent tenancy. 

Jah'Kiyah Mack-Scott | YMCA St Paul’s Group

Jah’Kiyah is currently a resident at YMCA St Paul’s Group Walthamstow Young People’s Project (YPP). She moved into the YPP in October 2022, after becoming homeless due to a family breakdown. YMCA St Paul’s Group believe she deserves to win the Young Achiever of the Year because since living with them she has brought about positive change and achievements, not only for herself but also for her fellow residents.

This year, Jah’Kiyah became a YMCA SPG Residents Representative, meeting with the CEO, Executive Team, and Trustees to provide valuable input on how they can best deliver the services their residents need. Since joining, Jah’Kiyah has been at the forefront of the group acting as a Senior Representative; actively promoting resident engagement, inspiring others to become reps and bringing about real positive change at the YPP.  

 Recently, Jah’Kiyah organised group gym sessions for the female residents to empower and motivate them to attend the gym at the main hostel, which came about from a residents meeting. She has represented YMCA on several occasions, including attending the Houses of Parliament to provide valuable input to the APPG on Youth Affairs, and discussing the barriers young people living within supported housing face when trying to enter meaningful employment. She also joined their CEO on an interview panel for YMCA St. Paul’s Group to become a member of the London Housing Panel, providing feedback and insight, and ultimately, helping secure the charity’s place on the panel.

Jah’Kiyah is currently working as an Emotional Wellbeing Officer. Her hard work as a Resident Representative has been instrumental in securing a new role with St. Mungos as a Housing Support Worker, using her own lived experience to support others in their journey to independent living. 

Young Leader of the Year

Charlie Mood | YMCA North Tyneside

Charlie joined YMCA in 2021 as an HR apprentice and within a short period of time, she has inspired, influenced and led her peers, volunteers and service users across YMCA North Tyneside’s functions.

Charlie continually goes above and beyond to serve others. Alongside her day to day role, she organises events for staff across YMCA, doing her best to include those who work from home or away from HQ offices. Charlie seeks out opportunities to further her development as well as looking at more ways to make YMCA North Tyneside a better place to work or experience.

Charlie is now a Youth Ambassador and without any prompt she brings back her learning to share with YMCA North Tyneside. She volunteers for many events such as Picnic in the Park (celebrating Founder’s Day), Sleep Easy and Community Meals, as well as volunteering for other charities and good causes. Charlie never fails to step up and recently stepped in to help YMCA’s Leaders for Life programme, delivering sessions alongside corporate partners to young people who are 16-25 and NEET.

Charlie is a credit to the YMCA and clearly has the YMCA’s values and ethics embedded in the work she does. Her office is always open even when she is snowed under with work she still finds the time to help staff and does this with a smile.

Beth Fox | YMCA Norfolk

Beth is the manager of YMCA Norfolk’s 90-place nursery, Muddy Puddles, and joined YMCA Norfolk in 2020 as their first ever nursery manager for their very first nursery. She was tasked with kitting out the nursery, promoting places to parents, recruiting childcare staff, developing a curriculum and much more. In just two years Beth has exceeded budget projections, enabling a financially sustainable nursery – which this year was also awarded on their first Ofsted visit.

Beth has displayed outstanding leadership skills and continuously worked hard to source the very best equipment for the nursery, utilising her experience within childcare to ensure everything had an educational purpose for our nursery children. She was quick to understand the values of YMCA and works hard to share these values with her nursery colleagues.

She is a hands-on childcare practitioner, committed to ensuring our nursery children are given the very best start in life. She has recruited a team of inspiring nursery nurses, which has led to amazing feedback from parents, who say Muddy Puddles has hugely ramped up their child’s development and they are confident they are leaving their children in a caring, fun and supportive environment.

Despite challenging times for the childcare sector, YMCA Norfolk is proud to say that thanks to Beth’s hard work and dedication, they have a beautiful nursery space with an ever-growing demand to recruit more staff. The current nursery team say Beth is an excellent leader, compassionate and willing to listen to others, an inspiration who leads by example and always has positive energy and lifts morale.

Overall, Beth has been a fantastic addition to the organisation, with much excitement in store for the future as Muddy Puddles continues to grow.

Jessica Purchase | One YMCA

Jessica’s tireless support of Airplay, the RAF Benevolent Fund’s youth support programme, and its young members is truly admirable. Airplay, delivered by a consortium of 11 YMCA including lead organisation One YMCA and in conjunction with RAF Community Support, creates a community where the children and young people of RAF families can belong, contribute and thrive. Jessica,14, faces unique challenges, as with all young people in RAF families, only last year relocating from RAF Benson to RAF Henlow.

Over the last year Jessica has been fantastic at contributing to the youth forum at Airplay Benson and instigating a youth forum at Airplay Henlow and is Chairperson, setting agendas and encouraging young people to speak. She served at the Annual Youth Forum 2022, providing evaluation on national projects, initiating and campaigning for further national activities to link the 24 Airplay locations, and has taken a leading role at the Airplay Youth Forum 2023, helping to build the agenda and making decisions on funding applications.

Jessica has also volunteered weekly at Ben Club and Junior Youth Club at Airplay Henlow, running activities, promoting teamwork, helping to settle new members and volunteering at community events, as well as supporting the development of Airplay’s impact measurement tool, enabling young people to self-identify their confidence in a range of situations.

Additionally, Jessica fundraised over £800 to develop a safe space in her youth club, offering a quiet place for young people to relax in what can be a busy environment, highlighting the benefits for young people with mental health concerns and neurodiversity.

Jessica’s confidence and skill set has grown exponentially during her time at Airplay, and they are extremely proud of her achievements.

Nader Bahr | YMCA DownsLink Group

Nader is a Sudanese unaccompanied asylum-seeking child, who lives in our supported housing at Guildford Foyer. He attends ESOL and strives to improve his English.

Nader has had a noticeable impact at Guildford Foyer, with both residents and staff. His caring and nurturing personality means he naturally takes new residents under his wing, showing them around the project, how things work, introducing them to others and helping with orientation within the local area for shops and amenities.

He has accompanied peers to appointments, regularly cooks for others and is always willing to share whatever he has if someone is without or in need – in fact he would insist.

Nader always encourages other residents to take part in activities and events, within project and outside and to mix and socialise with each other as well as joining in himself.

Race, religion, or personality show no boundaries to this young man. He is taking part for the 2nd time in YMCA DownsLink Group’s walk which is a 17.5 mile challenge to raise awareness and funds for YMCA DLG, and of course he’s rounding up others to take part too.

Nader does weekly volunteering with another resident at St Saviour’s Church, and helps to deliver meals prepared for the vulnerable in the local community.

Nader was a natural choice for YMCA DownsLink Group to invite to become a youth representative, as he was already playing the role, and this will allow him to be a voice for the residents at Guildford Foyer. He is also a member of YMCA DLG’s Youth Council. He will be an asset to the youth council. He is a shining example of a young leader.

Chantal Greenfield | YMCA DownsLink Group

Chantal has worked for the YMCA DLG’s WiSE team in Surrey since September 2019, where she began as a Project Worker providing intensive long-term support to children and young people who had experienced sexual exploitation. Chantal created safe spaces for very vulnerable and at-risk young people to be able to understand and explore their experiences of abuse and begin the healing journey.

In 2021, when the opportunity arose, Chantal applied for and was successfully appointed to the WiSE Surrey Managers role. Since being in post Chantal has transformed the service in Surrey through turning her passion and expertise working directly with young people to working strategically, building relationships, and providing clear trauma-informed leadership for her team.

Chantal has done this by creating working links with police, statutory services and third sector organisations to ensure future funding, joined up working, training for staff and advocacy for young people accessing the service.
She has united a dispersed team, creating a supportive culture and bringing a wealth of knowledge and experience to her leadership. Chantal models a trauma-informed approach with young people and staff alike, and is consistently supportive, non-judgmental, and collaborative. She has led a change of culture, creating respectful, safe spaces to share ideas, reflect on language heard or used and inform positive change.

Chantal has continued to provide direct support to young people whilst taking on her management role, advocating for children and ensuring their voice is heard.

Chantal also brings her outside skills of equine therapy support for children with special educational needs and uses this knowledge with WiSE to support continual improvement and learning.

Chantal is a fantastic ambassador for the YMCA DLG WiSE project, championing the voices and experiences of the most vulnerable children and young people in Surrey to ensure they get the most high-quality services they deserve.

Young Worker of the Year

Lizzie Badger | YMCA Trinity Group

Lizzie started at YMCA Trinity Group as an Early Years Apprentice achieving her level 2 and then level 3 diploma early this year with a distinction. Lizzie’s achievement is something we are all proud to share as throughout the apprenticeship Lizzie overcome some challenges including studying during the pandemic and still came out shining.

Since then, she secured a permanent position within our 3 month to 2.5 year old room where the children love her fun and loving spirits. Lizzie will go the extra mile by volunteering to completing sponsored fundraising events to raise money to purchase much needed nursery equipment for the children in her care in order to build a brighter future for them.

Lizzie recognises the first 5 years of a child’s life are crucial, and we feel Lizzie exceeds her job role ensuring the children and families accessing our service receive the best possible start to early education.

