Breaking Barriers to Work

On August 8th, three of our young people headed to London and were interviewed by BBC East Midlands for the launch of YMCA England & Wales’ “Breaking Barriers to Work” report.

​​The study, conducted across England and Wales, surveyed residents in YMCA-supported housing and examined their experiences and opinions regarding the obstacles imposed by the benefits system. As part of our Experts by Experience group, our residents contributed to the research and recommendations being put forward to make sure that young people in supported housing have the same chances to follow their aspirations for work.

The findings of the report highlighted several key areas of concern that hindered young people’s ability to secure employment and transition into independent living.

One of the primary issues identified was the funding model for supported housing, which is nowadays mostly funded through Housing Benefit paid by local authorities. The interaction of Universal Credit and Housing Benefit tapering when residents take on paid employment leads to financial penalties for residents: they are often made financially worse off by working in comparison to solely relying on benefits. 

As a result, young people are discouraged from seeking work, which adversely affects their aspirations for independence and overall mental health. YMCA recommends that supported housing residents should receive a Universal Credit work allowance to enable them to keep more of their income and eliminate the financial disincentive for working.

The research also revealed that current benefit levels, especially for individuals under 25 years old, were insufficient to cover basic living expenses. Many young people expressed that they struggled to afford essentials such as food and electricity, making it challenging to focus on securing employment. 

In response, YMCA recommends the establishment of an Essentials Guarantee for individuals on benefits, ensuring that the standard allowance of Universal Credit always meets the determined costs of basic essentials.

Mental health emerged as another significant challenge faced by residents of supported housing, with nearly half of the respondents stating that their mental health struggles hindered their ability to find work or increase their working hours.

Additional findings from YMCA’s research shed light on the counterintuitive effects of benefit sanctions for those in supported housing. Many young people shared their experiences of being sanctioned, resulting in financial hardship, depleting physical and mental health, and long-lasting debt. These effects put young people into survival mode and pushed them further away from work. 

YMCA has called for the relaxation of the benefit sanctions regime for this vulnerable group and proposed alternative strategies for engaging and supporting them, such as collaborating with support staff to ensure understanding and tailored assistance.

A set of practical recommendations have also been produced to address the identified barriers and improve outcomes for young people in supported housing. These include giving supported housing residents a Universal Credit work allowance, providing ringfenced funding for the support element of supported housing, establishing an Essentials Guarantee for benefits, and simplifying the application process for Personal Independence Payment (PIP), as well as the development of stronger relationships between Jobcentre staff and residents, highlighting the need for consistent support and understanding overall.

To read the full report, click here

Be My Buddy!

For more than a year now, The Y has been encouraging staff to get involved in our Buddy Scheme. Born out of a desire to encourage communication between individuals and departments and provide opportunities for growth, learning and development, the Buddy Scheme has been a welcome addition to life at The Y. With many staff taking the opportunity to engage and ‘Buddy Up’ with someone from across the organisation, colleagues are not only more able to understand a peer’s area of work, but also learn about a colleague’s interests outside the workplace. The Buddy Scheme is intended to connect two colleagues for a period of six weeks and once those six weeks are up, you’re allocated a new buddy to learn all about!

My first buddy was from the transitions team. We spent some time chatting about our roles and how they might support each other moving forward, my colleague in housing and myself in fundraising. I mentioned to my colleague, that we had been fortunate enough to receive a very generous donation of designer branded clothing. When I spoke to my colleague about how we could get the haul of designer goodies to our residents, she helped me organise a drop in for them. Residents were able to pop in and choose a number of items ranging from hoodies and hats to trainers, t-shirts and trousers. It was a great success, with all items being enthusiastically selected by our young people. Without my colleague’s support and experience, many of those items might not have been distributed yet, but now they are being worn and appreciated by our residents!

I’ve now been ‘Buddied’ with my colleague from the theatre team. Having a love of the theatre and writing, both passions my colleague shares, our first meeting was spent talking about our roles and all things theatre and writing. Needless to say, I’m really looking forward to our next meet!
I think my takeaway from the Buddy sessions so far, is that if we can learn more about our colleagues; what they do in work and what interests them out of work, it not only encourages communication and creates a greater understanding of each other, but also gives you the chance to develop a relationship with someone in the organisation you might not have had the opportunity to otherwise do!

Violent Crime Project Launched

Pioneering community-based mentoring programme to support young people most at risk of involvement in serious violence

The Y has been selected as the lead provider in the launch of a new community mentoring project called Chance 2 Change (C2C). The Y will work with local partners to support young people to turn away from street-based violence.

Paul Brown, Chief Executive of The Y, said: “At The Y, we are clear about the role we can play in supporting our partners to address serious violent crime in Leicester & Leicestershire.  Our extensive experience of designing and delivering projects that engage young people will be used as a foundation to ensure that this initiative makes a real difference in our community.

