Meet the Finalists: Health & Wellbeing

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Glasgow Youth Navigator Team - Medics against Violence

We all expect to see doctors and nurses in an accident and emergency ward, but thanks to a trailblazing youth work team from Glasgow, Scotland now has Youth Navigators as part of its emergency care system, supporting young people at times of crisis.   

The Youth Navigator Programme is a pioneering initiative, responding to the needs of young people aged 12-to-16 who present with complex social issues at hospitals, ranging from drug use to mental health crises. 

Led by dedicated Youth Navigators, the programme aims to prevent social harm and provide comprehensive support to vulnerable young people. Over two years, the Youth Navigators have supported over 300 young people, with an impressive 80% acceptance rate for the offered support. The programme’s success lies in its ability to reach young people at a crucial moment, supporting positive change amid crisis and challenging circumstances. 

The impact of Youth Navigator extends beyond the hospital walls, with partnerships established across healthcare and educational institutions. By prioritising a youth work approach, the programme ensures that every intervention is tailored to meet the unique needs of each young person. 

In the words of one young person, “Youth Navigator can be such a great support system. They’ve helped me navigate through the challenges and decisions faced during my youth. They’ve been such a valuable resource for me, and I’m so grateful for their help.” 

The Youth Navigator programme focuses on supporting young people with mental health challenges, including suicidal ideation, low mood, bullying, and gender identity issues. Youth Navigators help build resilience and connections, empowering young people to overcome negative feelings, with the support of a trusted adult who play a crucial role in this process. 

The programme operates in partnership with health services at the Royal Hospital for Children’s Emergency Department and CAMHS, providing a safe space for young people awaiting CAMHS support. Partnerships with schools ensure a person-centred approach that prioritises the wellbeing of each individual. 

Youth Navigator involvement has been shown to reduce young people’s emergency department visits. Additionally, it facilitates their re-engagement with education, participation in social activities, and improvement of family relationships, paving the way for career development. 

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Jennifer McCusker, The Vennie

Jennifer McCusker kicks off more than just footballs at The Vennie; she’s scoring big points for youth work through sport. As the Vennie’s dedicated sports coach, her role goes beyond football training; she puts sports activities into the fabric of youth work across multiple clubs, promoting an active lifestyle and supporting young people’s development. 

In Knightsridge, her passion has spurred on the formation of a football team, offering complimentary coaching to boys aged 10-to-12 from the local area. Before Jennifer’s arrival, the absence of opportunities left a void in the community, highlighting the significance of her work. 

Beyond the pitch, Jennifer actively engages with young people, delivering health inputs that encourage healthy eating habits and lifestyle choices. She provides personalised support to disengaged young people, harnessing their interest in sports as a catalyst for achievement and personal growth. Despite this being her first youth work position, Jennifer’s practice emphasises the very best of youth work, with a focus on inclusivity and breaking down barriers to sports participation. 

Jennifer’s journey from local young person to inspirational coach resonates deeply within the community. Her Business Enterprise group empowers young entrepreneurs, equipping them with invaluable financial literacy skills. Valued by both young people and parents alike, Jennifer’s unwavering commitment and positive impact make her an indispensable asset to The Vennie, deserving of recognition for her dedication to youth development and community enrichment.



Scottish Huntington's Association Youth Service

The Scottish Huntington’s Association Youth Service works with 200 young people from families impacted by Huntingdon’s disease, a disease which has no effective treatment. 80% of them are young carers who have a 50/50 chance of developing this disease themselves.  

This youth service has a commitment to youth participation, leadership, and support at its heart, focusing on underrepresented young people grappling with the complexities of Huntington’s disease. 

Through a youth work approach, the service supports young people to take an active role in their own wellbeing and that of their families. By fostering meaningful participation, the service ensures that young people’s voices are heard and valued in decision-making processes regarding their care and support, or that of their family.  

Given the isolation that many of these young people experience, the service exemplifies the ethos of youth leadership, equipping young people with the skills and confidence to advocate for themselves and their families. These ambassadors play a pivotal role in raising awareness about Huntington’s disease, challenging misconceptions, and promoting understanding on a national and international level. 

At the core of the service is a network of specialist youth advisors who provide tailored support and guidance, ensuring that young people feel heard, understood, and empowered. Through one-to-one sessions, group activities, and community events, these youth workers create safe spaces for young people to share experiences, build connections, and access the support they need. 

The service’s emphasis on youth work principles ensures that all interventions are person-centred, holistic, and inclusive. As the only support network of its kind, the Scottish Huntington’s Association Youth Service stands is a lifeline for young people affected by this incurable disease.

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