She has recently completed her level 3 SENCO training and is extremely passionate to put the children at the center to ensure they thrive and reach their maximum potential and make a real difference to their lives. Lizzie prides herself with parent partnership and will ensure the parents are well informed of their child’s day and achievements.

Lizzie is keen to embrace nature and learning outdoors as she recognises the importance of this to support the children’s mental well-being as well as her own. Lizzie supports children ranging from 3 months to 12 years and is adaptable and inclusive in her practice, the older children love her enthusiasm and will often comment of her fun demeanor in their opportunities to learn in the setting.

Briony Meadows | YMCA Humber

Briony joined YMCA Humber in June 2018 as a 20-year-old Finance Assistant. When she joined she was very shy and lacked confidence, but within a few months of being in the organisation she blossomed and began to really find her feet.

Whilst Briony’s core role is within finance, her passion for supporting and developing young people has really shone through, including when taking a group of young residents on a residential outward bound weekend to develop team working and leadership skills. Briony tirelessly planned, coordinated and managed this residential alongside carrying out her normal day job.

Briony is the first to offer her services to support residents – with anything from making up 74 beds the evening before YMCA Humber moved into their new 21 Freeman Street location, to working night shifts when they have a last minute absence in shift teams.

Briony always goes the extra mile to support YMCA Humber and get involved. This is shown by her commitment to developing resident volunteers – and she can often be found supporting residents in the cafe to use the till when they are busy, and has even waitressed at the volunteer awards to ensure the resident volunteers were able to attend.

Whilst doing this she has been promoted to Finance officer and achieved AAT qualifications and is currently studying for her CIMA Level 4. The young people of YMCA Humber are very lucky indeed to have someone who cares so much. 

James Rodwell | YMCA Norfolk

James has been with YMCA Norfolk for over 6 years and in that time has hugely developed his skills as a youth worker. Hes grown from a property co-ordinator to a committed, passionate Housing Engagement Worker.  

Jamesenthusiasm for the role and dedication to the young people is something that YMCA Norfolk is very proud of. He is an advocate and campaigner for young people’s mental health and works hard to help his clients become fit, healthy and feel a strong sense of community.   

He goes above and beyond his job description and embodies the ethos of the YMCA. He runs many of the positive activities for the residents living at St Pauls Lodge in Great Yarmouth, including the creation and development of a football league which has received great feedback from our clients. It has transformed the wellbeing of many and opened up a world of fitness which they previously hadn’t explored.  

James fully deserves acknowledgement of everything he has achieved in his six years of service and has been praised by his team and line manager as being a key staff member throughout the COVID-19 pandemic: keeping spirits high through challenging times.  

YMCA Norfolk are confident that James will continue managing a programme of brilliant positive activities and continue to be a great role model in the years to come. 

Abbie Wilson | YMCA Norfolk

Abbie has worked for YMCA Norfolk for 4 years, initially as a Pathways Officer, supporting homeless young people with emergency assistance and housing. She now works as a Housing Engagement Worker at YMCA’s Central Housing Unit in Norwich city centre. Central serves as YMCA Norfolk’s most high-risk direct access housing, supporting 38 young people aged 16-25 years old – many of whom have complex needs and require intensive support.  

Theres no doubt that Abbie has transformed the lives of many through her ability to bond with the young people she works with, always offering firm but fair advice, a listening ear and endless amounts of empathy. Many previous clients have praised her for her kindness in times of hardship, and her genuine desire to want the very best for each and every young person she works with.   

Despite facing periods of adversity, Abbie continues to be an excellent role model for YMCA Norfolks young people and a positive influence as the first point of call when enrolling into their housing services. Abbie is also a trauma informed champion and continues to embed this into the service. 

During her time with YMCA Norfolk she has also achieved an Msc in Clinical Psychology while working as a full-time engagement worker, balancing her studies and workload while maintaining commitment to our mission. 

Connor Fenton | YMCA North Tyneside

Ask anyone in the team and the first things they will say about Connor is that he has such a great attitude and is ever willing to lend a hand. Connor goes above and beyond with a genuine interest in YMCA North Tyneside’s volunteers, young people and colleagues.

Since joining YMCA North Tyneside, initially as part of their Gym team and now as a pillar of the Community team, Connor has risen to every task with interest as a totally dependable member of the team.

He has also been integral in helping the Y’s Girls Mentoring project thrive, bringing a warm and personable touch working with both mentors and mentees. Building from that project, which he continues to coordinate, he has become YMCA North Tyneside’s first Volunteer Coordinator in recent memory and has been the definition of the right person for the job.

Thanks in large part to his warm and welcoming presence, as well as solid dependability, within the first six months in this role he has been able to successfully match multitudes of volunteers (both groups and individuals) to roles where they can thrive and further the community spirit of YMCA.As a person with a positive attitude and looks to put others first. YMCA North Tyneside has every confidence that Connor will grow and thrive, as he continues to make an impact in the local community.

Connor’s colleagues attest to the fact that he listens to feedback, puts volunteers first and is a huge credit to the organisation, making an outstanding contribution. He is professional, attentive and inclusive, and the impact of volunteer work organised by Connor has proved instrumental, and will only become even more important moving forward.

Young Volunteer of the Year

Megan Brooks | YMCA Black Country Group

Megan began sessions with YMCA Black Country Group reserved and very attached to her technology, not wanting to engage. She was brought to the sessions mainly to socialise with others, but seeing her Mum become a volunteer and gain confidence seemed to have a positive effect on Megan as she started to engage more in sessions.

Megan started out as an outspoken young person with a lot of struggles at school that impacted on her relationships with others. YMCA Black Country Group worked with Megan on those struggles, and she now uses her articulation skills to support sessions and others whilst occasionally throwing some of her drama skills into the mix to give everyone a giggle.

She has become an upbeat young person with a lot of ideas to drive herself forward and enhance her local community. Megan is keen to share all her ideas and see change where she can, so giving her a safe space to apply those ideas has really benefited both Megan and YMCA. She is now seen as a Community Champion as she gets involved with other community projects

Megan embodies a Young Leader as she has great leadership skills and she uses these weekly at the sessions she attends, building positive relationships and being a good role model, especially to those younger than herself. She is happiest when others around her are succeeding. She is one of the project’s biggest cheerleaders and advocate.

Quinn Walker | YMCA St Paul's Group

Quinn started his volunteering journey with YMCA St Paul’s Group for his Duke of Edinburgh award. He was also able to get together a team of young people to sign up and led them in tasks that supported the running of community cafe. They undertook cleaning tasks to a high standard, with Quinn standing out because of his initiative. He also participated in Foodbank sessions where he served the community food and drinks.

Quinn had conversations with those in need within the community and the staff team observed that he was very understanding, gentle and non-judgemental. He served them as he would want to be served. He is very intuitive and used a person-centred approach every time he volunteered. His want to improve his community and demonstrations of understanding that we are all different but human really translates.

Quinn was able to enrich the lives of others and has set up rooms for community events, providing a high level of listening and direction for his team.

Tianna Cummings | YMCA St Paul's Group

Tianna started her volunteering journey with YMCA St Paul’s Group for her Duke of Edinburgh award and has showed dedication by also volunteering during the school holidays. She has taken part in several ad hoc tasks and has an affinity with the art group which has a regular session at the White House.

She has formed an intergenerational bond and is keen to support members of the community who are experiencing isolation and loneliness, with a community run art group throughout the summer holidays. Tianna has also supported all day events at the White House with a range of hospitality and cleaning duties, as well as giving the community a warm welcome and holistic approach to supporting them on their visit.

Temesgen Beyena | YMCA DownsLink Group

Temegsan is an unaccompanied asylum-seeking young person from Ethiopia. English is not his first language and he studies ESOL at Guildford college. He is a modest young man who is kind, thoughtful, always willing to help out others by taking part in whatever is offered.

Temesgan was the first to sign up when YMCA DownsLink Group asked young people to take part in a corporate sponsor cycling challenge, which involved two Peloton bikes in the office, cycling as far as they could in 30 minutes – cycling the furthest of all participants. Temesgan also helped all day when some volunteers from a local church came in to build a bike shelter for YMCA residents, and volunteers weekly with a local organisation who make meals those in need in Guildford. Temesgan’s supervisor credits him as a fantastic addition to the Meals for You kitchen team, always using his initiative and demonstrating his interested in improving both his English and his general understanding of kitchen rules and procedures. He is a crucial member of the team.

Mayzee Scullion | YMCA Heart of England

Mayzee is such an inspirational young person, one who never allows her additional needs to get the better of her and smashes through every barrier to reach her fullest potential.

Mayzee joined YMCA Heart of England as a young person and quickly portrayed leadership, enthusiasm and the drive to take up every opportunity given to her.

YMCA Heart of England happily invited Mayzee onto the YMCA Youth Ambassador Programme, where she bravely and openly spoke about her stammer and used her personal experience to inspire others.

From there, she then learned how to support her peers and be a part of a volunteer group by delivering activities and talks in sessions, using her expertise and interest in sports – specifically Rugby – to deliver further opportunities to young people.