We understand the challenges that young people face and how negative influences impact on their choices and this project will address these and offer young people positive alternatives for change.”

Mentors will work to encourage positive social norms and dispel myths and stereotypes around issues such as masculinity, gangs and weapon carrying. They will also offer emotional support and aim to improve young people’s social skills, supporting them to navigate and access support across the system in order to achieve their goals.

The Chance 2 Change project is funded by Leicester City Council, Police and Crime Commissioner for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, Charnwood Community Safety Partnership and Leicester’s Violence Reduction Network (VRN). The project, launched in Spring 2022 represents part of Leicester’s knife crime and serious violence strategy.

Cllr Kirk Master, Leicester’s assistant city mayor for neighbourhoods, said: “I’m really pleased that we are funding this new service, which is unique – as was our approach to the strategy, by engaging and using co-designing models with communities. By working together in this way, we can support young people at risk of knife crime to turn their lives around.”

Grace Strong, Director of the Violence Reduction Network (VRN), said: “We are investing in this project because we believe communities are in an ideal position to reach young people most affected by violence. A core aim of the VRN is to better understand what is effective in preventing and reducing violence affecting young people.”

Rupert Matthews, Police and Crime Commissioner for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland and Chair of the Violence Reduction Board, said: “No organisation can solve violence on its own. This project is partnership working at its best and utilises the expertise and experience of a collection of agencies to secure the best outcomes for young people.”

Cllr Leigh Harper-Davies, Lead Member for Community Support at Charnwood Borough Council, said: “We are delighted to support The Y and its new mentoring project. This offers new opportunities to intervene early with young people who are at risk of experiencing violence and alter the path they are on for the better. By increasing resilience through mentoring and developing relationships with young people, we can help them to resist negative influences and make more informed choices.”

Young people will be able to self-refer to the scheme or be referred by a partner organisation, family or community link. Visit the C2C project page for more information.

A Big Thank You – Christmas 2021

Although the past couple of years have proved to be quite tough for everyone, this hasn’t stopped YOU, our wonderful local community, from stepping up and supporting young people who are also facing homelessness.

We have been totally bowled over by the love, support and generosity we have received this Christmas. Whether you donated a shoebox stuffed with Christmas cheer or some much loved festive fare or maybe you donated a Christmas gift or a selection box full of chocolate gorgeousness, every single act of kindness has been well and truly felt and the impact of this continuous stream of heartfelt donations will last much longer than just Christmas.

‘It was a very nice feeling to give out presents that had been donated. The young people felt very happy. Some of our residents don’t have family or loved ones and I felt by giving them something, it connected us and our young people to others, creating stronger communities and helping build a happier society for everyone.’ (Housing Team)

We were fortunate enough to receive donations from many individuals, community groups, businesses and schools. Here are just a few of those wonderful organisations:

  • Judgemeadow Community College
  • Leicester Grammar School
  • Leicester University Student Participation and Engagement
  • St Leonard’s Church, Swithland
  • The Cedars Academy
  • B.A.P.S Charities, Leicester
  • Sporting Markfield U8 Foxes
  • Keyham Lodge
  • Prince’s Trust
  • Tree Top Adventure Golf
  • Give For Good
  • John’s House
  • NCS
  • Asda

We would like to thank absolutely everyone involved in supporting our residents during the festive season – We think you’re all Super Stars!

We hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and wish you all the best for 2022!

Black Lives Matter Too! exhibition

We are proud to be a host venue for a powerful project capturing the responses of Leicestershire people to the Black Lives Matter movement. You can come and visit the exhibition up until Friday 29th of October at The Y Theatre Tuesday and Wednesday, 2pm until 4pm and also for one hour before any shows. Our theatre is at 7 East Street, Leicester.

The Black Lives Matter Too! Project was co-curated by Leicestershire County Council’s Participation team and Opal 22, an arts organisation which empowers members of the Black community to become more active participants in heritage and culture. The organisations worked together with local people and dedicated volunteers to capture their lived experiences of racism and its effects, as well as exploring solutions for challenging racism.
Individuals and organisations were also asked to pledge to make positive changes in support of Black Lives Matter – with all the material gathered during the project being brought together in a powerful exhibition which ran at Charnwood Museum earlier this year and which can still be viewed online in virtual form – including more than over 40 video testimonies from local people – at Community Curators.

Paul Brown, CEO at The Y said: “We are delighted to be hosting this incredible exhibition. We want to support as many people as possible to access it and learn from the experiences of local people. The Y has formed a “Responding to #BLM” group with other YMCAs in the region to listen to the voices of black staff and service users, share experiences and build trust within our charities. We hope this exhibition will help others to reflect and generate their own ideas for positive change.”

