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YMCA Manifesto for the General Election 2010

The YMCA’s vision is of an inclusive Christian Movement, transforming communities so that all young people truly belong, contribute and thrive.

YMCAs in England

Greater London


“It is not how little but how much we can do for others” Sir George Williams, YMCA founder

In 1844, an earlier time of global change, George Williams saw the terrible conditions facing young men who were looking for work in London. In the shadow of St. Paul’s Cathedral, he met with a group of friends and created a place for young people where they could live and learn: this became the first YMCA. Today, as we seek to emerge from a global economic recession, the mission identified by the YMCA’s founder is no less relevant. Outside school and the workplace young people can all too easily be far from the attention of policy makers. More than ever, we need to ensure that young people belong in our communities. We must ensure we do not allow there to be a “lost generation” excluded from society by the long term effects of economic depression. The YMCA is an inclusive organisation working within our cities and our rural communities, with people from all backgrounds, and of all faiths or none. With a history shaped by Christian philanthropy and service to others, our own tradition helps us to value the diverse composition of our modern cities and towns, and promote the contribution of every young person to their community. We help young people fulfil their potential. Committed to transforming communities through a network of 135 YMCAs, we have a presence across England. Locally responsive, each YMCA forms an integral part of its community. With a track record of providing welfare services to some of the most vulnerable and excluded young people in society, we work

to enable the most marginalised to participate alongside the spectrum of people in their communities, in activities that support them to thrive: personally, socially and collectively. In developing this manifesto, we draw upon our understanding of the challenges confronting our local communities and reflect the issues that young people face in our society. The vision contained within these pages is set out using language which does not condemn, which does not judge without understanding, which is not filled with doctrine or regulation but actually speaks of love and compassion; of goodness and kindness I have found young people respond to this. The message about what makes a good community has to be heard whether people are in church or not, and this manifesto offers a vision for the future that is both locally relevant and nationally significant. It is a vision in which young people can truly belong, contribute and thrive. This is an ambitious agenda for change, and I invite you to work with us, and with young people across the country, to transform our communities for the better.

The Most Reverend and Right Honourable Dr John Sentamu President of YMCA England

YMCA Manifesto for the General Election 2010


Introducing the YMCA The YMCA Movement is one of the world’s largest and most established voluntary organisations, operating in 124 countries and with some 45 million members. This global reach means even though the local communities in which we operate may differ, the challenges we face are common – and the approach we take to them is united.

124 countries

For over 165 years, the YMCA has committed itself to the business of personal and social development long before it was popular on the political agenda. Our activities are guided by the local communities in which we work and by the need to remove the barriers preventing individuals from realising their full potential.

165-year history

With a special emphasis on the development of young people, we strive to work holistically with all people who come through the door of the YMCA – empowering them to develop in mind, body and spirit. While this manifesto summarises the key areas in which the YMCA operates, it does so with the vision of sharing how our experience can continue to support vital aspects of individual and community development.

45 million members

stronger, healthier and more resilient young people and communities

We identify a number of policy challenges ahead, and acknowledge it will take all of us working together to address them. We offer some potential solutions, which if adopted could help us achieve the ambition of stronger, healthier and more resilient young people and communities.

YMCA Manifesto for the General Election 2010


We are calling all political parties to commit to: Empower young people with the right skills and education By removing barriers to apprenticeships, enabling young people’s participation in decisions that affect them and streamlining the provision of information, advice and guidance.

Support families By providing more opportunities for family mediation, continuing public financial support for children’s centres and supporting voluntary sector organisations in the delivery of services that complement formal education.

Provide suitable accommodation for young people By reforming the housing benefit system to appropriately incentivise work and training and encourage local authorities to provide high quality integrated support and accommodation.

Promote physical activity as a key part of the preventative health agenda By attracting children, young people and those who are harder to engage in physical activity programmes through the provision of world-class facilities, activities and a broad range of community-based opportunities.

Our own pledge: To continue meeting the real needs of young people and their families by providing relevant, high-quality services which transform communities so that all young people can truly belong, contribute and thrive.

