New Y Centre provides hub of fun, learning and opportunity for young people

In May 2024, the new Y Centre in Perth opened its doors following a £6 million revamp of St Andrew’s and St Stephen’s church. Owned and run by YMCA Tayside, the centre is a three-floor hub where young people from eight to 25 can hang out, develop skills, make friends, and find new opportunities in a safe, fun and nurturing environment.

Jill McGrath, CEO of YMCA Tayside, talks of the long but rewarding journey of making the new youth centre a reality.

“We knew the church was no longer fit for purpose and spent years looking for alternatives. It seemed every avenue we explored involved compromises we weren’t willing to accept. In 2019, just before Covid, we sat down as a team and without constraints, wrote a list of all the things we wanted. This list wasn’t plucked out of thin air. It was based on what young people, our partners and wider community wanted, and we were determined to make it happen.”

YMCA Tayside raised over £6 million, enabling the charity to renovate their beloved church, and achieve the dream of developing a first-class meeting space and training hub for young people in Perth.

The funding came from a range of sources including The Gannochy Trust, Scottish Government, Perth and Kinross Council, City Heritage Trust, The Robertson Trust, The Northwood Charitable Trust, The Forteviot Charitable Trust, Social Investment Scotland (SIS) and a range of smaller contributors.

After a long period of consultation involving the council, charitable partners, social care operators and most importantly, young people, a plan was put in place to create the ultimate hub for young people, and a suitable new Head Quarters for YMCA Perth and its 15 staff and 70 volunteers.

Split over three floors, facilities include a digital skills hub, drop-in space, ‘The Well’ social enterprise shop, a gaming zone, gym, craft workshop and quiet areas. An outdoor courtyard will soon include a garden area, centred around a restored historic well. Local coffee supplier, the Bean Shop, will be helping with barista training for young people.

The top floor will be a training and conference space and gym, due to open in the next few weeks. The centre will support over 800 young people a year through direct activation, and many more through YMCA Tayside’s partners and affiliates.

Jill continues: “Seeing the Y Centre open after so many years of planning is an incredible feeling. It represents the realisation of a dream for so many people.  Our mantra has always to work with young people, not for them, which is why we involved them at every stage of the development, from planning to design.

On the ground floor for example, we display some of the original concept drawings for the interior designs, created by young people and you can see in the space these ideas come to life. Young people had to feel it was their centre and their input has been a life changing experience.”

The Y Centre also features seven flats, four nearing completion and three due to open in January. The accommodation is intended to tackle homelessness and help young people transition from care and supported living to independence. Despite the great work of local supported accommodation providers such as Anchor House and Wellbank, social housing shortages remain a challenge across the region.

“We often had young people approaching us looking for somewhere to stay, or a sanctuary to escape a traumatic experience.” Said Jill. “We knew accommodation was a priority and it has been central to our plans. We have one emergency flat for those unexpected cases, and six others that provide a safe space for people to stay and prepare for transition to independence.”

Following the opening of the third floor and completion of the flats, Jill and her team are determined to make the new centre a success. She concluded: “It’s been a challenge to get the centre up and running, but now comes the crucial part . Our priority going forward is to consolidate our work, make sure we are providing the highest level of support and services for young people. There is always demand, so in the near future we hope to expand our offering, to provide more workshops, more training opportunities and grow our staff base. There’s a long road ahead but its immensely rewarding work, and a pleasure to be a part of!”