Our Pledge
The Y have made a commitment to appoint a Trustee with lead responsibility for Equality & Diversity, who will report to the Board of Trustees annually. All staff at The Y will participate in an external Equality & Diversity perception survey and The Y will continue to provide training for all staff (at all levels) on Equality & Diversity.

Remember a Charity Week 2021

To celebrate Remember a Charity Week we have launched a new service to enable our friends and staff to set up a basic will for free! Remember a Charity Week 2021 is from 6th – 12th September. BUT, we intend to offer this service all year round.

After providing for your loved ones, we hope that you’ll consider leaving a gift to The Y. Your gift will provide a safe place and fair start for homeless young people in Leicester, long into the future.

There is absolutely no obligation to do this, your will is free either way! To find out more on our free will service, visit our Gifts in wills page.

Blooming Fantastic Businesses

We’d like to shine a light on some incredible businesses who have gone above and beyond to show our organisation that human beings are pretty blooming fantastic. In a year or two where the world has seemed a little chaotic, these businesses have not turned their back on youth homelessness.

  • RKH and Weightmans chose The Y as their Charity of the Year and rallied a big group of colleagues to come together virtually for a fundraising sleep out.
  • RKH also provided us with some fab pro-bono design work.

  • Funds from Pukka Pies and Highcross have helped us launch Y Skills Matter, which provides an exciting learning programme for young people.
  • Impact Air are working with Y Skills Matter to provide training and work experience for our young people.

  • Mattioli Woods provided a work experience placement for a young person which led to a permanent position.
  • Two businesses sponsored a house: Beauty with a Purpose and STB who’ve been superstars with pro-bono design work and donating a freezer in lockdown.

  • Utilita have created and taken part in their own fundraising challenge and donated vouchers for every young person here at The Y at Christmas.
  • Combined Knowledge provided 10 laptops for our young people and offered training sessions to both staff and residents.

  • Mercer Building Solutions donated to the “Save Our Theatre” campaign which supported the re-opening of The Y Theatre in May.
  • Asda and many more businesses have provided us with donations of food, toiletries, crafts, towels, bedding, furniture and Christmas cheer!

Our exciting partnership with Gallagher:
“What a wonderful bunch of people who go out of their way to help support some of Leicestershire’s most vulnerable young people. I would personally like to thank them for letting us be an extended part of their team and helping to pull off an amazing charity event together, Cirque du Y. I hope local businesses share my values and help support this worthy charity”
Andrew Franks, Gallagher.
Thanks to these and so many more for making a massive difference to the lives of young people living here at The Y. If your business or work place would like to be on our ‘pretty blooming fantastic human beings’ list… please get in touch.
Thanks again,
Emma, Carly and Michelle ????

Promise to Care Pledge

We’re delighted to be added as a signatory to the “Promise to Care” pledge by Leicestershire Cares. As an organisation, we support over 100 young people aged 16 – 25 with accommodation, skills, arts, health, advice and care. Our Y Heritage team also supported and funded the care experienced book “Taking Hold of Our Heritage” in partnership with Leicestershire Cares. You can read more on that project here.
Did you know… we are now in the second week of #FosterCareFortnight? It’s very timely to share this news and celebrate the relationship as organisations who both understand and address the complexities of identity for care experienced young people.

We’re a Not For Profit Organisation Finalist

We can now reveal that The Y is a Not-For-Profit-Organisation finalist in the Leicestershire Live Business Awards! We are so proud to have been selected by BHIB Insurance Brokers as a charity that not only supports some of the most disadvantaged young people in our community but also plays an important role in the city’s culture and heritage. Our amazing staff have kept going with such strong resolve over the last year and this nomination is a testament to their hard work!

The Y urgently seeks premises for homeless project

We’re appealing to the Leicester Community to help us find vacant city centre premises which could host The Y Support Project.  We are struggling to find the right space but we need to move swiftly or risk losing our vital service for rough sleepers. Please share with your network!

To give you some background, our amazing Y Support Project was required to leave its usual base at the Dawn Centre to safeguard service users at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. Since then, we were warmly welcomed to share a space with Inclusion Healthcare as a temporary measure. While nobody could have anticipated this situation nearly 12 months on, we are now in desperate need of a more permanent solution.

For 26 years The Y Support Project has been a lifeline for rough sleepers in the city, with a wealth of expertise in helping people in crisis to make positive changes in their lives. Without a home for our project we will be forced to stop helping some of the most disadvantaged people who need us.


Contact Us

We are seeking a minimum space of 64m2 with additional toilet, shower and kitchen facilities to help our small team offer practical support and advice to around 30 homeless adults a day, limited to six people at a time. As a charity costs are an important consideration. We’d love you to contact us swiftly for the full spec and to discuss any opportunities. Please send any enquiries to [email protected]

Marc’s Story

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