Youth Enquiry Service (YES) working partnership


Updated: December 2023

School navigator role

The Charlie Watkins Foundation is supporting a service that ensures young people access the right help they need, when they need it, by engaging with a school counsellor. Since 2021, we have been funding two school counsellors, Keran and Elise, who are working extremely hard to help the young people in schools across Essex and the project has been so successful that North Essex and Suffolk Care have joined us in funding the expansion of the project in the area.  School navigators are now regularly visiting 14 schools in North East Essex and teachers are actively referring students to the project.  In the past six months, nearly 200 young people have been supported with over 800 sessions held. 

The role offers face-to-face support to students in school, as lots of issues are around school and education pressure. And where young people are too anxious to attend school, home visits to families are included so they do not miss out on support and help.  The service is very busy – on average, YES’ navigators see six-to-eight young people per session within schools.

The navigators have also been able to safeguard young people at risk of suicide. Working with the school, YES ensures the young person is supported. Thanks to their work with schools and partners, they have managed to reduce the teenage suicide rate to zero for the last eight months.

Keran has also linked up with another charity who offer counselling short term, but the young person can start the counselling sessions online or via telephone within 24 hours. This is focused on the young people most at risk or in need.

This allows the young people to talk when they are ready to, rather than waiting for months for the right service, as lots of services are really stretched. YES has allocated more of its reserves and has been successful in grant funding for our internal counselling service, but waiting lists are still long, with an average wait of around three months, while other mental health services are around nine months. The demand has never been higher and this service is a crucial part helping young people.  

During the latter part of 2021, it was identified that more girls were suffering from low self-esteem and confidence due to social media and wanting to fit in with society. This was evidenced in the many referrals coming through.

The project therefore set up an 8-week intervention to have a group of nine girls, who had been identified as low in mood with a possibility of self-harm or suicidal tendencies, to come together in a group and meet fortnightly on a Saturday. On these Saturdays the girls could take part in group activities, team building skills, and have the chance to connect and make friends. This proved a huge success and every girl that attended the first session took part in the whole 8 weeks.

The project also offers 1-1 support to students who feel that counselling is not for them or to just need someone to listen to them and guide them on the best way forward. Lots of different schools are now hearing about the project and the positive impact it has had. The project has been doing presentations to Year 9s and 10s and we also have referrals coming through from the sixth form college.

"It's so good to have someone I can talk to and not feel judged. I feel listened to and supported in my time of need and Keran is a great listener who understands me."
A student
"With all that has happened in the past few years, and all the changes that students are facing now, not just in education, but also sexuality etc, we need people like Elise to guide students through the struggles that they face. Children question all the time, and to chat to someone that can really listen and make sense of things, in a valuable asset to any school.
Every school should have their own Elise!"
A teacher
"Elise has been like a breath of fresh air, she has had a huge impact on students and how they can cope throughout so many situations as teenagers and the troubles that sometimes present themselves!"
A teacher
"When this idea was pitched to us, we knew straight away that we would be able to utilise the School Navigation Project, and the support that Keran has provided has been invaluable. She has made herself available at the drop of a hat, when we had a recent death in the year group, along with her colleague David, and we were able to provide a steady stream of students who needed someone to talk to.
We now have several students that have asked for ongoing sessions, along with more that we are referring, to the point where Keran will now have a waiting list."
A teacher
GoGreen project

The Charlie Watkins Foundation is also helping to fund essential items for YES’ GoGreen project. 

With the help of the money from CWF, the GoGreen project has not only been able buy a large 6m by 3m gazebo, but also a garden shed and much needed equipment. As well as this, CWF has funded a summer house called Charlie’s Cabin. Charlie’s Cabin is a safe place where young people can share their concerns or simply chat with their peers and or their project leaders.

The cabin is now in use daily and is used by staff, the YES board, patrons, and other agency partners. The cabin provides a fresh new space in which young people can meet, be counselled, read and relax. It has developed into a real asset for young mothers to play with their children and has allowed YES to talk about the story of Charlie.

During 2022 CEO Dr David Sollis hosted the Colchester MP Will Quince for conversations about the charity, young people’s mental health and the continued impact of the charity.

Throughout 2022, YES has started the process of recruiting eight new young people for the GoGreen allotment. As well as this, it has engaged with a local secure mental health unit where young people can visit the garden as part of their education and rehab.

YES is successfully supporting more than 20 young people with its Go Green project through three weekly gardening sessions (as of October 2022).

What is GoGreen?
The GoGreen project is a community garden in Colchester where young people can go to spend time outside and nurture everything growing there. 

This year has seen young people struggling with social isolation and anxiety issues more than ever. There could also be tensions at home leading to social, health and housing difficulties. The community garden is somewhere to take a first step into re-engaging with others; breaking social isolation, developing confidence, and learning new skills, both practical and social.

The young people may be having real fears over their futures and worries about their loved ones. The practice of gardening and connecting with others allows these worries to be put aside for a while.

In the allotment area, there are fruit and vegetables which young people can grow from seeds to harvest and there is also a garden area full of shrubs and flowers. 

As well as growing crops, the project also sees the group prepare and cook simple meals using produce from the allotment. The group are especially delighted to have been able to grow produce for their local food banks. 

The garden allows young people a safe space away from the concerns of the world and allows YES and those young people to build a long-term relationship together.

Thanks to their vital support , young people have moved on from GoGreen into employment, further work in the community, into higher education (open university) and becoming ambassadors for GoGreen.

Throughout the year, YES has supported young people through critical stages of their lives such as their GCSEs and wider education. Additionally, they have helped young people transition through difficult living circumstances and mental health challenges.

YES are also in the early stages of developing an ecological training scheme for young people with Beth Chatto Gardens. The scheme would be equivalent to a Level 1 certificate in horticulture

Exciting news!

The GoGreen project has been entered into two awards: the Anglia in Bloom award and a community garden award run by Perrywood

The allotment has been visited by both parties and GoGreen will hear the outcome of both awards in September.

“GoGreen Community Garden is a constant when life can be stressful and unexpected. The garden is a wonderful opportunity to meet lots of new people, learn about gardening; and where you know you will be embraced for a peaceful two hours potting, weeding, and planting, thank you.”
Go Green project member
Going to YES and taking part in the projects they host has helped me and my mental health immensely. “Having the space to talk to people my own age as well as having support from the staff means so much to me and I really look forward to my visits there."
Clare Osbourne