Mayzee has supported YMCA by being a fantastic advocate for youth voice with media and videos supporting funding applications and implementing change to policies and procedures. Additionally, outside of YMCA and School, Mayzee volunteers every Saturday for the Wasps Rugby team and plays an integral role in their community.

Mayzee always brings positivity, humour, honesty and empathy and YMCA Heart of England believe she deserves recognition for all of her hard work and efforts, and to prove the importance of inclusivity, diversity and opportunities in breaking down barriers for young people.

Young Achiever of the Year

Randy Yescar | YMCA DownsLink Group

Randy is an Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking young person, from Nicaragua. An exemplary resident who YMCA DownsLink Group credit as a pleasure to work with and support.

After successfully enrolling into mainstream education in September 2022, Randy remains second in his class with A Level Biology, Chemistry and Physical Education. Randy has worked hard to adjust to the English schooling system and has been selected as a prospective applicant to Oxbridge universities, as well as being nominated for an award in the PE department. He was also selected by the local Football Team, Guildford United FC, a testament to his commitment to the community.

Randy has ambitions to be a Physiotherapist and independently secured two work experience programmes at Royal Surrey County Hospital Physio Clinic and Allen Physio Clinic. In addition, he has been accepted onto a Paramedic Sciences Summer School programme at the University of Surrey. Randy hopes this will further his knowledge and help him network with professionals to enhance his knowledge of physiotherapy.

Randy is well respected by staff at the Foyer and other external agencies, and was invited to join a Young Leaders programme, learning about legal rights, and how to champion change by supporting each other on their path to adulthood. This is vital for his voluntary role in Refugee Week 2023, during which Randy is coordinating and marketing two events taking place in Summer.

Randy’s resilience and ability to problem solve became crucial after receiving the challenging news that his first asylum application was not accepted. Using initiative, he sourced witness statements and organised his own meetings to grant him the best chance of a successful appeal. Although Randy travelled alone to the UK, he works incredibly hard in all aspects of his life surrounded by friends and colleagues that believe in him and share his ambitions.

Emily Lowe | YMCA St Helens

15-year-old Emily accessed support via The Listening Service as she was struggling with the effects of the pandemic. She suffered from social anxiety, low mood, and poor self-esteem. This, along with conflict in her friendship group, impacted her school life and made her feel unheard and underappreciated, as well as doubt whether she was liked by her peers and family. Emily isolated herself and was worried about expressing her own thoughts and emotions, not feeling comfortable enough to open up.

Emily has thrived whilst being supported, working closely with a Listener, she has learnt the knowledge and skills to gain a better sense of wellbeing and put this into practice. She has overcome her anxiety and dealt with her negative thought processes, discovering ways to build and strengthen positive friendships, and is now able to express herself confidently.

Emily has led the development of a Stepping-Stones group to support other young people suffering with anxiety and negative feeling as she once did. Working as a peer group leader, she oversees the running of the group and uses her own ideas to guide staff in ensuring it remains a safe space. Her self-esteem and confidence are soaring, and she uses this newfound self-assurance to support others, proving herself to be a positive influence, role model and mentor. She shows dedication to the service and its staff and is passionate about mental health and teaching others how to gain a better sense of wellbeing.

Even though Emily is still going through challenges, her resilience and determination means she is still taking time out to attend the service whilst studying for her GCSE exams.  Emily is a true inspiration and asset to the service.

Ronin Walter | Central YMCA

Ronin has a high level of autism, which effects social and emotional difficulties. The day Central YMCA met Ronin, he was a shell of the person he is now, very reserved with his communication and isolated from the rest of the team, using very limited vocabulary when interacting with others.

Since then, his change in personality and confidence has skyrocketed. With a sense of humour that is so infectious, he has all learners and staff in heaps of laughter. When Ronin enters a room, he instantly lifts the mood with his kind-hearted, loving nature.

And his achievements in this time have been truly inspiring, regularly helping out with delivering food to elderly people in the local area. Ronin used to be assisted with this but due to his huge growth in confidence, he now does this independently, which is a huge step forward for him.

On a recent trip, Ronin showed great courage and confidence despite it being his first time away from home without his parents and was keen to take part in everything.

Whilst doing his GCSE Maths, Ronin’s ambition led him to wanting to complete his GCSE English exam too, showing a huge amount of confidence and bravery to attend and complete his GCSE English alongside his Maths – even not knowing until the day of the exam that he was going to take it.

Ronin’s drastically positive change from the beginning of the academic year up until now is truly inspiring. The whole team are extremely proud of his accomplishments, and excited to see what the future holds for him.

Josh Lancaster | YMCA DownsLink Group

Josh arrived with YMCA DownsLink Group with very little confidence. He had unfortunately experienced a relationship breakdown with his parents and to find himself in a position where he was living independently, was obviously hugely challenging.

Josh had to adjust and embraced the support on offer, enabling him to learn to live in a different environment. Staff helped him work through practical tasks such as budgeting skills, tenancy sustainment, cooking, and sourcing employment. It became apparent that Josh needed reassurance and support to navigate his way through various difficult times.

But slowly Josh gained his confidence, he secured employment and alongside this played an integral role within Grove House showing a calm, compassionate nature.

From the get go it was clear that Josh wanted to engage with support and was willing to participate in various activities to raise awareness for YMCA, including completing last year’s sponsored walk with YMCA DownsLink Group. He was nervous to begin with however rose to the challenge and soon began to speak and join in with the other participants. He succeeded in completing the walk and raised awareness for YMCA and Grove House through local media coverage.

Josh expressed a huge sense of achievement which seemed to boost his confidence and he has now accepted the role of the Youth Ambassador for YMCA England & Wales. He has already attended his first meeting which included travelling in London – which staff had offered to support him with – but Josh really wanted to do this independently, and it was a great success. Josh is excited about what this opportunity will offer him and believes that it will build a solid foundation for his future. Josh has since moved to YMCA DownsLink Group’s transitional housing and has a full-time job.

Craig Mckenna | YMCA Plymouth

Craig joined YMCA Plymouth’s Discovery College in 2019, progressing from one of the Special Schools in Plymouth, which he attended due to additional support requirements such as identified learning and emotional needs.

When Craig arrived at YMCA, he was struggling to come to terms with the loss of a close family member, but despite this, he had the goal of becoming a Teaching Assistant to help other young people.

Craig studied Level 2 & 3 Childcare, Maths and English courses at Discovery College, achieving fantastic results for all these qualifications and winning Student of the Year.

Alongside his studies, Craig became a Student Ambassador, becoming a role model for others, telling other young people about YMCA opportunities at recruitment events, and volunteering time to support vital fundraising events. He has also become a celebrated alumnus of his previous school.

Overcoming barriers both personally and academically meant that Craig has matured into an outstanding young man. He has faced challenges within his family life which could have disrupted his education – but he did not allow that to happen. He faced challenges educationally, as his learning was impacted by the pandemic, but he never gave up.

He also faced challenges with his peers, partly due to being the only male in the class, however, Craig navigated each difficult situation resolutely, positively, and with his signature sense of humour.

Always willing to help, Craig earned the respect of his peers, staff, and those in the community – he completed 1,000 hours of voluntary work in childcare settings.

Earlier this year, Craig got in touch to let staff at YMCA Plymouth know that he had successfully secured his dream Teaching Assistant job in a local primary school, for which he was up against graduates and applicants with much more experience than him. His journey and achievements are something that everyone is very proud of.

Health & Wellbeing Project of the Year

Wilmorton Community Gardens | YMCA Derbyshire

Wilmorton Community Gardens is an ongoing Health and Wellbeing project that has significantly transformed lives and fostered positive change within the YMCA Derbyshire community over the last 12 months. A sanctuary of wellness and learning, it offers a space for individuals served by YMCA Derbyshire to find solace, cultivate new skills, and embark on a journey towards self-improvement.

This year, YMCA Derbyshire has been putting in a significant effort to transform the area into a Community Wellbeing space, which involved clearing 1600m² of space, removing 64 tonnes of debris, clearing rampant weeds, and resurfacing the communal areas. Throughout this, YMCA residents have gained valuable life skills around running projects, horticulture, and carpentry; learning how to upcycle and make fencing and benches out of discarded pallets.

YMCA Derbyshire has also recently been successful in a bid with the Youth Investment Fund as one of four pilot projects in the UK to receive funding to build a green hub, which will be used as a learning centre for local communities, including running forest schools, YMCA Key College courses and YMCA Health and Wellbeing events.

YMCA Derbyshire’s first public ‘Small Talks, Big Difference’ event was held this year during Mental Health Awareness Week, where residents and members of the community came together to toast marshmallows over an open fire, with a fire side chat around mental health.

Moreover, volunteering at the Wilmorton Community Gardens has become a lifeline for individuals like Richard, a YMCA resident who credits the allotments with giving his life direction after struggling with depression and anxiety. After learning how to build different things from wood, Richard has now set up his own carpentry business.

This project has already amassed an astounding 2,560 volunteered hours, demonstrating the unwavering commitment and dedication of the entire community. Made possible by our Health and Wellbeing team, our YMCA Key College learners, YMCA residents and local businesses including, Tesco, Derbion, Morrisons, Cawarden, Veolia, Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, Toyota, Alstom, and Co-op, who have dedicated time, resources and goods equating to £6,600.