YMCA Manifesto for the General Election 2010


Education and skills for young people Young people in today’s society need a skill set which enables them to realise their potential and dreams, and prepares them for the realities of a globalised world and marketplace. Education is about more than formal schooling or training – it is about young people having the tools to become empowered decision-makers in their own lives. Young people today need to navigate uncertain employment waters, make wise decisions about how to avoid or manage debt, and pursue lifelong learning opportunities to continually match their skills to their desired career. The YMCA’s integrated approach – reaching young people through informal education and engaging them in a range of services and activities – meets this challenge head on. Confident that young people hold the internal resources to fulfil their potential, address risks before them and make the most of their future, we focus on creating the right environment and assistance.

A snapshot of YMCA Training in 2009*


participants were apprentices or advanced apprentices


participants were on pre-entry and entry to employment programmes


participants were on skills and job search programmes


participants were on schools programmes


participants were privately funded by employers like Tesco, B&Q and the British Heart Foundation

*YMCA Training is a dedicated strand of the YMCA focused on equipping young people with valuable life skills.


YMCA Manifesto for the General Election 2010

We call on the UK Government to: Remove barriers to apprenticeships: Currently, young people between the ages of 16 and 18 have the most access to apprenticeships. However, a serious shortage of apprenticeships exists for those over the age of 19. We ask that the government actively encourages the voluntary sector to offer and support apprenticeships, and protect its role in doing so. We also call on the government to work towards guaranteeing apprenticeship opportunities for everyone aged 16-25.

Streamline the information, advice and guidance landscape: Much political discussion in the area of education and skills centres on how to help young people access the opportunities available to them. An impartial information, advice and guidance service which is accessible to all ages and appropriately staffed (i.e. smaller caseload for staff; youth-friendly hours, etc.) would go a long way to removing the barriers to information.

The YMCA helps young people gain formal and informal training opportunities to move toward independent adulthood The YMCA helps young people progress with formal and informal learning opportunities The YMCA provides alternative education, including options for young people to gain GCSEs YMCAfit provides ways for people to gain accredited fitness qualifications YMCA Training offers practical courses in: vocational training, work-based training, apprenticeships and personal development courses

YMCA Manifesto for the General Election 2010


Case Study: Central YMCA, London Dan is a youth member of Central YMCA and is part of the Youth Advisory Board at Central YMCA’s community project in King’s Cross, One KX. He is very interested in fitness and a keen user of the centre’s gym. Because he had benefited so much from the YMCA, he wanted to give something back to the community. One KX provided him with free gym instructor training through YMCAfit, enabling him to work as a volunteer in the gym, working with his peers and other community members. Through this involvement, Dan was appointed to work for YMCA England as a young consultant on the myplace projects. myplace is a multi-million pound government programme to deliver world class places for young people. As a young consultant, Dan travels around the country leading workshops on how successful myplace projects can achieve youth participation in the design of these facilities. Dan’s story is inspiring, and is just a single example of how young people come through the door of the YMCA for one reason, and end up with a wealth of opportunities which enable them to begin charting their own path in life.


YMCA Manifesto for the General Election 2010

Supporting families Young people do not grow up in a vacuum. Families are increasingly recognised as complex, often fragmented, but nonetheless fundamental ‘building-blocks’ of our society. It can take a range of people in different roles to raise a child. The YMCA believes in working holistically with families and young people, recognising that a healthy and stable family is the best place for a young person to grow. An innovative and dynamic approach to support options such as the YMCA’s may include healthy activities for families, childcare services, holiday clubs, before and after school activities, family mediation services and parenting programmes. In addition, Britain has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in Europe – and caring for young parents and providing them with appropriate support is critical both for their and their children’s futures.


YMCA Manifesto for the General Election 2010

The YMCA works holistically with families and young people to provide a range of services and activities to strengthen or bring reconciliation to family units The YMCA works in partnership with schools and local councils to run children’s centres as a part of meeting family and community need

We call on the UK Government to: Provide more support for family mediation: The government should support a positive campaign outlining the benefits of mediation for families, as well as information on where to access free or subsidised mediation services. The YMCA provides mediation services, but can also be used to signpost good services as well.

