26 July 2021

We are delighted to have been shortlisted for a number of awards at this year’s #YouthMatters Awards and we’d love for you to show your support; it takes less than two minutes to vote and you could swing it in our favour. You can find out more about the categories and our nominees below;

Young Leader of the Year – Erin Edwards

Erin Edwards was first referred to the YMCA’s Supported Lodgings scheme following the breakdown of their relationship with her family back in 2016 when she was 17 years old. She was matched with Hosts Clare and Graham Fentham in Brierley Hill where she settled in very quickly and became part of the family. 

During her time on Supported Lodgings, in addition to maintaining her place at college and learning new life skills including driving, Erin became a positive role model for other Young People on the project. She regularly attended Host training courses for potential new Hosts to help give them an understanding of how the project works. 

Erin met with the Mayor and Lady Mayor in the Dudley Borough where she lived as well as visiting Westminster where she spoke confidently with Members of Parliament about her experience of the scheme. She also helped to secure a £2000 donation from a businessman who she spoke to about her story on the train home from London.

In 2018, she was selected to attend the YMCA World Council in Thailand. Erin participated fully in this international event and built positive relationships with people from all corners of the World.
After leaving Supported Lodgings, Erin continued to live with her former Host family as a private lodger.

They began to Host another Young Person who Erin mentored. She was keen to give something back to the scheme which she said had helped her so much. She agreed to have her story told in the local press and earlier this year, she was interviewed about her experience on ITV News. Erin is now in the process of buying her own home. The home has three bedrooms and Erin is about to embark on training to become a Host herself. 



COVID Community Hero – Phil Gray

Phil Gray is YMCA BCG’s Christian Mission Coordinator. During the pandemic, Phil has been a true Hero who I applaud for his commitment to our community and beyond. Despite his own fears for himself and his young family, he has shown outstanding commitment to our staff and service users alike. When in lockdown, Phil would travel to each of our operational sights, standing on the doorsteps or chatting through opened windows, checking in with everyone. He spent 1-1 time with staff who needed a listening ear; he encouraged service users who were struggling with isolation, loneliness and frustration.

He phoned every single one of our staff members who had been furloughed to reach out and offer support. He lives our organisation’s values – most evidently, compassion and the way he engages with individuals from all walks of life is inspirational.

Phil has lead devotions at Senior Leadership Team Meetings and prayed on a 1-1 level with individuals when requested. He has counselled staff through loss and bereavement and walked a journey to faith with service users.

Phil’s reach has gone far beyond our YMCA throughout the pandemic. During the lockdown, Phil was instrumental in creating the worship content of the World YMCA global devotions, bringing people together in praise, worship and reflection at such a desperate time. He had also reached out to our neighbour Worcestershire YMCA when their CEO and Chaplain left – he provided spiritual support and advice on how the chaplaincy role works to the senior team and incoming CEO.

Whenever someone needs help… Phil is there. He has been a true COVID Community Hero, gone above and beyond and made a significant contribution to the lives of so many!  

Vote for Phil Gray


Accommodation Project of the Year – Green Lane, Walsall

The staff team at Green Lane work tirelessly to improve the lives of their residents. With consistent tools to monitor progression developed within the setting, the staff team wanted to develop a programme that enabled residents to focus on their aspirations, and have a clear understanding of what is expected of them in order to demonstrate they are ready to move on. So they developed the ‘YMCA BCG George Williams Award.’ 

Residents work through the programme with the help of a support worker. It can take as little as 9 months to complete but is very much driven by the resident. Only when a resident is nearing completion will discussions start to take place around whether they are ready to move on. Residents then move on with confidence in their ability to maintain a successful tenancy, independent of any support services.

Resident Josh said “Before I moved into the YMCA I lacked confidence and social skills but the YMCA run the George Williams Award which really helped. The workshops; Sensible Spending and How Clean Is Your House especially were really informative. I learned how to manage my money on a fortnightly basis.