Accessible Allotment | YMCA Trinity Group

Following the success of their allotment programme with young people, YMCA Trinity Group wanted to expand their work to be inclusive as possible, regardless of age, background or ability. Unfortunately, the plots received in their initial state were not suitable and so over the last year they have transformed a derelict overgrown piece of land into a fully accessible outdoor horticultural space. The space is wheelchair accessible with purpose built raised beds, pond, greenhouse and activity area. The plot provides the local community with an accessible therapeutic space for people to interact with nature and the outdoor world.

Developing this has provided opportunities for social engagements, interactions and has brought together younger and older generations to learn together and from each other through taking part in meaningful activities with a common purpose. Nursery children and young people visit alongside local care home residents, including those with a dementia.

This intergenerational work builds on the strengths that different generations have to offer, it nurtures understanding and mutual respect and fosters genuine community.

Residents enjoy the sense of fun and energy that children and young people bring, whilst children and young people build social and communication skills, learn about gardening, share ideas and try new things. It provides a sense of connection with the community, reducing social isolation and combating negative stereotypes. Overall, it enables otherwise isolated generations to interact, expanding their worlds and bringing more joy to their lives.

With a shared interest in gardening, this also increases physical activity and helps people to stay healthy and active, while spending time outdoors and tending to plants, reduces stress and promotes a sense of accomplishment. Everyone has a role and a purpose, enhancing confidence, self-worth, and psychological wellbeing.

Wren's Nest Navigators | YMCA Black Country Group

Wren’s Nest Navigators is a project designed to support the health and wellbeing of families and individuals who live in the Wren’s Nest and Priory area of Dudley.

The project works closely with residents of the Wren’s Nest Community in Dudley, consulting with residents to find out what support they need and develop sessions with them to help them thrive.

The project is holistic in its approach, including: Mental Wellbeing Workshops and Counselling; Jobs Club and Digital Skills Training; Cook and Eat Workshops; Creative wellbeing sessions; Physical activity and sports; Playgroups; Fun days out to local attractions; and One-to-one support.

The project is led by a team of 18 volunteers, many of whom have benefitted personally from the project as a service user in the past and have now chosen to give their time to support others. Over the past year, the project has supported 195 individuals through more than 300 activity sessions.

Doing Sport Differently | YMCA Lincolnshire

Doing Sport Differently (DSD) has worked with more than 100 young people across Lincolnshire in both schools and after-school/holiday clubs. The after-school sports club have become a community for young people with SEND and physical disabilities to unwind and make new friends. Young people love going to the club and taking part in fun, adapted sports games which get everyone moving and laughing.

In the group, YMCA Lincolnshire has seen young people grow into young leaders, where the older cohort will encourage and comfort younger members of the group to take part and overcome challenges.

The school’s side of the project has engaged with five SEND schools over the county this academic year, bringing fun from the club into the classroom. Young people are offered an extra PE lesson, provided by YMCA Lincolnshire, and schools have noted that young people taking part in the activities are supporting each other within the classroom and now have a more positive outlook on the school day.

The Listening Service | YMCA St Helen's

The Listening Service launched in February 2022, aimed at 12-to-18-year-olds seeking help for mental health concerns. It provides a mix of one-to-one preventative listening support, post-crisis support (to young people who have experienced a mental health crisis), and group-based activities. These enable young people to develop tools, motivation, and skills to meet their own needs around mental health, empowering them to live healthy balanced lives.

It also works to establish positive and meaningful relationships, role models and support-networks, reducing feelings of isolation or loneliness. The Listening Service aims to empower young people to make a positive impact in their lives and in their local community, increasing their decision making, leadership, and self-care skills, and understanding the effect these choices have on mental health.

In 12 months, YMCA St Helen’s received 257 referrals and were able to support 143 young people via one-to-one preventative listening support sessions, 30 young people via post-crisis support and 23 young people via group activities. Young people reported a 91% average improvement in how they would rate their mental wellbeing before and after receiving this support, with parents/guardians reporting a 121% average improvement in their child’s mental wellbeing.

Furthermore, 100% of young people reported an improvement in their self-confidence/ self-esteem and an increase in their ability to know how to ease their anxiety. 96% reported an increase in knowing what to do to lift their mood when feeling low, and an increase in their ability to cope when things go wrong for them. 89% reported a decrease in the negative impact anxiety has on their life, as well as an increase in their knowledge of who and where to ask for help with their mental health and wellbeing. Finally, 86% reported an increased understanding of mental health and wellbeing in general.

What makes this programme unique and innovative, especially amongst local CYP mental health services, is that YMCA St Helen’s allows young people to be in control of every aspect of their support, including what takes place in their sessions.

Housing Project of the Year

The Community Housing Project | YMCA North Staffordshire

The Community Housing Project offers young people in Stoke on Trent the opportunity to live independently at an affordable price. Properties come part-furnished, ensuring all necessities of independent living are provided so that young people can start out with minimal cost or stress.

The project consists of two models; the ‘Affordable Housing Model’ which offers independent living to young professionals and/or students on a low income, and the ‘Supported Housing Model’, available to young people with low level support needs that are in receipt of benefits.

YMCA North Staffordshire considers the Community Housing Project as the final chapter of the YMCA service user journey. Community Housing Officers offer a bespoke support service to all occupants which equips them in developing the skills to live independently and effectively integrate into the community.

The project offers more than just housing; it offers a sense of community and access to support for all occupants, no matter their circumstances. YMCA North Staffordshire has housed a total of 130 young people locally since the project began in 2016, 62 of whom have gone on to secure tenancies or mortgages of their own.


YMCA North Staffordshire is currently housing 60 young people and have supported with the planned move on of 14 young people/families over the past 12 months.

With the encouragement of their support worker, one of the tenants has now become a YMCA North Staffordshire volunteer with the Activities Team, as well as being a member of the Youth Governance Team, giving young people in the local area a voice and contributing to causes impacting young people. Another tenant was recently offered fixed hours on the YMCA campus following their own volunteering journey, and are now a permanent staff member across two departments.

Walthamstow Young Person's Project | YMCA St Paul's Group

YMCA St Paul’s Group’s Walthamstow Young Person’s Project (YPP) supports young people who are homeless and/or at risk, aged between 16 and 21, offering housing alongside tailored support in 1-2-1 sessions and group support. All referrals are received via Waltham Forest Council, with the project offering 33 beds in total.

Many residents have been street homeless before living with YMCA St Paul’s Group or have been in the Care System. Many have a range of complex needs and mental health difficulties, come from broken families and homes, or are fleeing domestic violence.
Over the past 12 months, the YPP has supported 57 young residents; helped 24 residents move on to independent living; supported six residents with access to Release Counselling Services to support their mental health; and five residents have signed up to become Residents Representatives for YMCA, enabling them to share their voice on the support available for young people locally.

Many of the residents have accomplished great achievements whilst living at the YPP, including Jahâ kiyah , who moved in after a family breakdown and has now become a Residents Representative, meeting with YMCA St Paul’s Group CEO, Executive Team, and Trustees to provide valuable input on how they can best deliver the services residents need. She has also started employment as a Housing Support Worker at St Mungo’s, using her own lived experience to support others in their journey to independent living.
Ismat, another current resident and refugee from Afghanistan, has recently completed a two-year BTEC in Automotive Engineering as well as training and competing in boxing competitions.

Thrive Into Work | YMCA Black Country Group

YMCA Black Country Group have long been frustrated with the inadequacies of the housing system in supporting young people to be aspirational, economically active and to be able to move on to independent living when they are ready.

Residents shared that they felt trapped in high rent supported housing, dis-incentivised and unable to work, unable to save, at risk of getting into debt if they choose to work and worried about their future.
For those residents who do start working, their Housing Benefit entitlement is affected, and they have to make a larger self-rent contribution. Consequently, YMCA Black Country Group experienced residents not disclosing they were in work in the first place, accruing high arrears which put their accommodation at risk, which then affects their ability to move on. Residents may also abandon their accommodation to avoid payments, moving on from the accommodation before their support needs had been fully met and resulting in revolving door homelessness. YMCA Black Country Group had had enough, and decided to take action by finding a way to support residents into work whilst living in supported housing.

As such, the Thrive into Work Project was launched in 2022, a scheme which enables YMCA to provide a bursary to young people in work for a three month period, ultimately reducing their self-rent contributions and enabling them to save at least £400 over three months.

By providing the Thrive into Work incentive YMCA Black Country Group has seen residents being more upfront with staff when they start working, and Housing Staff therefore being able to work with them more effectively to budget appropriately; arrears are reduced, and less residents are abandoning their accommodation as a way of avoiding higher contributions. Residents also don’t feel rushed into leaving supported housing just because they are in work, thus reducing the revolving door of homelessness. As a result, residents are motivated to be economically active and better positioned to start saving.

YMCA MK Campus | YMCA Milton Keynes

YMCA Milton Keynes’ flagship campus has been open since 2020, housing more than 200 young people at any one time, and supporting an average of 400 young people each year, providing practical, emotional and employment support to empower residents to go on to lead happy, healthy and independent lives.

