Young people's health charity steps forward to claim top accolade

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Tower Hamlets-based charity, Step Forward, has beaten more than 400 organisations from around the UK to be crowned the overall winner of this year's GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) IMPACT Awards, run in partnership with health think-tank The King's Fund. The charity picked up their award and £35,000 prize at a ceremony last night, held at London's Science Museum.

Step Forward impressed a team of judges with its innovative approach to helping more than 2,000 11-25 year olds overcome personal, social and health problems via counselling, advice, training, personal development, and sexual health services provided in partnership with the local primary care trust.

Tower Hamlets is one of the most deprived areas in the UK, with the second highest population of under-18s in Western Europe, coupled with the third highest level of child poverty in England. It has high levels of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections in under-18s, as well as a disproportionate level of family breakdown and poor mental health.

The judges praised Step Forward's outstanding work in responding to local need – filling crucial gaps in health provision, including therapeutic support to help young people reduce self-harm and address the underlying issues that have led to problems with alcohol and drugs. During 2009, Step Forward was accessed by 2,062 young people – 844 young men and 1,187 young women. Some of the charity's most notable achievements with hard-to-reach young people in that year include:

  • 644 young people receiving specialist support in Step Forward's combined sexual health and contraception clinic
  • 96 young people receiving therapeutic support to deal with trauma associated with rape or sexual abuse
  • 96 young people being helped to find ways of reducing their self-harming behaviour
  • 70 young people being supported to address underlying problems that have led them to have problems with alcohol and/or drugs.

The awards – GSK's flagship UK corporate social responsibility programme – highlight the crucial and often unsung role played by the voluntary sector in meeting health needs among deprived and vulnerable communities, often bridging gaps that statutory services are unable to fill. With NHS and local authority budgets under pressure, the GSK awards provide a vital source of funding for the winners and play a key role in promoting innovation and good practice across the voluntary sector.

Jennifer Fear, Chief Executive of Step Forward said:

'I am constantly inspired by the resilience and strength of the young people who come through our door. This award will enable Step Forward to help many more young people and allow the organisation to continue to thrive in the years ahead. It is great recognition for the skills and hard work of the staff, volunteers and trustees.'

Sir Christopher Gent, Chairman of GlaxoSmithKline and one of the judges, said:

'Step Forward defines what the IMPACT awards are about. It has demonstrated a strong focus in targeting and fulfilling the health needs of over 2000 young people, by understanding the local community; and actively engaging with the often hard-to-reach diverse cultures within it.

'Their success is a testament to what can be achieved when charities and the NHS work together effectively. Moreover, Step Forward's achievements are all the more impressive when you consider that they’ve been achieved on the tightest of budgets- less than £300,000 per year.

'The calibre of entrants this year was extremely high and I commend Step Forward for their innovation - well done to the staff and volunteers who have made it work so well.'

See more from the GSK IMPACT Awards

Notes to editors

For further information about the GSK IMPACT Awards, run in partnership with The King's Fund, contact Nick Burke, tel. 020 7307 2582.

Online videos on Step Forward and the other award nominees are available on our GSK IMPACT Awards pages.

For pictures of the winners receiving their award, and all the action from the prize-giving ceremony, please contact Nick Burke, tel. 020 7307 2582.

To find out more about Step Forward, contact Jennifer Fear, CEO, tel. 020 7739 3082

Supporting information

  • Tower Hamlets has the third highest level of child poverty in England.
  • Tower Hamlets has the second highest population of under 18s in Western Europe.
  • 76 per cent of young people living in Tower Hamlets are from black and minority ethnic communities, which is reflected in Step Forward's user groups.
  • The area has high levels of teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections, as well as family breakdowns and mental health problems.
  • During 2009, Step Forward was accessed by 2,062 young people – 844 young men and 1,187 young women
  • 930 young people accessed its core services of advice, counselling, personal development and family support
  • Step Forward helped 96 young people to find ways to reduce self-harming behaviour.
  • Apart from self-referrals, the next largest referral routes were via education services (20 per cent) and health services (10 per cent).

Case study quotes from Step Forward's young clients:

'Had it have not been for their help and support I would dread to think where I would be now. If only there were more organisations like this there would be far less young people dealing with difficult situations alone.'

'This organisation has helped me so much in my difficult time and helped me with my communication skills. I can get counselling sessions and use the sexual health clinic on request. Unlike most charities, Step Forward does not restrict the type of young people who can access the free services (in regards to borough and limited age range).'

The King's Fund is a charity that seeks to understand how the health system in England can be improved. Using that insight, we help to shape policy, transform services and bring about behaviour change. Our work includes research, analysis, leadership development and service improvement. We also offer a wide range of resources to help everyone working in health to share knowledge, learning and ideas.

GlaxoSmithKline – one of the world's leading research-based pharmaceutical and healthcare companies – is committed to improving the quality of human life by enabling people to do more, feel better and live longer.  For further information please visit

About the GlaxoSmithKline IMPACT Awards

The name 'IMPACT' derives from the criteria that winners must have demonstrated in their application submissions: Innovation, Management, Partnership, Achievement, Community Focus and Targeting Need.

Judging panel

  • Sir Christopher Gent (Chair): Chairman, GlaxoSmithKline plc
  • Sir Christopher Kelly: Chairman, The King's Fund
  • Simon Bicknell: Senior Vice President, Company Secretary and Corporate Compliance Officer, GlaxoSmithKline plc
  • Professor Steve Field: Chair of the NHS Future Forum and Chair of the National Inclusion Health Board
  • Gilly Green OBE: Head of UK Grants, Comic Relief
  • Adrian Hodges: Vice President, Corporate Responsibility & Global Community Partnerships, GlaxoSmithKline plc
  • Martin Swain: Vice President, Global Employee Relations, GlaxoSmithKline plc
  • Peter Wanless CB: Chief Executive, Big Lottery Fund
  • Richard Watts: Group Publishing Director, Haymarket Business Media