Sponsored by BBC Children in Need
Whether it’s supporting young people to make healthy choices, signposting mental health services or simply lending a friendly ear when it’s required, youth workers provide a vital layer of support to ensure Scotland’s young people can continue to lead happy, healthy lives. Let’s meet our 2023 finalists.
Situated in the Blackhill and Provanmill area of Greater Glasgow, St Paul’s Youth Forum finds itself in the lowest 1% of SIMD for health in Scotland. So much so, young people growing up in the area view pensions as futile – as the average life expectancy is below 65.
To address this, SPYF’s Girls Group and Boys Group work in tandem to explore mental health and resilience, supported experts from Glasgow City Youth Health Service who provide advice, signposting and materials – also supporting young people lead the sessions. As a result, young people reported that their wellbeing has more than doubled, from 40% saying they feel emotionally well up to 85%.
The On Bikes project supports young people to cycle to school and has so far given away 650 new bikes to local young people, as well as providing adapted bikes to Ashton Secondary school for pupils with additional support needs.
Meanwhile, the Blackhill’s Growing project continues to flourish, growing its own fruit and vegetables that are sold at the Barras market, where grapes cost as little as young people and are even the snack of choice for young people ahead of chocolates and sweets!
Every young person reacted differently to the Covid pandemic, a fact not lost on the youth work team at Young Movers.
YoMo’s Walk & Talk programme provided a valuable outlet to some of the most isolated, anxious and vulnerable young people, for whom other services were either inaccessible or inappropriate.
Walk & Talk is different to most youth work provision – youth workers meet with a young person in a social, outdoor space for a one-to-one chat, providing non-judgemental support and advice to promote positive health and wellbeing.
The programme’s flexible approach means referrals are seen and supported quickly, with YoMo supporting 100 young people every six months, with over 30 Walk & Talk participants at the time of writing.
Sam McKinnon said: “I have very bad anxiety and depression and with my depression and anxiety I never go out as I struggle to be outside myself. I feel like Walk & Talk has helped my mental health so much, it’s amazing to know that no matter how bad a week I am having every Friday I will get out for a chat, a laugh, clear my head and just have space to breathe.
“I had tried counselling before for past trauma but had a bad experience. At Walk & Talk I have talked about this, and I’ve been signposted to other organisations that can help me with this.”
Delivering low level mental health support to over 500 young people each year across all 16 local authority high schools, the Youth Information in Schools Project is at the forefront of young people’s mental health services in Dumfries and Galloway.
The programme aims to help young people learn strategies that can help them to cope with the challenges they are encountering in their lives and often acts as a first point of contact for young people, who can be referred for more specialist support when required.
Youth information workers use a youth work approach alongside person-centred and cognitive behavioural therapy techniques to help a young person develop an understanding of their feelings, before exploring coping strategies to help them ease their distress.
Developed jointly as a partnership between the Dumfries & Galloway Council’s Youth Work and Educational Psychology teams, the project is a ground-breaking mental health service for secondary pupils.
A major success of the project is the development of a young people’s mental health pathway that includes youth work, educational psychology, CAMHS, school nursing and psychology – this is a significant development in ensuring that young people get the right help from the right service the first time and could become a blueprint for schools across Scotland.