Housing is provided over three stages: supported living which offers the highest level of care; shared or ‘cluster’ living similar in style to university; and finally independent living with a self-contained studio apartment at an affordable cost.

In the financial year 2022/23 YMCA MK housed 371 people across all 3 stages, ensuring these young people not only had safe and secure accommodation but also holistic support services to ensure they were able to thrive. In the same year 83 young people moved into stage 1, many of whom had complex needs in addition to housing that YMCA MK were able to support with.

Key achievements of the housing project include: 111 young people had a positive move-out from YMCA MK; three had been able to save enough to purchase their own home; 33% went on to independent rental accommodation; more than 50% of young people in stage 1 engaged with the support pathway and moved up to stage 2 or 3.
Support work and this housing project combined have supported young people into 177 jobs, 44 educational opportunities and 10 volunteer roles in the year 2022/23, something that would not be possible without the holistic support of staff and the wellbeing associated with having safe, affordable and quality accommodation.

The YMCA MK campus provides an average of 630 hours of activity per month for all residents and some members of the community referred by youth mentoring programmes. The housing team provide an average of 200 support sessions per month for residents across all stages of the pathway, with an asset-based, trauma informed approach embedded in everything they do.

Parent and Baby House | YMCA Humber

The parent and baby house is an exceptional initiative that has been developed out of a genuine local need, and has had a profound impact on the lives of single new mothers facing the risk of homelessness and losing their children due to challenges beyond their control.

The parent and baby house was established in April 2022, and provides a safe and nurturing environment for four single new mothers, offering them a lifeline during a vulnerable period in their lives.

What sets the parent and baby house apart is its holistic approach to care. In addition to providing accommodation, the house offers floating support to its residents. This vital support helps the mothers develop the necessary skills and confidence to navigate the challenges they are facing.

Collaboration lies at the heart of the parent and baby house’s success. Working hand in hand with dedicated NHS staff, local midwives, and North East Lincolnshire social services, this exceptional project creates a network of support that extends beyond the walls of the house. By forging strong partnerships with these professionals, the parent and baby house ensures that the residents receive comprehensive care, addressing both their physical and emotional wellbeing.

The impact of the parent and baby house cannot be overstated. Residents have successfully transitioned to independent living, marking a significant milestone in their journey towards self-sufficiency. The dedication and commitment of the staff and volunteers at the parent and baby house has helped transform the lives of these young mothers, offering them the opportunity to break free from the cycle of homelessness and secure a better future for themselves and their children.

Beyond providing a safe haven, the parent and baby house goes the extra mile to empower its residents. It actively encourages the mothers to engage in first aid training, equipping them with essential life-saving skills that boost their confidence and nurture a sense of self-worth.

Training & Education Project of the Year

Launchpad Live | YMCA Plymouth

Launchpad Live is an interactive careers expo for young people, bringing together over 2,000 young people with employers, training providers and careers guidance experts for an inspiring two-day event aimed at raising aspirations for young people.

Due to its popularity and positive impact, two other spin-off careers events have also been delivered by YMCA Plymouth this year: ‘Engineering Her Future’ – an event aimed at promoting STEM opportunities to over 300 girls – and ‘The Big Parents Evening’ – an informational evening offering a chance for over 450 parents and guardians to better equip themselves with knowledge about the future career opportunities for their children. Over 50 employers and training providers have been involved alongside 17 schools across these events. Launchpad Live was pitched to the local authority in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, where YMCA Plymouth research showed a huge amount of anxiety among young people about meeting employers, and a deep lack of understanding about the opportunities available to them.

Launchpad Live addresses this, not only by simply hosting an event targeted at young people but by making it a uniquely interactive experience, meaning that stalls and zones at the expo must have to have an interactive element, enabling young people to practically engage, learn and have fun with hands-on activities. Whether it’s diving into our oceans to fix a pipeline in Virtual Reality at the engineering zone, learning how to plaster a wall in the construction zone, or donning a theatre costume and unleashing their acting skills in the arts zone, young people get to learn about the world of opportunities open to them like never before.

Surveying young people themselves shows the massive difference the event makes: 96% of young people said they learned about opportunities they had never heard of before; 60% said they had changed their career aspirations; and 85% said that it helped them feel more confident about their future.

Progression Team | YMCA St Paul’s Group

YMCA St Paul’s Group’s Progression Team began in September 2022 and since January 2023 has been running a full timetable for residents in housing schemes across London. The Progression Team aims to provide holistic support for all residents and aspires to develop their full potential in mind, body and spirit, inspired by, and faithful to, YMCA’s Christian Values.

Between April 2022 and March 2023, the Progression Team has worked with 674 young people through more than 1,000 sessions, covering a range of topics including employment skills, volunteering, budgeting, move on housing, driving theory practice, health and wellbeing, youth involvement and empowerment, as well as a range of projects including art and crafts, drama, gardening and music.

There have also been informally organised opportunities to come together to celebrate landmarks such as the Jubilee and World Earth Day by planting trees and flowers at some YMCA sites, as well as celebrations for Black History Month with outings and in-house get-togethers.

YMCA St Paul’s Group’s Progression Team has recently been approved as an AQA Unit Award Centre, which will allow them to offer accredited programmes and tie that accreditation to their workshops.

Two residents gained employment at their YMCA Wimbledon building site by attending the employment sessions. Partnership work has developed between Wimbledon YMCA and Merton Citizens, with training designed by YMCA residents and staff on how to communicate with those who are experiencing homelessness, which was endorsed by Council Leaders.

EVOLVE | YMCA Brighton

EVOLVE helps people living in supported housing or accessing homelessness services in the city of Brighton and Hove to achieve their work, learning or volunteering aspirations.

YMCA Brighton is proud to be a client led service which uses a coaching model that offers structure and direction but also fidelity to the principle that coaching should guide and not instruct. They have worked with 61 clients over the last year and 33 clients have achieved a work, learning or volunteering goal through this. In fact, many have achieved multiple goals in each area. Highlights include: a client building confidence by attending an understanding autism course, then moving into volunteering with an eco-therapy centre and developing their IT skills on a course alongside this; and a client building their confidence by volunteering for a local LGBTQ charity, whilst applying for a counselling course.

Weekly coaching has helped young people in the programme to formulise plans and offered support to achieve their aspirations, with a number of client testimonials on offer.

EVOLVE’s building offers a relaxed, inclusive space where YMCA Brighton’s client community can steer the service using the ‘My EVOLVE, my VOICE’ forum which sits monthly and has helped inform the direction and message of the service, including input on an accessibility audit. The client community and small staff team work hard to ensure the service is a psychologically informed environment, and how the service feels to its users is of fundamental importance.

YMCA Brighton has created a relaxed, calm, welcoming environment that allows clients to feel safe to begin planning their future. From this environment, YMCA Brighton also run a monthly timetable of activities for people to access the service in a different way by dropping into a workshop, with a range of creative options on offer, including collage and vision boards and themed creative tasks to mark events such as deaf awareness week, mental health awareness week and internal day against LGBTQ phobia.

Employability Project | YMCA Milton Keynes

YMCA Milton Keynes residents have a range of complex issues and support needs beyond housing which often mean that traditional routes into employment are not viable, and that additional work needs to be done with them in order to get them ‘job-ready’. Their Employment Coaches support young people using an asset-based, trauma informed approach.

87% of residents in Stage 1, Supported Living are NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training). At YMCA Milton Keynes, supporting residents into employment that is both meaningful and sustainable is vital to our ethos.

Over the last financial year, YMCA Milton Keynes has supported 109 young people into 171 jobs – a 73% increase on the previous year. In addition, they have supported residents into 44 educational opportunities (from a degree in psychology to gaining a CSCS card) and helped 10 young people with volunteering roles.

Employability support at YMCA Milton Keynes is varied and bespoke. In 2022/23 they provided 1422 employment sessions (over 100 per month) and 1228 hours of training. 60% of residents with a positive move out were working when they left YMCA Milton Keynes.

Their housing pathway is a three-year cycle, and their support programme works to that timescale. YMCA Milton Keynes understand that change is difficult, not always linear, and that people take time to grow, develop, and build confidence, self-esteem, and motivation. The young person who graduates from the campus is likely to be very different from the young person who came to them three years before. YMCA’s job is to ensure that this change is positive and that positive change can be sustained.

Refugee Realities | YMCA Crewe

In July 2022, YMCA Crewe launched the ‘Refugee Realities’ project, a training and education programme for 11-16 year olds which is dispelling myths and combatting stereotypes surrounding Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children.

Centred around an audio recording of the real story of an Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Child who was supported by YMCA Crewe, the programme consists of a series of discussions, activities and lesson plans exploring the realities of life for Refugees and Asylum Seekers living in Cheshire East. The pack was designed with support from Keele University, and YMCA Crewe consulted with a number of professionals supporting Refugees and Asylum Seekers living in their local community. The content is non-biased and non-political, instead just focusing on facts and real-life experiences which has helped to maximise support from local education providers.

