The key to healthy, dependable relationships that support families to thrive

At their best, families and friends help protect us through the difficult times and support us through the good times to develop the skills, confidence and resilience we each need to thrive throughout life.

FASTN is working with CYP Now to launch the Youth Relationships Award. Picture: FASTN
FASTN is working with CYP Now to launch the Youth Relationships Award. Picture: FASTN

These relationships matter. Healthy, lasting, dependable relationships lay the foundations on which to build resilience, good mental health and the ability to make the most of our talents.

That is why we have joined forces with Children & Young People Now to launch the Youth Relationships Award. We want to celebrate the initiatives that have done the most to inspire and enable young people to develop healthy, dependable relationships throughout their lives.

Healthy, nurturing and dependable relationships matter. Where young people get the opportunity to experience positive relationships and see them being role modelled around them they are able to mirror these same behaviours. They gain confidence, build up resilience, and learn the skills to thrive throughout life.

We see it time and again in the projects we are involved in.

In Hull, a range of youth organisations including Cornerhouse, Freedom Road Creative Arts and the Young People’s Parliament came together to start the conversation. The Media Trust’s amazing Vlogstar programme worked to train young people to produce quality short videos expressing their feelings about the relationships that matter to them.

You can view the results here.

We were particularly pleased that so many young men took part. It can be hard to break through the macho culture and open up about feelings and relationships.

These young people shared stories about the toxic impact of bullying, the challenges of depression and anxiety, and how arts, physical activity and pets can offer a route to learning about and forming strong and supportive relationships.

They told how engagement with youth services transformed their relationships with the world around them and enabled them to create close, dependable bonds that increased feelings of self-worth and confidence.

“We need to rise up and take control of our lives,” said one. Families “love you, they support you through anything. It’s beautiful.”

Two participants are setting up their own vlogging channel, two more are featuring the project on their radio station. Another is putting relationships and families on the youth parliament agenda, and another has used the relationship skills and confidence gained in making his vlog to get a job.

In Rochdale, we have joined the town’s existing Relationships Revolution. Working with young people, we have produced a video and training package to recruit Relationships Champions to support their peers at school or in youth settings. They join hundreds of adults who have already signed up to the Rochdale Relationships Matter Manifesto.

In the West Midlands, Sport Birmingham’s Make A Difference programme and Birmingham City University have highlighted the importance of sport in building relationships, understanding what makes the approach successful and shared the learning more widely. Sport and exercise are great for health and wellbeing and great for relationship building too.

Rapper and social activist Nick Brewer’s poem Commitment has reached new audiences with his confession that growing up in East London left him with a “take it or leave it” attitude. Music turned him around when all his hard work and dedication paid off musically, and with his relationships.

Nick Brewer talks Commitment from Potential Productions on Vimeo.

The aim in all this work is to widen the space where young people express openly their desire for positive relationship ambitions, and crucially get the peer and specialist youth support they need to realise them.

This has been the strangest and most challenging of years for young people, and hard-pressed youth workers and the under-funded services that support them.

In building back better post-Covid-19, we can encourage and support young people to aspire to the kinds of positive dependable relationships that can support them throughout their lives.

Our research, carried out before the pandemic, showed that four in five young people see lasting and fulfilling relationships as at least as important as their work ambitions, research carried out with Parentkind during the pandemic on parental attitudes and UK Youth’s research has reinforced these findings.

In short, healthy, dependable relationships are vital. They matter. But too few people talk about them enough.

FASTN is sponsoring the brand-new Youth Relationships Award to inspire the youth sector to consider how they support young people to develop their ambitions for relationships. We want to celebrate the work that young people, youth workers and projects are already doing in this field and we want to encourage more to join in.

Judges will be looking for examples where young people have played a key role in shaping the work, which is likely to be delivered in a youth setting.

This is a great opportunity for those local, grassroots projects to get the recognition they deserve and their work to be showcased to a national audience.

To find out more about supporting young people to aspire for and develop healthy and dependable relationships throughout their lives and how we could support you, please get in touch:

Good luck to everyone who enters.

Catherine Hine is chief executive officer at FASTN

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