Remove barriers for teenage parents and carers returning to education and training: Flexibility is important for all families, but for young parents and carers, the pressure of staying in school or training, coupled with childcare or family issues can make this seem impossible. Options that enable young mothers and fathers to meet their own developmental needs while learning how to be good parents are ones that the YMCA is already involved with and welcomes more effort toward.

Continue public and financial support for children’s centres:

The YMCA ensures high levels of trained and experienced staff who work with children and families needing support The YMCA provides both supported and emergency accommodation for young people who need help navigating difficult family situations

The YMCA supports the investment in children’s centres, and believes them to be helpful in meeting the needs of their local communities. In many cases, the YMCA has delivered these services for a number of years, but the ability to do this in a coordinated way in partnership with local authorities and councils, finds great success. The YMCA would support the further development of children’s centres as integrated community hubs.

Encourage voluntary sector involvement with schools: In contrast to the success of children’s centres, the extended services agenda has yet to make full use of the voluntary sector in communities. Schools and local authorities need to be encouraged to consult more closely with the voluntary sector before deciding how the core offer to children, parents and families can be fulfilled. We welcome the new Ofsted inspection framework that aims to look at how far all aspects of school partnerships, including extended services, are contributing to performance, achievement and attainment. YMCA Manifesto for the General Election 2010


Case study: Sussex Central YMCA* Family Solutions Project** Staff from Hove YMCA met with young people in their area who had experience of being homeless, and asked them what would have prevented their becoming homeless. The young people responded that family problems were at the root of their housing issue, and that constructive ways to address family issues would help them mend bridges, move back into the home or find an appropriate alternative. In response to this, and in partnership with its local council, Hove YMCA devised a solution which included:

• • •

Two part-time family mediation workers One family liaison officer who offers help to the whole family Three to four weeks of emergency accommodation to relieve immediate struggles, giving time for conflicts to be resolved

The programme provides families with real tangible support - time to defuse strong emotions, an outside mediator to help constructive conversation, and temporary accommodation for the young person.

*Formerly Hove YMCA **Full Report: Breaking it Down: Developing Whole Family Approach to Youth Homelessness. © December 2008.


YMCA Manifesto for the General Election 2010

A better place to stay Working with some of the most disadvantaged and excluded young people in local communities, the YMCA provides a place to stay and a range of support services to help them manage the transition to independence. The YMCA is among the largest providers of supported housing for young people in England, helping over 7,000 young people every night.

It is estimated there are 60,000 people in temporary accommodation*

Working predominantly with those aged between 16 and 25 years old, the YMCA also welcomes and supports those who do not fit into this age group, helping them to develop their personal, social and emotional skills and so enable them to live independently. The YMCA is recognised as a place where people go to make a sustainable transition to healthy independent living.

Last year over 4,300 young people, aged 16-17, were recognised by local authorities in England as unintentionally homeless and in priority need*

Responding to the changing needs within local communities, the YMCA provides a range of flexible supported accommodation. Rather than just applying a sticking plaster to social breakdown, we aim to help young people to proactively choose the best path for themselves. Our philosophy of supporting young people holistically means we look for ways to work, not just with the individual, but with young people’s families and the wider community as well. Those who stay at the YMCA discover opportunities to fulfil their potential, raise aspirations and find a place where they can belong.

*CLG Homelessness Statistics, 2009. 14

YMCA Manifesto for the General Election 2010

Over 13,250 young people said that their parents would no longer be able or willing to provide accommodation*

We call on the UK Government to: Reform the housing benefit system to incentivise work and training: The housing benefit system is in urgent need of reform to better support tenants to manage the transition into education, training and employment. Critical points of tension exist within the current system. For example, the so-called 16-hour rule prevents those aged over 19 in full-time education from receiving their housing benefit. Furthermore, those aged under 25 receive a reduced level of local housing allowance intended for shared accommodation.