In its first year the resources have been requested by more than a third of secondary schools in Cheshire East, and the programme has been delivered to more than 1000 young people. Feedback from both teachers and students has been positive, and the activities are helping young people living in Cheshire East to feel better informed about the realities of being a refugee in the UK, and feel empowered to challenge incorrect stereotypes and prejudice.

The project has been endorsed by the Director of Cheshire East Council, and YMCA Crewe have had interest from the Local Governments Association in rolling out the pack nationally as a Government recommended Best Practice Resource.

The project also won the Keele University ‘Breaking the Mould’ award for Social Inclusion in October 2022, and the Foyer Federation’s Room for Young People award for Community Engagement in February 2023.

Over the next 12 months, YMCA Crewe hope to build on this success by creating a digital platform for the resources, which will improve accessibility for delivery in non-formal education settings, such as scouts and guides, youth groups, and sports teams. They also want to build connections with more Refugees and Asylum Seekers living locally, and give them the opportunity to share their stories in a safe and trusted way through the digital platform.

The Refugees Realities project is already changing the narrative around Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Unaccompanied Children living in Cheshire East, and there is a lot of excitment to see how it develops over the coming months.

Award Sponsors

Support & Advice Project of the Year

YMCA St Paul's Group Progression Team | YMCA St Paul’s Group

YMCA St Paul’s Group’s Progression Team began in September 2022 and since January 2023 has been running a full timetable for residents in housing schemes across London. The Progression Team aims to provide holistic support for all residents and aspires to develop their full potential in mind, body and spirit, inspired by, and faithful to, YMCA’s Christian Values.

Between April 2022 and March 2023, the Progression Team has worked with 674 young people through more than 1,000 sessions, covering a range of topics including employment skills, volunteering, budgeting, move on housing, driving theory practice, health and wellbeing, youth involvement and empowerment, as well as a range of projects including art and crafts, drama, gardening and music.

There have also been informally organised opportunities to come together to celebrate landmarks such as the Jubilee and World Earth Day by planting trees and flowers at some YMCA sites, as well as celebrations for Black History Month with outings and in-house get-togethers.

YMCA St Paul’s Group’s Progression Team has recently been approved as an AQA Unit Award Centre, which will allow them to offer accredited programmes and tie that accreditation to their workshops.

Two residents gained employment at their YMCA Wimbledon building site by attending the employment sessions. Partnership work has developed between Wimbledon YMCA and Merton Citizens, with training designed by YMCA residents and staff on how to communicate with those who are experiencing homelessness, which was endorsed by Council Leaders.

Creating a Culture of Collaboration | YMCA Brighton

Supporting the homelessness community in Brighton and Hove is at the heart of YMCA Brighton. Their goal is to make a positive impact on the lives of individuals by providing them with the support and housing they need to thrive and live independent and fulfilling lives.

During the pandemic, everyone faced unique challenges, and people struggled to retain control of their lives. YMCA Brighton focused on empowering their clients, restoring their sense of control, and rebuilding community within their own projects. Through that work, YMCA Brighton have strengthened their commitment to involving clients in decision-making, promoting collaboration, and giving a voice to those who so often lack choice and control.

By valuing their service users’ experiences and encouraging them to share their perspectives and skills, YMCA Brighton have greatly enhanced their support services, and seen incredible growth in the confidence and abilities of residents and service users. They have taken on responsibilities, provided peer support, and actively participated in workshops alongside staff, a collaborative approach which has resulted in personal and professional growth for our clients.

A key example of the positive impact of service user involvement can be seen in YMCA Brighton’s Client Appreciation Awards, which has grown year on year, shaped by clients’ own visions of how to celebrate their successes. At this event, staff and clients come together to celebrate achievements big and small, share performances and poetry, present awards, and foster a strong sense of community.

Listening to clients and taking action based on their feedback has resulted in significant changes to YMCA Brighton support services and client experience overall.
This type of involvement in staff development shapes the formation of YMCA Brighton, its leadership, and support staff.

YMCA Brighton also expanded their peer support opportunities, supporting clients to induct volunteers, formally appreciate each other’s achievements, and share their perspectives on independent living. Through these means, YMCA Brighton has fostered closer relationships and improved communication between clients and board members, to ensure clients’ voices are heard at all levels.

George Williams Award | YMCA Black Country Group

As in all YMCA Supported Housing, YMCA Black Country Group aim to equip their young people with the skills they need to live independently and use a range of support and advice methodologies to achieve this. However, staff felt that some tools we were using lacked structure, didn’t support residents’ person-centred learning appropriately and didn’t enable the young person to belong, contribute and thrive as actively as they could.

The team decided therefore to create their own bespoke Support & Advice package to enable young people in supported housing to thrive. The ‘George Williams Award’ was therefore co-designed and launched as a programme to enable young people to develop their skills and reach their potential.

It challenges residents to engage in group sessions and one to ones to complete modules such as ‘How Clean is Your House’, ‘Sensible Spending’, and ‘Feel Good Factor’, and enables young people to belong by encouraging them to find more out about the area they live in.

There are three levels to the Support & Advice package, and successful completion of all 3 levels is an indication that the resident is ready to move-on to independent living and greater independence.

At the beginning of 2023 YMCA Black Country Group held their first annual ‘George Williams Awards Night’ where residents who had completed the programme (some of whom had already moved on) were invited to attend a glitz and glamour evening meal to receive an award and recognition of the progress they had made – and the event was a fabulous success.

Before residents move into YMCA, many can lack confidence and social skills, but the George Williams Awards workshops can be vital in improving these and inspiring connections with other young people. There are many positive testimonies from those who have now managed to take those crucial steps to creating a brighter future.

The SOS Bus | YMCA Norfolk

The SOS Bus in Kings Lynn helped 24,439 people stay safe between March 22 and April 23. The service is offered to the local community through two members of permanent staff and several volunteers, and is in place to reduce the requirement for ambulance call outs, so saving £24,050 in the previous financial year.

Saving police time has also formed part of The SOS Bus’ remit with more than 24 hours of their time saved over the past year during peak times where it was utilised to keep someone safe, allowing them respond to emergencies. The team and volunteers work in challenging situations offering a variety of services such as: advanced first aid, mental health guidance and signposting, safeguarding, child protection, drugs and alcohol support, sexual assault support and domestic violence support and advice.

YMCA Norfolk runs its SOS Bus service all year round on a Friday and Saturday from 9pm-3am, attending in all weathers and offering warm clothing and drink to homeless people in the area. They had a total of 514 homeless visits within the year.

A support system of donations has also been put in place alongside local supermarkets giving away items to support good hygiene, period poverty support and food items that we not perishable. YMCA Norfolk are also proud to have saved one person’s life on site with their Defib machine which resides on the bus. Without this being available and the quick thinking of staff, this person may have tragically passed away.

It costs less than £40k a year to run as a service, utilising the generosity of volunteers, donations and opportunities for extra funding, allowing YMCA Norfolk to be able to provide a service which reaches more people than any other stand-alone service in the area.

The Listening Project | YMCA St. Helen's

The Listening Service launched in February 2022, aimed at 12-to-18-year-olds seeking help for mental health concerns. It provides a mix of one-to-one preventative listening support, post-crisis support (to young people who have experienced a mental health crisis), and group-based activities. These enable young people to develop tools, motivation, and skills to meet their own needs around mental health, empowering them to live healthy balanced lives.

It also works to establish positive and meaningful relationships, role models and support-networks, reducing feelings of isolation or loneliness. The Listening Service aims to empower young people to make a positive impact in their lives and in their local community, increasing their decision making, leadership, and self-care skills, and understanding the effect these choices have on mental health.

In 12 months, YMCA St Helens received 257 referrals and were able to support 143 young people via one-to-one preventative listening support sessions, 30 young people via post-crisis support and 23 young people via group activities. Young people reported a 91% average improvement in how they would rate their mental wellbeing before and after receiving this support, with parents/guardians reporting a 121% average improvement in their child’s mental wellbeing.

Furthermore, 100% of young people reported an improvement in their self-confidence/ self-esteem and an increase in their ability to know how to ease their anxiety. 96% reported an increase in knowing what to do to lift their mood when feeling low, and an increase in their ability to cope when things go wrong for them. 89% reported a decrease in the negative impact anxiety has on their life, as well as an increase in their knowledge of who and where to ask for help with their mental health and wellbeing. Finally, 86% reported an increased understanding of mental health and wellbeing in general.

What makes this programme unique and innovative, especially amongst local CYP mental health services, is that YMCA St Helens allows young people to be in control of every aspect of their support, including what takes place in their sessions.

Family & Youth Work Project of the Year

Beacon Youth Committee | YMCA Worcestershire

Beacon Youth Committee was formed in February 2022, five months after the first youth club in Rubery held at Beacon Church. The Youth Committee was an idea developed from the workers at the club who believed a group of young people who invested time into their youth club, as well as attending, could form together and make a difference to their club and local community.

The Youth Committee was initially held just before the youth club, with 10 members attending the first session, and now runs once a month on a Wednesday. Members have come and gone, but the interest has remained consistent, with 11 members currently giving up their own time to make the community of Rubery and the vision of young people better each time they meet or deliver a community project. During the youth committee’s tenure, it has helped with Beacon church fetes in all seasons, run successful bag packs, been part of community litter picks, and most recently ran a charity car wash and bake sale to raise funds for local homelessness charities.

