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Positive Youth Foundation – a lifeline for Coventry’s young people

Some are referred to the Foundation by social care teams, schools, public health, police or housing associations, but others are identified and engaged directly by the Foundation’s outreach teams, whose presence and reputation in the city is strong.

The aim with each and every young person is to build long-term relationships, find out about their circumstances and challenges and offer them positive opportunities and pathways, with their ‘journey’ supported by mentors and role models.

‘Positive Futures’ is the organisation’s longest-running programme, offering a packed timetable of after-school, evening and weekend provision depending on each young person’s needs. Sessional activities – sport chief among them – are used as engagement tools and follow-up interventions keep participants active, tackle anti-social behaviour, build resilience and raise aspirations.

The Raising Aspirations Programme (RAP) focuses on personal development, training, education and employment outcomes; Healthy Futures centres around improving health and wellbeing inequalities; Changing Trax provides music, dance and performance opportunities, and the Involved project gives newly-arrived young people and their families (refugees and asylum seekers) a hub to integrate into their new community.

“Joining the Levelling the Playing Field project is ideal for us because it matches our ethos,” says PYF’s Programmes Manager, Cormac Whelan. “We’ll associate specific sessions with the project in communities with a high population of culturally diverse families, although we will certainly not limit them strictly to a specific group.

“We know that crime and violence are the end product. There’s a lot of things along the way that have got young people to that stage. Our aim is to try to challenge and support those factors early on in the process.

“We work with many agencies such as the police to identify local issues and target them with bespoke activity, but it’s very much about the young people’s opinions too. Building relationships with staff, youth workers, coaches and role models; that’s how we get to find out what’s going on in their lives and the issues they’re facing.”

The PYF was founded by Rashid Bhayat back in 1997 and he remains its director to this day. The Foundation’s influence has spread beyond Coventry, with advisory roles to many organisations nationwide, a visit from Prince William in 2018 and the title of Honorary Partners for the 2021 City of Culture campaign.

As Bhayat says, “Our widespread network of partners, programmes and innovative activities ensures no young person in need in this city goes unsupported.”