12 May 2021

Jay is 18 and lives in an Inner London estate renowned for anti-social behaviour.  As well as facing all of the pressures of a teenager, Jay is a young carer and has been caring for his mum for as long as he can remember.  His mum has Lupus, a serious condition where the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues and organs.  Jay’s father struggles with addiction and hasn’t been a constant in his life.

Aged 8, Jay was diagnosed with dyslexia and really struggled to keep up at school.  He was in the bottom set of every subject and unable to read.  He was also suffering with symptoms of sickle cell trait, an inherited blood disorder that affects red blood cells.

When Jay started secondary school things began to look up as he received much needed one-to-one support.  As a result his confidence really improved and he excelled academically; winning a Jack Petchey award and predicted A and A star grades in all subjects.

It was around about the same time that Jay discovered YMCATG’s Youth Zone.  As well as being a safe space to spend time with friends it was a great place to escape the daily stresses of being a young carer. It was also reassuring for his mum, knowing that he was off the streets and in a safe place.

With the support of youth workers, Jay engaged in a range of physical activities and soon realised a passion for football.  Recognising his potential for development, youth workers encouraged Jay to lead on ‘Better Futures’, a funded project giving local young people opportunities to engage in free activities during half term.  Jay took a lead on the football sessions.  Being a respected member of the club, it wasn’t long before his peers got involved and started to recognise their own potential.  Jay was also instrumental in developing the Dockyard League Cup, a tournament that is now a regular fixture at the youth club.

At one point concerns were raised that Jay was being lured into joining a gang.  As part of their engagement plan, youth workers organised a workshop that focused on the consequences of crime and the reality of life behind bars.  Participants were able to ‘spend time’ in a replica prison cell which proved to be a great deterrent for Jay who went on to persuade his friends to stay out of trouble.

Then in his final year of secondary school, everything changed.  Jay was out of school for ten weeks with suspected TB and at the same time his grandmother, who he was very close to, died unexpectedly.  Jay was raised by his grandmother and her death came as a complete shock.  Two months on and Jay was having as many as six seizures a day and his kidneys were not working properly resulting in high blood pressure.  He was later diagnosed with three different types of epilepsy and was on a number of occasions hospitalised with serious complications.

Circumstances and poor health took its toll on Jay but with determination, faith and the support of family, friends and youth workers he was able to focus on improving his health as well as catching up on his school work.

Jay is now at college studying Sports Science with the aim of going onto university.  Through no fault of his own he was unable to attend college for six months but with the support of tutors and youth workers is now back on track.  Jay is still a regular at the youth club but in a voluntary capacity.  As a young person that others aspire to, and with a passion for sports that he is keen to share Jay is a real asset to the youth club.

Life has not been easy for Jay but he doesn’t let anything hold him back.  He recently led a discussion on the importance of youth work on national radio and proved to be a confident and effective communicator as well as a great advocate for YMCA.  Please note that the name of the individual in this case study has been changed.