Royston charity to start looking closer to home

Neil has been honoured with an MBE for his work with young people

Neil has been honoured with an MBE for his work with young people - Credit: Archant

Blink and you’ll miss it, but tucked away in an office in Royston’s Upper King Street is the headquarters of a national charity working hard to empower young people who feel hopeless and alone.

Neil receiving his MBE

Neil receiving his MBE - Credit: Archant

At the helm of Youth at Risk is chief executive Neil Wragg, who joined the team in 1994 when working as a social worker in Enfield.

Neil, who has worked at homeless shelters in some of the roughest areas of London, was taken back when he witnessed the transformation of a gang from Edmonton when they went through a programme of ‘distinction-based’ learning – a rigorous training method to get people to open up and take responsibility for their actions.

The 57-year-old said: “I was amazed by the change in their behaviour, as well as staff and volunteers from the community who also went through training.”

Neil moved out of London in 1996 with his family and set his sights on Royston – partly to save money on rent, and partly so his daughter could grow up in a safe small town away from the perils of the big city.

Tony Weekes, a long serving trainer with a group

Tony Weekes, a long serving trainer with a group - Credit: Archant

It made sense, then, that the charity’s operations also moved to the town in 2005.

Neil has since worked with the IRA, young offenders, Kosovans during the Balkans conflict, and on a project turning deprived youths from Birmingham into ballet stars for a Channel Four documentary.

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He was honoured with an MBE in 2008 for his ground-breaking work.

But has he got any plans to commit to projects closer to home in North Herts?

Neil said: “Not as yet, nothing concrete, but we are having discussions with people in schools.

“There are some issues in Royston. The town is run by a small amount of people. We need fresh ideas, fresh blood. There are problems simmering under the surface with young people antagonising old people.

“Royston is a little old fashioned and yet is growing a lot. I think it’s great that the place is expanding, but there isn’t the infrastructure to support it.

“There’s a lack of strong leadership that the young people can look up to. This town could be so exciting and full of energy. We need more places like Tasty Bites, a lovely little cafe with a strong community feel. ”

Youth at Risk is calling on volunteers to help out in a range of work from making phone calls to coaching young people.

To become a volunteer, email Sue Handley at or call her on 01763 241120.