Making an Impact

Supporting young people to reach their full potential

"It is not how little but how much we can do..."

These were the words of our founder Sir George Williams and they are words that we live by today. Across England and Wales, 116 YMCAs deliver vital services to almost 740 communities, intensively supporting 630,000 people each and every year.

Throughout 2017/18, we continued campaigning for the needs of young people. We spoke out about mental health stigma and body confidence, and we lobbied government about the proposed changes to housing benefit entitlement for young people. We encouraged young people to vote, celebrated their achievements and continued to create future leaders.

Next year, we will be celebrating our 175th anniversary while continuing to support all young people so they can belong, contribute and thrive.


YMCA offers more than 9,100 beds every night, which includes everything from emergency accommodation through to supported longer-term housing and youth hostels.

Our philosophy of supporting young people holistically means that we provide not only a bed but also help a young person gain the training, skills and confidence to go on to lead independent lives.

We provides a home to more than 18,000 people experiencing homelessness each year, making us the largest voluntary sector provider of supported housing for young people in England and Wales.

Family Work

The right start in life is crucial for a person’s long-term development. It is for this reason that YMCA works with people from birth through to adulthood - supporting individuals and families to flourish.

We support more than 230,000 children, young people and parents every year through our family work.

Health & Wellbeing

We recognise health and wellbeing is the bedrock that enables people to develop in all areas of their life, from education and employment to relationships and social networks. We have more than 270 health and wellbeing facilities, including gyms, swimming pools, community halls, and outdoor activity centres. Engaging more than 125,000 people each year, YMCA is the largest voluntary sector provider of services promoting health and wellbeing in England and Wales.

Support & Advice

YMCA is there for every young person in the community, supporting them through good and difficult times with a wide range of services.

In each case, our aim is to enable the young person to grow and develop in every aspect of their life. YMCA provides support and advice to more than 105,000 people every year.

Training & Education

Helping young people gain the confidence to make decisions about their own lives is an important part of our work, as is providing an environment in which they can flourish.

Education is much more than formal schooling. This is why YMCA offers a range of education, skills-based training, placement and apprenticeship schemes that support young people in reaching their aspirations.

YMCA enables almost 68,000 people every year to engage in education and training.

Campaigning for the needs of young people

As a national youth charity, we pride ourselves in giving young people a voice. Currently, we are spearheading two significant national campaigns. #IAMWHOLE and the Be Real Campaign. Over the past 12 months each have tackled head-on some of the most critical issues affecting young people today, sparking changes in conversation, and pushing our mission to the top of the public agenda.

Tackling mental health stigma

The #IAMWHOLE campaign, a partnership between YMCA and the NHS, launched on World Mental Health Day in 2016, with the aim of tackling damaging mental health stigma and encouraging children and young people to speak out and seek help. It gave a voice to the thousands of young people who had long suffered in silence.

In 2017 we built on the success from the previous year by launching the second phase in October, again on World Mental Health Day, with the band Nothing But Thieves fronting the campaign and recording an official charity single.

Resources were also developed for primary schools, with short story, Flo and the Funny Feelings, released along with a parent and carer guide. Secondary schools were provided with a simple exercise around challenging harmful language and a series of videos featuring young people talking about the most common words and stereotypes.

Body Confidence for everyone

Body image anxiety is causing young people to isolate themselves, consider drastic changes to their appearance and develop mental health difficulties. Be Real, a partnership between YMCA and Dove, is campaigning to change attitudes to body image and help all of us to put health above appearance and be confident in our bodies.

Over the past 12 months we have launched significant research lifting the lid on appearance-based bullying among young people and YMCAs have been working in schools to deliver body confidence sessions with pupils. Most recently, we launched the Be Real Campaign’s Body Image Pledge, which encourages people to take a stand against unrealistic beauty ideas and released new research on the expectations on young people face to look a certain way has been released.

Our Impact

Stories from YMCAs

"Youth comes but once in a lifetime..."

Supporting young people is what we're all about. Everything we do is centred around young people. We help them to overcome whatever obstacles life throws at them so they go on to become fulfilled and happy adults.

“If it wasn’t for the support from YMCA, I don’t know where I’d be now. I’m now 26 and my life couldn’t be better. I’m living proof that a young person in a very dark place can still change their life.” Mel

“If I hadn’t come to YMCA, I would have been dead. Literally I would have been dead, with no food, no money, no nothing.” Danni

“After some time of sleeping on the streets, I decided to go to YMCA. They offered me somewhere safe to stay and the support gave me the strength to turn my life around. The people at YMCA also saw something in me I didn’t think was there – which is why I’m now working there with young people myself.” Billie

Delivering vital Projects across England & Wales

Housing for Young Workers
YMCA North Staffordshire
One of the fundamental requirements a young person needs to develop and flourish is the security of a stable home. YMCA North Staffordshire recognised the difficulty young people in Stoke-on-Trent were facing as they attempted to secure long-term housing. A new solution was desperately needed and in 2015, the scheme was born. A portfolio of affordable housing for young, low-paid workers in the city has since been developed, with all properties purchased and refurbished within one mile of YMCA North Staffordshire’s city centre campus. This is so young people are still connected to the YMCA community and can access a range of services, including education, health and sports facilities.

