Barnsley YMCA

Founded in 1950, Barnsley YMCA has a strong legacy of supporting children from a variety of backgrounds throughout their lives. Essentially a youth centre, the YMCA seeks to provide a wealth of opportunities for children of all ages.

With grant funding of £1,308 from the Neil and Julie MacDonald Grassroots Endowment Fund for South Yorkshire, Barnsley YMCA aims to support the running of ‘Little Y’, an activities group for children aged five to eight in Barnsley that has been running since 2005.

Meeting the needs of the community, Barnsley YMCA created a child-led group for between 12-15 children (dependent on need) aged 5-8 who come from a range of backgrounds but who also share a common variable in deprivation. Little Y runs for an hour and a half each week and with extra sessions in school holidays, the group provides children with an un-structured opportunity to socialise, enhance their skills and most of all, have fun!
Over the years, Little Y has seen a great deal of improvement in the children it supports.

Kelly, a play worker for Little Y describes the transformation of two children in the group.

“Two of our little girls lost their sister a few years ago to a brain tumour, all three of them came to Little Y together. After the incident, they went into their shells and, even with counselling, struggled to talk about the issue or engage with others. After spending more time at Little Y the girls have begun to come out of their shells and can now talk comfortably about their sister.”

Kelly went on to describe another little girl who shows improvements at Little Y.

“One of our children is mute in public and very shy. The other day she smiled while at Little Y, which is a huge improvement.”

Little Y has proven to be highly beneficial for the children to take part. However, it also benefits those who help to run the group. One of the staff members started out as a volunteer and now has consistent employment thanks to Little Y. Often youth workers are on short-term programmes but due to the success of Little Y, long-term job opportunities can be offered. Currently there are two members of staff working with the Little Y group but in the future, further funding could lead to the addition of more staff members.

Future funding could be put towards more staff members to allow for more children in the Barnsley area to receive the care and support of the Barnsley YMCA. It’s been noted by Barnsley YMCA that there are very few opportunities available, other than structured sports clubs, for children in the 5-8 age range and as a result they struggle to receive
funding.

Additionally, it has also been noted that some of the wards within the Barnsley area fall into the most deprived 10% of wards in England.

Examining the SYCF Vital Signs report, its clear that deprivation is both the most severe in Barnsley of all South Yorkshire regions and is also the factor that local residents are most concerned about. Furthermore, it’s been found that 22% (on average) of children in South Yorkshire are living in poverty, 5% higher than the national average.

Through the support provided by donors and SYCF, groups such as Little Y can provide an in-demand service for a range of families across Barnsley. Over 2018, Little Y had 528 attendances from 28 children. This meant that 22 families in Barnsley were supported with the services of the YMCA. Without adequate funding, many deprived young people across the area would grow up without the stability and socialisation opportunities that Little Y provides.