This included paying rent, council tax, water and gas. I also learned that if you plan your meals this will help you budget and save money. While doing the workshops, my confidence and social skills improved and I started speaking to more people.

Staff at YMCA helped me stay on track with things like keeping my room clean, paying rent on time and helped me take my first steps into my career. While living at the YMCA I have gained knowledge and skills to help me maintain my flat. I feel like I’m ready to move on and be independent”. 

The Green Lane team never stop trying to improve the lives of their residents, always reaching further, developing more, and being innovative!  

Vote for Green Lane


Diversity Award – Central (Midlands) Group of YMCAs

This nomination is a statement of intent, a work in progress and an intentional encouragement for other YMCAs to get serious about diversity.

The “Responding to #BLM Group was set up in the aftermath of the brutal murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis – USA on 25th May 2020, and the reverberations of pain felt in Black communities throughout the World and within our YMCAs.

Listening to the voices of Black staff and service users, and trying to make sense of the phenomena responding to the #BLM call to action, a group of like-minded staff from 6 central-region based YMCAs formed a working group with the intention of creating structural change within the Region.

Responding to the #BLM Group is in itself not a ‘quick fix’. Participants have committed to work together for up to 2 years to bring change. The group is carefully constructed; 6 participants, 1 each from 6 YMCA’s (Black Country, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Heart of England, North Staffordshire, Worcestershire), 3 female, 3 male, 3 Black, 3 White, 3 CEO’s, 3 wider staff.

Building trust, understanding and learning from shared experiences were essential elements of group formation. It’s been important to be open, honest and vulnerable, sharing language and ideas in a non-judgmental supportive group. There has been anxiety, fears, and tears shared as the group has learnt to work together, switching between face to face gatherings to remote zoom meetings.

In addition to the necessary time taken to form, the group has produced a Term of Reference and a Work Programme (both now endorsed by Regional CEO colleagues). 2021/22 priorities include facilitating a range of Diversity / Unconscious Bias training programmes for Regional CEO’s and Chairs, promoting Trustee Diversity Champions across all regional Boards, and conducting an equality and diversity perception survey within regional staff teams. 

Vote for Central (Midlands) Group of YMCAs


YMCA of the Year – YMCA Black Country Group

Though challenging, YMCA-BCG has continued to develop its services with the completion of its new £8.5M Headquarters in June 2021 comprising a new young worker transitional housing model (63 units), state-of-the-art childcare facility (115 places), retail, training and office spaces. Intensive fundraising successfully covered the £1M gap in funding which existed at the commencement of the scheme.

Despite being ‘hammered’ during Covid, our young nursery staff teams have provided an essential service for children and keyworkers throughout, and the YMCA has added an additional 3 settings (Stourbridge, Coseley and Pelsall) during the year, with another 2 more in the pipeline.

International Partnership: Staff from YMCA BCG coordinated the global devotions services at the heart of the pandemic on behalf of the World Alliance of YMCA, involving several hundred live participants across the 4 live-streamed services from 6 continents and over 12,000 viewings via Facebook. The spiritual support this work provided continues in 2021, with YMCA BC working with a team of over 40 international young people to produce creative content for the 2021 YMCA-YWCA World Week of Prayer.

Innovative Covid Support: YMCA BCG has shown incredible flexibility during the year; with 99 employees being on furlough at the beginning of the pandemic, only 4 staff have been made redundant due to the impact on services, and all have successfully found work elsewhere. While support for the 328 young people in our accommodation services remained stable, the demand for emergency night-stop services for 16-17-year-olds sky-rocketed with 2986 night-spaces needed in 2020/21, an increase of nearly 40%. Innovative online delivery has been developed with a web-based gym membership, new digital marketing, and an online training platform offering remote learner courses. Our remote youth work programme (Headstart) exceeded its targets, with praise being heaped on staff by local commissioners.  

Vote for YMCA Black Country Group