Life-changing Youth Work in Wester Hailes

Published on 05.03.21

Wester Hailes Youth Agency received Tiny Changes funding in 2020.


Wester Hailes is known for the shops and cinema at Westside Plaza and the WHEC centre and pool – where some of the Tiny Changes team used to swim then eat chips and cheese in the cafeteria when we were younger. It’s an area of Edinburgh where lots of families live in poverty and children experience more barriers to education and work than in other parts of the country. The Tiny Changes Covid Relief Fund supported a charity helping young minds feel better in Wester Hailes. Here is their story:

Tiny Changes Wester Hailes Baking

Wester Hailes Youth Agency

was started in 1997 to work with young people aged between 8 and 25, the team at WHYA support the belief that the needs, abilities and aspirations of young people should be recognised, understood and met, within a supportive environment.  Their bright purple building is a safe space for young people to go to when they need someone to talk to, or something positive to do with friends. Drop-in provision, youth work, environmental work, schools work, group and individual support are all part of the package and support young people in Wester Hailes.

One-to-one support helps young people to recognise their strengths, address the areas that they find difficult, and empowers them to move forward with their lives.  Young people can suffer from low confidence and self-esteem, loneliness, stress and anxiety about challenges at home, money issues, exams, and their future, and never more so than during the coronavirus pandemic.  WHYA supports them to devise coping strategies and reassures them that they are not alone.

Youth work has been impacted by the pandemic.

Supported by the Tiny Changes Covid Relief Fund, the team in Wester Hailes have adapted their services in the following ways:

  • They have delivered virtual drop-in, individual and groupwork sessions.
  • They have put together comfort packs with toiletries to hand out to families, as well as food parcels and supermarket vouchers with a recipe book, so that young people can cook at home. Like many of us take for granted, these essentials have meant that young people in Wester Hailes have had fun in lockdown baking cakes and scones, cooking soup, pasta and stir fries for their families.
  • They delivered art packs and activity books and have kept in touch with young people and their families, by phone.
  • They delivered a digital summer programme, which included: a night ‘at the movies’, wellbeing and craft sessions, chocolate pizzas and a games night.
  • When lockdown eased, following government guidelines, WHYA engaged with young people in the area by meeting them outdoors in the streets and were able to restart face-to-face support, although are back online for now.
  • They have provided individual support via social media, being there for young people and their families, when they need it most.  At the heart of WHYA work is building up relationships and trust, enabling young people to talk about their worries and helping them to feel less alone.

“We are very grateful for the support of Tiny Changes which has enabled us to deliver Individual Support to young people at such a difficult time – they have really needed this support.”

- Wester Hailes Youth Agency

Yellow map of Scotland on blue background with Edinburgh highlighted where WHYA spent this grant

10 Top Tips for Mental Health

from Wester Hailes Youth Agency, that both children and adults might find helpful:

  1. Stick to some type of routine, with good sleeping habits.
  2. Break tasks down into lists/smaller things.
  3. Take time to relax and, if helpful, use relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises, meditation and visualisation.
  4. Try to include exercise and fresh air in your daily routine.
  5. Look at the things you can control, and work on those.
  6. Take each day as it comes and never compare yourself to others.
  7. Be kind to yourself.
  8. Consider making a comfort box that you can turn to, or add to, when you are feeling low.
  9. Remember that, if you are feeling this way, your friends might be feeling it too and you can share your worries with them – a problem shared is a problem halved.
  10. If you can’t talk to friends or family, reach out to organisations where you know you can get help.

For many children and young people, the sense of isolation during the pandemic has been devastating.

They are removed from the structure and safety of school and their friends. For some children, their home environment isn’t a safe place.  Alternately some children can find school a threatening place and are reluctant to attend school. Being able to reach out and speak to a youth worker has been worth its weight in gold. As one of the young people at Wester Hailes said:

“It is different for every young person, but the most important thing I would say is to speak to someone and not bottle it up.”

- young person in Wester Hailes, Edinburgh

What's next

Wester Hailes can be tough place to grow up, but the community there and people who run WHYA are amazing and these young people have all the potential and bright future ahead of them as any child in Scotland. All of us at Tiny Changes value the opportunity to work alongside the team at Wester Hailes Youth Agency, making young minds feel better at this difficult time, and beyond.

If you’d like to find out more about Wester Hailes Youth Agency and the work that they do, head on over to their website.

To help young minds feel better, and fund more projects like this one click here to donate to Tiny Changes.

Keep in touch on social media @tinychanges and by subscribing to our newsletter.

Join the conversation and become a tiny change maker today.

This is just the beginning of the journey, and with your help we can make lots of tiny changes that lead to a huge difference in how young people are supported and listened to.

Follow us on social media, add your voice to the community and become a tiny change maker today.