Easy Peasy Pods
YMCA Trinity Group

Being a young parent is hard enough but when coupled with homelessness, the risk increases of your child being taken into care. Easy Peasy Pods offers supported accommodation for young parents, giving the family a safe and secure place to stay while keeping them together. The six-week programme develops social and educational needs through a home learning environment, making living in supported accommodation with a child more rewarding. Each parent and child takes part in activities inspired by a range of books, featuring reading, play and educational support.

Right Here
YMCA DownsLink Group
YMCA Right Here is a youth-led, young people focused health and wellbeing project based in Brighton and Hove. Aiming to improve the health outcomes for young people, the project is driven by a team of Youth Ambassadors and volunteers aged 11 to 25, the majority of whom have experienced mental health issues themselves. Together they design and deliver training and workshops (reaching 1,714 students to date), create resources, and strive to influence policy through campaigns and meetings with key decision makers.

Pathway to Employment
YMCA East Surrey
This project offers intensive support for people experiencing insecurity, helping them move into work. Many have struggled or are struggling with various difficulties, including mental health, substance abuse and disability. Pathway to Employment works to remove the many barriers to employment and ensures candidates continue on a journey towards or into the world of work. This includes building self-confidence and assertiveness, interview techniques, counselling, CV writing and healthy living placements. Since the start of the programme, many participants have secured employment, enrolled into voluntary work and/or progressed into training and education.

Good Vibes
YMCA Swansea
Good Vibes is a high-achieving project for young LGBT+ people. It promotes the challenging of stereotypes, prejudice and discrimination, while actively lobbying for equality and helping young people to value themselves, find their voice and improve confidence. The initiative also provides a safe and confidential space, where specially trained and knowledgeable staff are on hand to bring those involved out of isolation, consequently helping to tackle mental health, cultivate friendships and increase happiness. The impact is tangible through the continued growth of weekly forums, where young people feel a sense of belonging and are able to decide their own destiny through project planning and being involved in consultations with the Welsh Government and contributing to national YMCA programmes.


More YMCA stories at

Creating future leaders

At our centre, we are passionate about offering meaningful opportunities that empower our young people, creating the next generation of leaders who inspire positive change and help to shape a brighter future for generations to come.  Underpinning this we offer programmes to get young people engaged in YMCA and representing our organisation nationally and internationally.

In 2017/18, we recruited over a dozen new Youth Ambassadors, who are young people aged 18-30 from YMCAs across England & Wales. They represent YMCA nationally and internationally and are awarded with the opportunity to embrace life enhancing opportunities, experiences and training on the way.

Celebrating Achievement

As 2017 drew to a close, young people, staff and volunteers from YMCAs across England and Wales were honoured for their outstanding achievements, inspirational feats against adversity and shining examples of tireless dedication to provoke change, at the hotly anticipated annual Youth Matters Awards.

“At its core, YMCA’s Youth Matters Awards is about giving thanks and special recognition to every YMCA, young person, service user, member of staff and volunteer, whose hard work and unfaltering dedication have all contributed towards YMCA’s efforts to create better communities for young people and families.”

Give with confidence

For every £1 given to YMCA England & Wales, 85p supports local YMCAs. 13p helps generate more funds and 2p is spent on governance. For more information on donating to YMCA England & wales, please visit

Thank you from Reg

Since my appointment as Chair of Trustees in December, my deep admiration for this amazing organisation has been constantly reinforced and indeed strengthened. I have had the privilege of visiting a number of YMCAs spread across the country and, despite the myriad of challenges the charity sector is encountering today, these organisations - positioned at the heart of almost 740 communities - are continuing to deliver vital support and services to young people with unparalleled passion and dedication.

YMCA is very grateful to our donors, whose kindness has made a positive and significant impact on the lives of more than 630,000 people. Without their support, YMCA would not be able to provide the range of services so desperately needed to help young people belong, contribute and thrive.

Across England and Wales, people have responded generously to our fundraising appeals, signed up to become Roomsponsors and bravely taken on challenges, such as Sleep Easy and the London Marathon, all to raise much needed funds.

Reg Bailey CBE
YMCA National Chair

If you would like to find out more about how you can help support young people through YMCA, visit

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