The committee have spent valuable time at such young ages (10-14) making a huge difference to their club, their local community and themselves. They are the voice of reason in their youth club and inspire others. They are a credit to their youth club and to their community, proving that young people can really achieve anything and defy the odds.

YMCA Go! | YMCA North Staffordshire

YMCA Go! believes in the power of engagement and empowerment for young individuals, and have organised 305 youth sessions, attracting a footfall of over 2,200 young people who have accessed their services. These sessions have created a platform for young people to explore their interests, discover their talents, and develop valuable skills.

YMCA Go! recognises the importance of strong family units, offering specialised family support services, with a dedicated team helping families facing various challenges, offering early intervention and on-going support. In the past year, they have supported 32 young people and parents, ensuring they receive the help they need to thrive.
Furthermore, YMCA Go! stands out for providing young people with new and exciting experiences through various activities and trips. From paddleboarding to day trips to new cities across the UK, theme park visits, and museum tours, they have offered diverse opportunities for young people to explore and grow. One young participant, who recently aged out of the program after being involved since 2017, shared a heartfelt case study capturing the impact of YMCA Go! on her life. In her video, she expressed her gratitude for the support she received throughout her journey, highlighting how YMCA Go! helped her gain confidence, make lifelong friends, and feel a sense of belonging. Her story serves as a reminder of the lasting impact that YMCA Go! has on young people, providing them with positive experiences and memories that stay with them forever.

Overall, YMCA Go! Is dedicated to transforming the lives of children, young people, and families, and have recently been awarded £1.9 million to transform their site for children and young people, promoting more inclusive opportunities for young people to grow, contribute and thrive across the city.

Family Respect Project | Trinity Group

YMCA Trinity Group’s Family Respect Project works with families experiencing Child and Adolescent to Parent Violence and Abuse (CAPVA).  It offers a 12-week programme of support which is an accredited programme owned by the national charity, Respect.

The accredited programme delivered by YMCA Trinity Group aims to improve relationships within families and to prioritise the safety for victims of abuse. This service is the only one of its kind in Peterborough and Cambridgeshire offering specific CAPVA support to families. YMCA Trinity Group have started to forge robust partnerships with the local specialist domestic abuse services to ensure they provide the right support to the right individuals.

Between April 2022 and May 2023, the Project triaged 133 referrals into their service using a dedicated pathway via police. In the same time frame, they also delivered 768 hours of direct support to families experiencing CAPVA, with a total of 86 families supported with face-to-face RYPP sessions to date.  As a result of this success and the vast amount of savings achieved for their police colleagues and within wider systems of support such as children’s social care, further investment for the project has been confirmed.

For the first two cohorts of families worked with, it is evident that police call outs reduced by over 90% which evidences a massive shift for the families engaged with.  As their work ends with families, YMCA Trinity Group noticed that for children and young people who have been struggling to engage in school, attendance ultimately improves, and missing episodes stop in nearly all cases.

The project works holistically with everyone within a family to understand different perspectives and to provide meaningful person-centred support.  Their goal is to encourage families to seek support from the police when they feel unsafe, whilst building safety planning into daily family life.

Air Play | One YMCA

Last year, One YMCA became the lead organisation for the RAF Benevolent Fund’s youth support programme, Airplay. Demonstrating the collective strength of YMCA in its ‘more and better together’ approach, a consortium of 11 YMCA deliver the project across 24 RAF stations in England, Wales and Scotland, in conjunction with RAF Community Support, improving outcomes for even more young members.

Young people in RAF families are faced with unique challenges due to frequent changes of home, school, and friendship groups, and having parents away from home for long periods and on deployment in high-risk situations. Airplay supports its young people by creating a community where they can belong, contribute, and thrive. In 2022, Airplay delivered over 6,250 hours of youth activities to its 2,350 members with young people engaging in social action, residential, thematic and universal youth work activities.

Youth voice is pivotal, with 110 youth forums taking place over the past year and members setting the agenda, discussing the things that matter to them.

One YMCA also launched Airplay Connect, a bespoke digital platform providing members access to regular virtual activities, information and support. Activities such as the Gamer Group and Virtual Youth Forums connecting members wherever they are. Airplay projects got busy making videos, games and challenges to share, with Airplay Connect becoming a vital part of the provision and extending its reach to those children and young people who live away from an RAF station or overseas, thereby supercharging the provision on offer.

Family & Youth Provision | YMCA Humber

In March 2022, YMCA Humber initiated a free parent and toddler group, which quickly gained traction and became a thriving community hub. The group attracted an average of 40 parents and their children per session, fostering interaction, friendship, and support among attendees. This initiative not only catered to the demand for such a space but also provided a safe and welcoming environment for parents and children to bond.

The parent and toddler group proved to be a platform for collaboration with other organisations, facilitating the delivery of additional valuable services. For instance, Forefront Training provided first aid tasters, Warm Welcome Energy raised awareness about energy efficiency, and fitness classes were conducted.

YMCA Humber then launched a free youth club, which offered a diverse range of sports and wellbeing activities, including expert-led sessions in golf, cricket, running, and crocheting. This holistic approach aimed to engage young participants, introduce them to new skills, and promote physical and mental wellbeing. With 250 children signing up, the club has been successful in attracting and engaging young people from the community.

Recognising the need to support local dads, YMCA Humber also conducted a survey as part of the Grimsby Dads Collective project, which saw 52% of young dads expressing interest in a peer-to-peer support group. Responding to this demand, they launched the Dads Connect group in March 2023 which has seen regular attendance, providing a valuable platform for sharing experiences and fostering a sense of community among dads.

Overall, YMCA Humber’s youth and family project has demonstrated its commitment to empowering youth and strengthening community bonds. Through initiatives like the parent and toddler group, free youth club, and Dads Connect, the project has not only met the needs and desires of the community but also facilitated collaborations with other organisations to deliver diverse services.

Diversity Award

Yippee & Yip4Youth disability clubs | YMCA East Surrey

YMCA East Surrey’s Yippee (age 5-11) and Yip4Youth (age 12-18) groups provide play and youth Short Breaks for children and young people with disabilities and complex needs across multiple sites in Surrey as well as in West Sussex.

In the last financial year, Yippee & Yip4Youth provided 32,500 hours of care/respite to 388 children & young people. In 2023/24, Yippee & Yip4Youth will be providing over 35,000 hours of care with over 6,000 spaces available to families over 550 sessions.

The service not only provides a safe and welcoming environment, along with exciting activities, but also allows families to have a break from often very demanding caring responsibilities and time to spend with other siblings one-to-one. The clubs offer peace of mind to parents through trained staff, high staff ratios and bespoke care plans.

The team offers support, guidance and advice for families with the challenges they face daily. This has never been more important than with the recent challenges families have faced through the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis.

Pride in Teesdale | YMCA North Tyneside

Pride in Teesdale has seen, for the first time, its local community come together to celebrate LGBTQIA+ and the diversity within its communities. For Teesdale, this can often be viewed as a foreign topic that is still taboo, but, in partnership with others, YMCA Teesdale are working to tackle this. YMCA Teesdale have delivered three sessions over the last 12 months, providing primarily young people with a safe space to explore their identify and be proud of who they are.

The young people who have engaged with these sessions have stated that they, for the first time, felt they could talk openly about themselves and how they wish to be referred to, explore the barriers they face and what they would like YMCA to do more of. This is a new venture for YMCA Teesdale, but one they are so driven to do, ensuring that everyone who identifies as part of the LGBTQ+ community feels supported.

Supporting those family members around the young people also allows them to feel safe and supported by promoting the issues LGBTQIA+ are facing and developing wider support networks which were previously not there. In a rural community, there have been challenges in discussing this issue and developing these projects; however, it is so vital to ensure that everyone can belong, contribute and thrive. There is nothing new or innovative about the approach to developing this work, however YMCA Teesdale have had to be creative in how they engage with people on the topic due to the societal expectations and sensitivities within the rural community. They have addressed this by discussing the pride people take in being part of the community they live in and how the diversity of its community is what makes Teesdale such a fantastic place to live; we just need to learn about these diversities and take pride in ALL aspects of it.

Good Vibes | YMCA Swansea

GoodVibes supports young LGBTQ+ people between the ages of 11-25. It provides a safe space where their identities are respected and supported. Young people build peer friendships within a community so that they can belong, contribute and thrive. It is a group where young people can be 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 own identity around people that understand and support them. This crucial environment empowers young people to introduce themselves, their names, preferred names, pronouns and more.

Regular well-being sessions, outreach and 1:1 are just small examples of the way in which the service has developed over the past year, but the organic nature of its development is what is so exciting to be part of.  GoodVibes are now actively working within local secondary schools offering support both to young people and professionals alike. Thanks to the support of the Local Authority commissioning team, YMCA Swansea have been able to break through into the educational fields to offer PSE lessons (aligning to the Welsh curriculum), awareness raising sessions, signposting to services and general support when needed, and often empowering young people themselves to create and deliver their own solutions.

