Too many of those we work have been held back by the lack supportive adult role models and the negative influence of their peer groups, so a cornerstone in our approach is ensuring they’re exposed to a range of positive people and relationship networks. This happens within our bustling centres, at business networking events, through 1 to 1 mentoring, on trips to various places, and on the very estates young people live on.

We aim to provide an environment where young people can observe and practice the formation of healthy positive relationships, and make new friends and professional contacts to help them sustain their positive progress during and following their time at TwentyTwenty. And we spend a lot of time and effort empowering them to make safe, positive and well informed relationship choices within their present social circles.

A fundamental value of our Love4Life programme is to create a relational space where girls can freely express their concerns, questions and desires within the world of relationships. Girls tell us of the complexities of friendships, pressures to enter into a romantic relationships and the difficulties of managing multiple sexual advances. We are seeing the prevalent impact of pornography on our society and the potential consequences regular use holds for all young people. Influences of male dominance, experimental sexual experiences and unrealistic expectations of real life sex have infiltrated into the everyday thinking of boys and girls alike.

In amongst this cacophony of noise and messages girls are telling us of regretful experiences, addictive relationships and countless encounters with older risky males online and offline. Many young people are consistently not using appropriate contraception causing the 15-24 age bracket to be one of the highest for STI diagnosis and although teenage pregnancy rates have decreased, young parents continue to be stigmatised. Teenagers are crying out for better education and support that causes healthy values-based relationships to be expected and accessing sexual health advice as the norm.

Although promoting healthy relationships is a core outcome of Love4Life, a number of girls initially engage with us for a variety of different reasons, and experience significant progress in their understanding and applying healthy relationship advice and guidance to their lifestyles. We have supported girls in gaining knowledge of how to be safe online, how to know whether they’re putting themselves into a risky situation, understanding signs of an unhealthy or abusive relationship, and discovering their values and the characteristics they should expect of a potential partner or friend.

We encourage girls not to compromise on this outlook and many have embraced this attitude.  Our connections have remained strong with other services such as the Police, Child Sexual Exploitation social workers, and alternative learning providers, creating a joined up approach with sharing information about local perpetrators or individuals posing a significant risk.

And many of the girls we work with regularly want to talk and about their family life and friendships, or raise questions to staff and their peers about difficult situations and in turn receive comfort and encouragement from each other. And although boys generally don’t freely talk as much as girls about these matters, we’re finding that in the safe spaces we provide to explore these themes, they are opening up more and more. Boys have their own unique pressures and difficulties in relationships, and can be unwitting victims and perpetrators of abuse as they struggle to form a healthy male identity in the absence of good role models, and the negative expectations of friends.

So although we regard each young person as a brilliant talented individual brimming with potential, it’s vital that we play our part in enabling them to form the bonds and connections which will bring the best out of them, and give them the best chance to flourish as whole human beings.