Girvan Youth Trust - Hand in hand

Find out about the Girvan Youth Trust's Hand in Hand project supporting young people in the area with Additional Support Needs.

What are the aims of your project?

The aims of the Hand in Hand Project are as follows:

  • To provide an increase in social networking opportunities and services available for 40 young people with Additional Support Needs (ASN)
  • To support the Personal Development of the young people involved in the project through educational workshops and social activities
  • To provide quality respite for over 40 families and carers
  • To improve the public attitude towards the historical, social and cultural barriers of exclusion for disabled or marginalised young people within the community. This is primarily achieved by supporting the integration of those young people within other local community groups and events

Where is it?

The Hand in Hand project is provided by Girvan Youth Trust (GYT), a local youth group charity based in Girvan, South Ayrshire, Scotland. The Trust and project is based within the Z1Youth Bar, a 21st-century, state-of-the-art, multi–functional, dedicated youth centre. The Youth Bar is a non-alcoholic bar, fully equipped with IT Suite, Arts & Crafts Suite, Function Stage Area and Outdoor Area. The facility is disabled accessible and friendly.

Who’s involved?

The project is currently managed and delivered by a full-time project coordinator and trainee youth worker. September 2014 will see the appointment of a further trainee placement under the RANK Foundation GAP scheme. The full-time staff are supported by a core base of local adult volunteers and youth peer buddies.

How’s it funded?

Established in 2010, the Hand in Hand has, to date, been funded by various and diverse groups of statutory and external  grant awarding bodies, including Ayrshire LEADERGannochy TrustShared Care Scotland and the People’s Health Trust. These funders support the core, revenue and activity programme costs for the project.

Where did you go for help and advice?

The catalyst for the project was our engagement with a local 17-year-old with ASN who attended the Z1 Youth Bar, this subsequently led to us engaging with local families and the school for young people with ASN. Our access to six young people with ASN and their families ‘opened doors’ to our involvement with the local Social Work and Child Support agencies.

The GYT staff member charged with redressing this obvious vacuum in social needs for young people with ASN also contacted and visited other  nationwide organisations who offered similar projects to the one we hoped to set up. We also contacted parents to find out about young people and to help us develop a better understanding of each young person’s personal and social needs and aspirations.

Staff and volunteers also attended various training courses and information sessions to increase their knowledge and understanding of working with children with additional needs. The growth in the number of young people and families accessing our local group work ensures that we are still and forever learning in regards to our role and capabilities towards supporting young people with ASN.

What is your greatest achievement so far?

Having started our project in 2010, in support of six local young people with ASN we now work with over 40 such young people. Our initial facilitating of a Friday afternoon session within Z1 Youth Bar for the pupils of the local school has now grown in a multitude of directions and levels. In addition to our weekly club night on a Sunday evening, we also now run various clubs such as an After School Club on a Tuesday afternoon and a small activity based club for a small focus group on a Wednesday evening.

Our Z1 Youth Bar based work is further augmented by the delivery of a wide and diverse range of trips, outings and residential. These external activities providing opportunities that the young people otherwise may not have had. The majority of the young people with ASN who now access our youth work have been referred by their parents and families. We’ve built up fantastic relationships with young people and their families who are very supportive of the work we do.

Our greatest achievement to date is, however, the fact that young people with ASN are now accessing all aspects of our Z1 Youth Bar general programmes and activities. Such greater integration and inclusion helping to reduce cultural stigmatisation and improve the quality of life for young people with ASN.

The biggest challenge?

Our initial biggest challenge was to overcome the scepticism of the respective parents, who had clearly seen and/or experienced earlier supportive projects default in regards to delivering such support for their child. We also had to overcome the factor that many of the parents tended to be over protective towards their child’s own interests and capabilities for example, "My son doesn’t go on residentials"  or "My daughter can’t sail or ride a horse". By fully and continually engaging with the parents and families we have given them both reassurance of our own aims and objectives and also greater awareness towards what their son or daughter can achieve with the correct support and encouragement.

At the moment our biggest challenge is in terms of recruiting and retaining our required core base of peer buddies. This has previously been secured through senior secondary school pupils and local youth volunteers undertaking their Duke of Edinburgh Award or other accredited Award scheme. A few of our initial peer buddies and young people with ASN are now pro active volunteers in taking forward the Hand in Hand project and our general work within the wider community.

Any tips for someone setting up a similar project?

Listen to the young people concerned, it is their personal and social networking needs and ‘ dreams’ which will steer  your project. Also spend time building up a rapport and relationship with the respective parents as they need reassured in regards to the safety and welfare of their child who is  now clearly wishing to step outwith the parental  comfort zone. By remaining both, open and flexible, in terms of your programme will also help to encourage the support and endorsement of the statutory agencies and youth support bodies.

Find a suitable venue for the activities you wish to provide and one which is easily accessible and disability friendly.

Visit other organisations that are running something similar the information, support and advice they can give you is invaluable. Sharing of experience and 'best practice' is crucial to the success of any project.

What’s next for your project?

Hand in Hand has now secured funding for another sub-project to be delivered on a more one-to-one basis for young people within an area of the community. The project is called ‘Let’s Do It’ and allows a designated member of staff to work individually with young people as well as with them as a small group. The project aims to work with young people to aid individual development, offer support with all aspects of their life and encourage them to get involved within the local community.

Our ongoing engagement with local young people with ASN and their respective families, school teachers and support agencies has served to highlight the parallel vacuum in regards to supporting and developing their future employability opportunities and potential. This is an area of mutual concern which Girvan Youth Trust and the staff delivering Hand in Hand now seek to redress.

Contact details

  • Yvonne McGill
  • Hand in Hand Project Co-ordinator
  • Z1 Youth Bar
  • 154 Dalrymple Street, Girvan, KA26 9BQ
  •  Tel:  01465 714729
  • Email:

More information

You can find more information on the Z1 website -