What makes GoodVibes’ input unique is that information is the collective voice of the Young People themselves which offers a view like no other, and it is now a regular sight not just at Swansea Pride, but also Pride Cymru and other smaller regional events; learning, adapting and reaching out at every opportunity.

GoodVibes equips young people with the understanding and skills to enable them to exercise their rights and be proud of who they are; to foster confidence and self-esteem. 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.

True Colours | YMCA St Paul's Group

True Colours is an arts and wellbeing programme, with youth-led discussions, to help female identifying and LGBTQ+ teens aged 10-16 feel supported with their mental health.

Taking place at YMCA Walthamstow, this programme gives young people a much-needed safe space to express themselves through movement, art and creative writing, where they can feel authentically themselves.

The programme, which has been running weekly sessions since 2001, was originally named Good for Girls. However, in 2022 the young people themselves proposed changing this name to the more inclusive True Colours. The impact of this has made the group more welcoming to young people with different gender identities, and participants report a greater sense of belonging.

Over the past year YMCA St Paul’s Group have seen a total footfall of 251 young people attending these sessions, with an average week seeing 11 young people participating, and some sessions have welcomed as many as 20 young people.

The True Colours sessions look at themes of loneliness, mental health awareness and connection. They provide a space for young people to share and feel supported by their friends. True Colours considers the many emotions young people go through, explores the many genders and sexualities, and discusses neurodiversity, culture, and personalities.

Two young people supported by the programme took part in a training course to become wellbeing ambassadors, enabling them to connect to others even more effectively and become advocates for positive mental health. They produced a film, documenting their experiences with the True Colours programme, invited friends and family to a viewing, and displayed artwork and creative expressions of their experiences.

Co-creating an Inclusive YMCA Community | YMCA DownsLink Group

Two years ago, YMCA DownsLink Group set out on a journey to create a safe, inclusive and respectful place where everyone can belong and be part of something positive.

Our commitment to change was set out in an Action Plan, co-created by colleagues, trustees and service users, and in March 2023 we celebrated a number of achievements.

In the last 12 months, together we:

  • Increased membership of our staff EDI Forum by 88.9%, with representation from across all directorates
  • Reviewed our EDI Policy, including a new commitment to allyship in the workplace
  • Revamped our mandatory training programme. 100 staff (1/3 of the workforce) have completed the new course since September 2022
  • Developing a Transitioning at Work policy, plus associated management guidance. This has been shared with several other YMCAs, including YMCA Scotland, following an enquiry on the HR WhatsApp group.
  • Staff and residents also attended Brighton TransPride Festival in June 2022
  • Launched 2 employee networks a Race Network and a Menopause Café following feedback from colleagues asking for a space to share similar experiences and find community with their peers
  • Distributed 310 pronoun badges amongst young people (and their families) facilitating open conversations with their young people about different gender identities
  • Analysed the diversity data we capture for the children and young people we work with, and made recommendations for improvements
  • Launched our Period Poverty Project which is now being accessed by approximately 253 young people across our services thanks to our partnership with Bloody Good Period!

Energised by our achievements, the YMCA DownsLink EDI Forum have just agreed a set of goals for the next 24 months. We know we still have work to do, but we are proud of the small steps we have taken so far.

YMCA of the Year

YMCA Norfolk

Over the last year YMCA Norfolk is proud to have supported more than 25,000 individuals across the county through our range of trail-blazing services, now managing a total of 50 properties across Norwich, Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn, providing housing to more than 300 homeless and vulnerable people each year who would otherwise be living in dangerous situations. Their housing services vary from large youth accommodation units in Norwich City Centre, to family homes on the coast of Great Yarmouth.

Moreover, their SOS bus operating in King’s Lynn has been praised by members of the public as a “life saver” to the local community, offering a much-needed alternative to calling emergency service units which are under mounting pressure. In the last year the team has interacted with 24,562 people through offering food parcels, clothes and first aid as well as somewhere to seek advice around safe sex, drug and alcohol abuse, cost of living and mental health crisis situations.

YMCA Norfolk is proud to deliver 17 youth clubs county-wide each week, engaging with young people in cities, towns and rural communities to ensure their services are welcoming and accessible to all.

A further breakthrough project is the New Talking Therapies programme, which coordinates suppliers to deliver mental health support, in turn shortening NHS wait lists.

Their childcare services also continue to thrive, with their first ever nursery – Muddy Puddles – receiving an Ofsted ‘Good’ rating within just 2 years of operating, praising staff for creating an environment where children feel safe, secure and valued.
YMCA Norfolk’s skilled and dedicated team continues to grow, as they welcome new staff to initiatives such as the Life Ready project, which equips young people with vital life skills around gardening, cooking and delivering bespoke qualifications using the ASDAN training programme.

YMCA Humber

When YMCA Humber moved to the East Marsh in September 2021, alongside providing housing they aimed to become a community hub and offer as many free services through funding as possible to help local families.

In 2022 they received funding from Cudox to run a range of health and wellbeing drop-in sessions which were available to both residents and the local community, in March of the same year they also tested out a free parent and toddler group to see if there was a demand. From day one they had on average 20 parents attend each session with their child(ren). Running a toddler group has had a big impact on the local community, offering a safe, welcoming space for parents to interact with their children, whilst building friendships. YMCA Humber has welcomed 128 unique attendees at their toddler group and 723 total attendances.

In June 2022 they received funding from Active Humber to run a free youth club three evenings a week and have had 250 children sign up with 35-40 children attending each session on average since it began.

As part of their Grimsby Dads Collective project which offers free support to Dads, they also ran a survey in October 2022 to find out what local Dads would like to see in the community. They received 269 responses and 52% of young Dads said they would be interested in a peer-to-peer support group. This group is now called Dads Connect and began in March 2023.

At the end of 2022 and into 2023, YMCA Humber also received warm space funding from DWP which allowed them to support the community as the cost of living increased, launching a free pensioners lunch every Thursday for individuals to visit the community cafe and receive a two-course meal. In 2022 they served 96 free meals and became a warm space for pensioners.

YMCA Plymouth

This year has seen the culmination of YMCA Plymouth’s 4-Year plan to transform a 1970s centre into a modern and thriving community hub, fit for the needs of young people and the whole community – today and for years to come.

Growing their reach by over 80% since 2021, their work has supported over 18,000 people this year and earned them acclaim regionally by winning the Devon & Plymouth Chamber of Commerce Community Champion Award 2023.

The centre offers a vocational college, an array of Family & Youth services, an innovative Health & Wellbeing provision and much more, all under one roof – catering to the needs of people aged under 1, to their oldest member at 91.

Underpinning YMCA Plymouth’s success is the sustainable model they’ve developed, combining a traditional charitable model with a diverse social enterprise model. Their Fundraising and Careers Lead was also crowned as a winner in the West Country Women Awards 2022, for leading outstanding projects such as our My Future mentoring programme, helping over 200 young people, and running the South West’s biggest youth careers event, attended by over 2,000 young people.

Protecting the environment has also been a key pillar of their transformation, with a range of green initiatives being nationally accredited by Make It Net Zero and awarded by Green Tourism. This includes planting a pioneering micro-forest containing 600+ trees, and transitioning to solar energy, saving 10 tonnes of CO2 per month.

Just some of the other achievements marked this year include 2,400+ Families accessing a newly opened Soft Play provision, which offers free weekly sessions to children with special educational needs and disabilities, and more than £10,000 of additional aid was distributed to help with cost-of-living and energy bill rises.

Additionally, 162 young people (largely NEET) successfully achieved qualifications and were supported into employment or further education/training through Discovery College.

94% of people said in our latest centre survey that their mental health has improved thanks to coming to YMCA Plymouth, with 1 in 4 making new friends.

YMCA East Surrey

YMCA East Surrey’s inclusive services now support over 14,000 local people, helping the whole community to belong, contribute and thrive.

In 2022 they opened their third move-on property and are now in the process of acquiring another, and their emotional wellbeing and mental health services for children and young people have expanded significantly. During FY22/23, they offered free counselling, school-based interventions, wellbeing youth groups, and a new project supporting young adults as they transition into adulthood, serving 1,518 children and young people, and have expanded their disability play and youth clubs into two additional venues. Youth workers ran 14.5 hours of youth clubs each week across five different venues, with 692 young people attending youth clubs in FY22/23.

YMCA East Surrey opened a new out-of-school childcare provision in a local school, in addition to the existing childcare clubs at their centre, with all childcare services offer funding to those who would otherwise struggle to afford to attend. They also started a girls’ football team who now play in a competitive local league.

The Health & Wellbeing team secured funding to develop their Exercise Referral offer for people with long-term health conditions and to increase public health checks. The gym and fitness membership has grown to a record 1,572 people and they continue to offer a wide variety of disability and inclusive sports.

YMCA East Surrey have also enjoyed significant success with their Challenge Event programme. In 2022, 1,254 challengers trekked, ran, or cycled 23,519 miles and raised £68,500 through various events like Fun Run, Santa Run, cycle challenges to Bruges and the Pyrenees, a trek across the North Downs, Sleep Easy, quiz night, curry night and a Ceilidh.