Encourage local authorities to provide support and accommodation: Effective intervention comes through the dual provision of appropriate support and accommodation and this needs statutory resourcing. The linking of support and accommodation should also incentivise innovation in the sector, and sharing what works could help us all provide better support to vulnerable young people. We need to maintain a focus on the combination of support and accommodation for vulnerable young people, aged 16-25. A duty of care already exists for 16-17-year-olds, care leavers and those with learning disabilities, and this should be extended to support all vulnerable young people in their transition to independent adulthood.

Invest in high quality, flexible accommodation: Investment in the development and ongoing provision of high-quality sustainable places to live is needed to best support young people making the critical transition to independent adulthood. We need high-quality supported accommodation to give young people the start they need.

The YMCA gives residents access to a wide range of support services and activities - ranging from vocational and work-based training programmes to family mediation The YMCA offers services which address the specific needs of young people to avoid self-harm, substance misuse, crime and debt The YMCA provides practical guidance in areas like budget management and cooking The YMCA looks to enable tenant participation in the design and improvement of our services

YMCA Manifesto for the General Election 2010


Unique Solution: South London YMCA South London YMCA’s Community Host Scheme centres on the principle of developing a community-based response to the over-representation of young black people entering local authority homelessness provision. This is achieved by providing them with accommodation and appropriate support in their community, to enable them to make the transition to independence. Placements in the community scheme last between eight weeks and two years, and enable young people to access relevant services. Safety is ensured as potential host families must pass a series of checks before they are permitted to become hosts. Moreover, hosts also go through a training programme which helps them to communicate with young people and encourage them to take responsibility for themselves and their needs. Hosts use these skills to provide a supportive developmental environment in which the young person will live. Each young person later moves on either into their own tenancy (with support as appropriate) or returns to the family home.

Case Study: Central Herts YMCA “When we first met Nathan it was immediately apparent that he was troubled. At 18, he spent a lot of time under the influence of alcohol and illegal substances. He’d left school and college and was in trouble at home. Nathan became a regular member of Space: Central Herts YMCA’s community centre which is open to young people in the evenings. He would often be the first in and the last out. Nathan always wore his heart on his sleeve. One weekend following a fight with his mum, Nathan had been kicked out of home. Hungry and cold, he tried to steal a drink and sandwich from a supermarket. He was caught, and the shop pressed charges. Nathan was desperately low and didn’t know where to turn. He felt lost, helpless, and was in over his head. The youth worker at Space was able to direct Nathan to the YMCA housing facility. Nathan was given his own room and provided with meals. Through one-to-one support he began confronting the issues that had bought him to this point. The professional support of a trusted adult was invaluable. Nathan completed a personal development programme which saw him take part in team building, make presentations and volunteer in the community. As Nathan’s confidence grew, he took on a volunteering role at Space, and helped to lead a group in the afternoons.”


YMCA Manifesto for the General Election 2010

Active for life The YMCA is committed to creating healthy, sustainable communities where all individuals can lead active lives and fulfil their potential in body, mind and spirit. We believe that physical activity plays a vital role in delivering this vision. The YMCA is the largest voluntary sector provider of activities and services that promote personal health and wellbeing in England. Over 100 YMCAs offer dedicated physical activity programmes, and the YMCA is the largest provider of fitness training in the UK fitness industry. Physical activity threads through everything that we do; both through dedicated programmes including exercise classes and sports development, as well as integrated within other services such as youth work, housing and our provision for children and families. We work with all individuals across whole communities and have particular expertise in engaging with young people and others in ‘hard to reach’ groups - this affords us a unique position to engage them in more active living. The whole focus of the YMCA’s work is to provide environments and opportunities that enable individuals to change their behaviour, and lead healthier lives. At the heart of our approach to community engagement is a commitment to empowering everyone we work with to play a meaningful role in shaping their own lives. Our own 2010-2015 Physical Activity Strategy identifies our priorities going forward: children and young people; the preventative healthcare agenda; and maximising legacy opportunities for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.


