AS we count down towards the Leamington Business Awards ceremony on Friday, November 15th, here we spotlight the third of four local charities that have been selected as finalists in the Warwick & District Charity of the Year category. . .
THE dedicated team at Young People First are working hard every day to address what they have claimed is a ‘crisis’ in youth services in the county.
Previously known as Warwickshire Association of Youth Clubs, the charity has been a specialist in early intervention work with vulnerable young people for more than 60 years.
Paid workers and volunteers make up a team of around 20-strong in Warwickshire, headed up by David Skoppek ‘creating opportunities and providing support’ to young people transitioning to adulthood via three projects:
The Brunswick Youth Project was established to help young people in the area build relationships as well as receive additional support.
David Skoppek said: “A lot of the young people who come from that ward are already vulnerable and living below the poverty line and from troubled homes etc.”
The second project, Sharp Minds is about creating a safe place for young people whose mental health problems are so acute they can’t even engage in school.
“Their anxiety and depression can be so debilitating in that sense. It is about creating community and overcoming that feeling of isolation and thinking there is something wrong with you. Creating these sort of safe places where young people realise there’s other young people like them going through similar challenges, is often enough to help them get started on this journey to recovery,” said David.
The Care Leavers Project is to aid young people aged 16-25 in their transition from living in supported accommodation to independent living.
David said: “It’s about giving them the skills and the experience to be independent.”
The charity, which works with referrals from schools and GPs, also organises a host of activities free of charge, from sport and music events to youth clubs, holiday programmes and outdoor residentials.
But, a rise in demand for their services puts an increasing pressure on the charity which relies entirely on fundraising.
David said: ““The decline in youth services across the nation and the impact it has had is huge. It’s at the crisis end.
“But we’re very careful how we spend our funds. How you transform young lives is not by having a fancy building, it’s about the youth worker who is able to build a relationship with that young person over time
He added: “A lot of young people come from places where they just don’t trust adults. They have been let down by parents, teachers or services.
“It’s about developing relationships with young people in a way that the young people want to engage with us, they’re not forced to.
“All our projects are long term focused. We try and work on a minimum of three years because that’s the time it takes. Young people need consistency . They need to know they’re supported and listened to and feel valued. It’s only then they start to open up about some of the problems and issues they’re facing.”
The recent appointment of a CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) worker has now also enabled the charity to introduce counselling and therapeutic support.
“We are getting concerned that some of these young people are being told they have to wait two-three years before they can receive any sort of intervention so, for the first time ever, we have now got our own CBT worker two days a week. It’s really working.”
Young People First is one of four finalists in what is, this year, a new category for the Leamington Business Awards.
It is up against Leam Trash Friends (https://www.facebook.com/leamtrashfriends); The Ups of Downs (https://upsofdowns.co.uk) and P3 (www.p3charity.org/services/warwickshire-floating-support) charities which will also benefit from proceeds from the awards ceremony. It is being held on November 15th, at the newly renovated Royal Pump Rooms in Leamington and presided over by Master of Ceremonies Dave Sharpe.
Reacting to being named as a finalist, David said: “This means the world to us. Sometimes it feels like the challenges are quite overwhelming and there’s no end in sight really but it’s when we get this sort of recognition and when people show an interest, it makes us realise, you know what, we are actually doing a really good job.”
For more information or to enquire about donations or volunteering, visit: www.youngpeoplefirst.org.uk
Look out for new of the awards winners after Friday.