Charity Awards 2024

Children and Youth 2023 winners: Sister System

Why they won

  • Scalability: Good potential to be replicated elsewhere
  • Cost-effectiveness: Costs £1,000 per person compared with the cost of mental health intervention of between £11,000 and £59,000 per person
  • Co-production: Designed in consultation with the women and girls

In the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd in the summer of 2020 and amid the gathering momentum of the Black Lives Matter movement, the Sister System charity was troubled by the conversations it was having with its service users – care-affected girls and young women, the majority of whom are Black and Brown. Sister System supports between 120 and 200 young people each year on its peer mentoring educational empowerment programmes.

Sister SystemThe leadership team witnessed first-hand the personal and deep trauma their beneficiaries experienced as a result of the shooting, and the profound effect on their emotional and mental wellbeing of racism and discrimination, which was further compounded by the impact of being in care. More than half of gang-affiliated girls come through the care system; two-thirds of women in the criminal justice system come from the care system, and 45% of those in the care system have a mental health condition by the age of 17.

The charity identified a devastating lack of pride, place and purpose, and a stark disconnect between the Black British heritage, the Black American experience and how that linked the diaspora.

To tackle this, Sister System co-developed with its service users a programme called Honour Thyself to help beneficiaries identify, understand and challenge the stereotypes, inequities and systematic racism inherent in society. The aims of the project included learning about African-Caribbean heritage, fostering pride and place as Black British women, and inspiring care-affected Black and Brown girls to embrace and be proud of who they are.

The programme features workshops on ‘why be proud’, showcasing male and female Black British role models, leadership training, and mentoring by volunteer “big sisters”. The initiative worked with 24 girls over six months, with each girl receiving 24 hours of mentoring and 132 hours of workshops, and working towards a recognised qualification in leadership.

Feedback forms and data collection from participants reported that 100% improved their mental well-being; 85% raised their sense of pride, place and purpose; and 90% had become part of a larger community of peers. In total, 50% achieved the qualification in leadership and 22 of the girls are continuing their development by joining other programmes or becoming peer mentors.

The total cost of the programme per person was £1,000 and funding has already been secured for a second cohort in 2023-24 and a third the following year.

Awards judge Martin Edwards described the project as “small-scale but brilliant” and said it “deserves to be put on the national stage”. 

“At the moment it’s only 24 people, but they are clearly targeting an at-risk group which exists all over the country, that of Black girls and women in the care system. I think it’s eminently replicable.”

Chris Sherwood commended the charity’s co-design approach: “They’ve worked closely with their audience, the young people, to really understand their needs.”

CC Reg no. 1177669

Highly Commended

Kumon Y’all

Divisions in our local communities can be deep-seated, particularly when it comes to race and religion. Dewsbury-based charity Kumon Y'all decided to strengthen bonds across and between the predominantly Muslim community and other groups, through an annual youth-led football tournament. From the initial event in 2013, the Let's Unite tournament has grown to involve 40 youth teams and 12 adult teams in 2022, with more than 5,000 attendees and over 200 volunteers. It also raises money for local charities and ensures that women are given a voice and role in the management of the charity. It is now talking to groups in other regions in the north of England about exporting the model to them.

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Safer London

Addressing the long-term trauma suffered by victims of violence and exploitation among London's young people, Safer London overhauled its casework model to reduce the impact of violent crime and prevent re-victimisation and/or reoffending. The new strategy provides one-to-one support which is trauma-informed and underpinned by strong, trusted relationships with highly specialised caseworkers. Since implementation 18 months ago, the new model has seen 93% of victims reporting an increased feeling of safety, 83% reporting increased ability to access housing or housing support, and 83% reporting a reduction in being affected by violence.

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