Meet the finalists: Youth Worker of the Year – sponsored by Scottish Fire and Rescue Service

Did you know that Scotland’s youth work sector is worth £656 million to the Scottish economy? That’s a lot of great youth work and a lot of positive impact.

Our nation’s 80,000 youth workers show outstanding passion and dedication to improving the lives of young people. These finalists are respected by young people, youth workers and partners alike.  They embody the skills, knowledge and values of youth work, making sure that young people have the opportunity to learn and develop.

That means they’re delivering youth work outcomes with young people, innovating and sustaining new models of practice, and working effectively in partnership with a whole range of local teams and national organisations.

This award is kindly sponsored by the Scottish Fire and Rescue and Service and the finalists are:

Alan Bell, Recharge Youth Work Centre, East Lothian

“When my mum was diagnosed with cancer, Alan supported me every step of the way, he helped me through what was a terrifying experience. At this time, I was also struggling with my gender, he helped me realise who I am, to be proud of this and come to terms with being transgender.” Young person.

Recharge is a friendly, supportive and safe space where young people build essential skills and relationships. At the heart of the project is Alan Bell, who has developed the centre through dynamic partnerships with the Children’s Parliament, the East Lothian Community Planning Partnership and a range of local businesses. 

Alan's tenacity and encouragement has created opportunities for young people who would not normally get the chance to represent their country or have their voice heard within the community. A recent project led some local youngsters to the United Nations to give their views on the Rights of the Child. It was his support and exceptional youth work practice that ensured these young people developed the skills and confidence to take part in such a major programme on the world stage.

Lyndsey Coleman, Y sort it, West Dunbartonshire

 “Every young person should have a youth worker like her.” Just one of the young people Lyndsey has supported over the years.

Lyndsey Coleman has played a significant part in the development of the Y sort it Young Carers Service, supporting over 100 young carers each year. She is a dedicated and sensitive youth worker, who has played a massive role in advocating on behalf of young carers and vulnerable and at risk young people. Recognising a gap in youth work provision for both care experienced young people and volunteering, she was instrumental in creating a unique peer mentoring project, Buddy Up, that trains young people to support others with a background in care.

“I used to be known to social workers for all the wrong reasons but now I’m going to meetings about the young people I help support, and my opinion is respected. It’s thanks to all the encouragement and support that Lyndsey gave me.” Jason Smith, Buddy Up mentor.

Eilaine Coffey, Hot Chocolate Trust, Dundee

This is what happened when 26 young people were asked to describe Eilaine Coffey from Hot Chocolate Trust:

“Amazing, helpful, the best, kind-hearted, brilliant, French accent, mum (times nine), cool, open-minded, compassionate, fantastic, caring, kind, not scary, great weird conversations, warm-hearted, generous, ah-maz-ing, straightforward, unique.”

Eilaine has the qualities that make an outstanding youth worker. Her practice echoes the project’s vision of not just ‘putting stuff on’ but supporting young people to build their own opportunities, listening to what they need, keeping them at the centre of her youth work.

She makes a huge effort to make the space feel like home, acknowledging that many young people have chaotic lives and don’t necessarily have a safe place in their own home. She takes her job as senior youth worker very seriously, but at the same time understands the value of having fun to build supportive relationships, and is not scared to be a bit silly and have a laugh.

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