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Annual Report

Message from the Chair

It’s been a challenging year to join Youth First Chair as the organisation faced significant challenges providing vital services for young people during the Covid pandemic with its consequent lockdowns and restrictions whilst also continuing negotiations for a new contract with the London Borough of Lewisham. 

I would like to start by thanking my predecessor Paula McDonald MBE for last year taking on the role of Interim Chair and for agreeing to continue as Vice Chair. I’m extremely grateful for the dedication and hard work shown by all our Youth First staff and for the support and commitment of the Board, including our Non-Executive and Employee Directors. The last year has been a difficult period for the organisation, but the dedication and enthusiasm of all our staff is a clear testament to their belief in putting the next generation first.

Since joining Youth First in May 2020 the restrictions of the pandemic have made it difficult to get out and meet as many of our staff as I would have liked. Even so, during the Autumn I was privileged to visit a number of Youth Clubs and Adventure Playgrounds and to meet several of our Youth Workers as well as some of the young people who use our services. The stories they told all had a common theme centred on the very real value that young people place on our services and the importance of the relationships they build with our youth workers. For example, in one youth club, I was touched to hear a young person sharing their concerns about not feeling adequately supported at school to prepare for their GCSEs and asking the youth worker for help because they were the only person they felt they could turn to. The youth worker immediately started to work up a plan for after school support with the young person, who readily engaged in discussing what would help them.

Across all the Youth Clubs I visited, it was a pleasure to see enthusiastic participation in the wide range of activities available, with clear favourites focusing on sport/physical activity, baking and music/drama. This was very evident at Woodpecker Youth Club where I saw young people enthusiastically taking part in dance/drama activity, related to the Carnival Project which was then collated into a stunning final video which can be viewed here.

As noted above, these stories all played out in the context of a global pandemic, and so again, I would like to thank all our staff for their passion, professionalism and commitment to young people. Their cumulative efforts have allowed Youth First to continue to serve young people in the most difficult of times and will, I am sure, provide a sound platform as we seek to grow and develop as an organisation to support more young people with the everyday challenges they face.

As Chair of Youth First I commend this annual review and encourage you to read it.

Val Davison
Chair, Youth First