YMCA Manifesto for the General Election 2010

The YMCA in England engages over half a million people in exercise each year In England, YMCA fitness clubs have close to 50,000 members in total Around 26,000 children take part in YMCA sports and fitness activities every week One in five YMCAs provide NHS exercise referral programmes The Olympic sports basketball, netball and volleyball, were invented by the YMCA

We call on the UK Government to: Ensure young people’s participation in world-class physical activities: With childhood obesity levels projected to rise to 40% by 2020, encouraging children to be active is essential to achieving our vision and is a key part of the preventative healthcare agenda. A key legacy for the 2012 Olympic Games is to inspire children and young people to participate in sport and physical activity. Achieving this legacy depends on community-based provision of high quality, yet affordable activities.

Recognise health outcomes can be delivered through integrated services: Physical activity is an integrated component of many of our activities and services. We call upon the government to recognise that there are many ways to become more active, and increased access should be given to those groups who are often excluded from it. The government should develop a commissioning environment that supports health outcomes by providing physical activity in early-years education, youth services, and supported accommodation.

Recognise physical activity as a key element of preventative healthcare: The increasing prevalence of chronic conditions including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and mental illness, together with an ageing population, presents a real need to encourage people to build activity into their daily lives. And with the cost of physical inactivity at an estimated £8.3bn per year*, this approach has considerable potential to impact positively on national and personal wealth. In recognition of this, and in line with a policy shift from cure to prevention, the YMCA is working with the NHS and other providers to deliver physical activity programmes for those with or at risk from chronic conditions. This enables us to provide expert local programmes that deliver on the lifestyle elements for the NHS’s Health Checks.

The YMCA works extensively with children and young people both inside and outside of school In school, the YMCA is key delivery partner in providing school PE lessons, clubs and play schemes – part of the 5 hours per week target Outside of school, the YMCA works to channel energy and spare time into positive activities that engage and inspire young people The YMCA’s inclusive approach engages a broad cross-section of the community, including hard to reach groups, disabled young people and carers

*DWP, The Black Review (2009) YMCA Manifesto for the General Election 2010


Case study: Well London Central YMCA is one of seven partners working on the Well London project. The Big Lottery funded project was established in 2007 to deliver a wide range of projects in 20 of London’s most deprived communities. The programme focuses on mental wellbeing, physical activity, open spaces, culture and tradition, and healthy eating. Central YMCA leads on the delivery of physical activity projects within the 20 communities and with consultation from those in the community, decides on a number of different activities to offer. To date, Central YMCA has engaged with over 6000 individuals, many of them on an ongoing basis. This is done through the delivery of a range of community-based activities including street dance, health walks, football and women’s only gym sessions.

Fylde Coast YMCA Physical Activity Provision in Local Schools Fylde Coast YMCA runs a Sports Academy team which delivers a highly successful Sports in Schools scheme to over 100 schools within the Fylde and Wyre boroughs. In addition to delivering sports and physical activity to local primary and secondary schools, Fylde Coast YMCA also provides breakfast sports clubs, after school coaching, holiday coaching, and after school clubs. Fylde Coast YMCA develops excellent relationships with the schools it visits, and many of the schools have noticed an increase in pupils’ motivation to take part in physical activity as part of the scheme. Uniquely, in addition to the Sports in Schools scheme, Fylde Coast YMCA also runs the GO Programme in local high schools, which targets girls between the ages of 14-16, who often drop out of physical activity. They do this through offering free access to physical activity through a structured 10-week programme. In the last year, over 250 girls accessed the programme. Matt Hill, a PE and School Sports Manager commented: “There is a real feel good factor from the Go Programme which positively impacts the classroom. Girls seem to have greater self confidence, a more positive attitude towards healthy living and are able to achieve 5 hours of physical activity per week.”


YMCA Manifesto for the General Election 2010

What you can do: • Pledge to be positive in your language about young people and their future • Actively look for ways to involve young people in policy making • Work toward legislation that acknowledges that young people don’t stop being young at 19 • Join the All Party Parliamentary Group for Youth Affairs and hear firsthand what young people think about policy • Visit your local YMCA; log on to to find the one nearest you

YMCA Manifesto for the General Election 2010  

Client: Policy, Media & Research Team, YMCA England and Central YMCA ; Audience: policymakers; Aim: produce a professional, informative and...

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