Naomi Hulston and Junior Smart OBE, two of the UK’s leading experts on supporting young people, have joined the Youth Endowment Fund’s governing Committee.
Naomi is the Chief Operating Officer at national youth charity, Catch22. In her day-to-day role, Naomi is responsible for running the organisation’s operations, spanning children’s services, education, employment, apprenticeships, social action and justice. She brings to the Committee extensive experience and insight on early intervention and prevention services for young people at risk of social exclusion.
Junior is a social entrepreneur, campaigner and youth leader. In his early 20’s, Junior was sentenced to 12 years in prison for serious drug-related offences. It was while in custody, seeing the cycle of re-offending and helplessness of other inmates, he vowed to prevent what happened to him from happening to others. On his release, with the support of the St Giles Trust, Junior founded the award-winning SOS Project. What started in 2006 as a small pilot project in Southwark grew to become the largest ex-offender led project in the country; helping thousands of young people make a safe and sustained exit from serious violence and criminal exploitation through county lines.
The YEF Committee oversees the charity’s mission to prevent children and young people becoming involved in violence. Chaired by Sir Kevan Collins, its members are responsible for the charity’s governance and oversee the work of the team. This includes shaping how its ten-year, £200m endowment from the Home Office is spent.
Sir Kevan Collins, Chair of the YEF Committee, said: “It’s vitally important that all the Committee’s decisions are grounded in a deep knowledge of the issues, evidence and experiences of young people. Naomi and Junior bring lived experience of youth violence, as well as an understanding of how to prevent it.
“Their passion, wisdom and critical eye will play a fundamental part in helping vulnerable young people get the very best support possible. I’m thrilled they’re able to join us.”
Naomi Hulston, Chief Operating Officer at Catch22, said: “I’m delighted to join the Committee of the Youth Endowment Fund. I’ve spent my career working with young people, supporting them to believe in and deliver on their potential. I look forward to contributing to the charity’s important mission and applying the insights, knowledge and strategic thinking gained from my front-line experience.”
Junior Smart OBE, founder of the SOS Project at St Giles Trust, said: “Having dedicated my life since prison to helping the marginalised, and often vulnerable, break free of violence, county lines and exploitation, I know the importance of prevention. It can be critical in stopping tragic outcomes, not just for individuals but communities. I’m excited to bring my knowledge and passion to the Committee.”
The full YEF Committee includes: Sir Kevan Collins (Chair), Eleanor Harrison OBE, Hamid Patel CBE, Rt Hon Hazel Blears, Louis Elson, Junior Smart OBE, Naomi Hulston and Professor Nick Pearce.