Launched in September 2020, CashBack for Change is a three-year project funded by Scottish Government Programme CashBack for Communities. The project is run by YDance and Glass Performance with activity taking place in Falkirk, Renfrewshire, Angus, North and East Ayrshire, Dundee, Perth, and East and West Dunbartonshire.

CashBack for Change uses dance and theatre as a tool to engage and positively influence young people aged 10 -21 who are most at risk of displaying anti-social behaviours and/or entering the criminal justice system. The project targets young people living in areas of high deprivation and crime, those not engaging in mainstream education and in alternative education centres, and those already in the criminal justice system at HMP & YOI Polmont. 

As part of our CashBack for Change Celebration Day, we are sharing some case studies from the first year of the project. The following is an extract from the CashBack for Change Annual Report 2021, prepared by Catch the Light.  

Good Shepherd Case Study 


The Good Shepherd Centre is a Secure, Close Support & Semi-Independent Living Service for vulnerable young people 12 to 17 years of age. The campus comprises an 18 bed Secure House, a 6 bed Close Support House and a 3 bed Semi-Independent Cottage. Young people are referred to us under the Criminal Justice System and through the Children’s Hearing System. Each young person accommodated within the centre needs intensive and/or secure care. The following case study describes a programme implemented by YDance during the changing dynamics of the Covid-19 pandemic and the lockdown. Gillian Montgomery, Dance Artist at YDance was interviewed for the Case Study, along with a stakeholder who works as a classroom assistant (anonymous) at the centre.  

Programme Overview 

The programme in Good Shepherd began on the 14th of September 2020. The programme rans for six or seven sessions to meet the hours required by SQA for an accredited award. All young people were given the opportunity to take part. However, boys were not keen as the Classroom Assistant conveyed: 

I think the boys thought that dance was something only done by girls highlighted by one lad saying, “he wasn’t going to prance about”. I suppose the benefit of it being an all-girl group was there were no barriers to them taken part and judged by the boys. 

Recognising the importance of building relationships with young people, the sessions were staged with a gentle introduction rather than jumping straight in as you might in a regular dance class. The Dance Artist reflected on the flexibility required when working in a secure unit setting: 

We had three girls in one group and two girls in another group, however they had to be separated because they had just been admitted and Good Shepherd needed to see if they would get on with each other. Having such low numbers makes delivering a session difficult especially given you are quite exposed in dance and the girls felt insecure and vulnerable. Eventually they came together, however the delivery was impacted by several other factors going on in the school, which you must go with. 

Another factor is that many young people stay for short periods meaning young people could start a programme but move on before it finishes. There are also rules and protocols that are strictly enforced, as the Classroom Assistant clarified: 

When YDance come the young people are not allowed to be left alone, to chat or pass on information so I accompanied and stayed with the group who attended the sessions. I helped deal with any challenging behaviour and supported the YDance staff when required. 

 This could have a bearing on how the session ran, as the Dance Artist illustrated: 

One girl was caught whispering so could not attend for two weeks, she then did not want to attend because she had missed so much. I had to work with her to encourage her to return and thankfully she did.  In other programmes I have run if young people do not feel like joining in, they can sit at the side or I can keep them involved, doing other things like manage the music. Here, they are taken out and put back in their class.  

Confidence and Resilience 

Those that attended the dance sessions showed signs of low confidence and insecurity at first. This can make attendance difficult to sustain but in this instance the group attended every week, which boosted their confidence:  

I have seen their confidence grow and there is an eagerness to learn. Although, they can be a bit fussy when it comes to things like music choice. But even that is a positive thing because they are in an environment where they do not have many opportunities to make choices. The girls who attend have gone on to practice the routines in between the weekly sessions. They listened to advice in terms of what to wear for flexibility and comfort that shows a willingness and a commitment to the programme.   

This was reiterated by the Classroom Assistant, who said: 

I would definitely say the programme had a positive impact. For example, at the start of the programme the girls were all awkward and did not want to participate. However, the dance artists were great at encouraging the girls. They were proactive in demonstrating the moves and that really helped to motivate them. Because of the leader’s approach, the girls developed confidence in their ability and spoke out more, they even began to help one another. The girls’ resilience also grew as they began to deal with disappointment if they did not get things right the first time.   

Personal and Physical Skills 

The girls who were more relaxed about dancing helped with the music and encouraged those that felt less comfortable. The Dance Artist remarked: 

It was great to see their kindness and willingness to help others.  

The mutual support was also picked up by the classroom assistant: 

The sessions also created personal development opportunities. For example, we had one young girl who was hard on herself, saying she looked stupid and constantly put herself down. The rest of the girls started supporting her, offering positive comments about how she looked and reassuring her by giving her positive feedback.   

Health and Wellbeing 

Sometimes young people are affected by mood swings and erratic behaviour that can disrupt sessions for the whole group if not handled properly. However, YDance demonstrated good leadership skills as the Classroom Assistant observed: 

We had a couple of girls who would come in totally stressed out: raging, shouting, and swearing. They would refuse to take part saying the sessions were rubbish and a waste of time. The YDance girls would relax them by sitting and talking to them, explain what they were going to cover and encourage them to take part. By the end of the session, they were in a better mood, in a much better place and saying they felt much better for taking part. 

The combination of the leadership style and the way young people were invited to engage helped to improve mood and behaviour, which is likely to have impacted in other activities afterwards. Consequently, improvements in health and wellbeing shone through, as this comment observed: 

 The fact that dance is a fun energetic activity, the girls would comment on how quickly the session was and shared that they felt tired and happy with what they had achieved. 

Positive Destinations 

Positive destinations have not yet emerged, although associated skills such as teamwork, listening and acting on instruction, showing commitment and helping others were all evident in ways which other classroom contexts might not reveal, as the Classroom Assistant expanded: 

Some of the young people recognise the positive impact of getting an accredited award, others were not bothered. The girls who completed the programme and gained the Personal Achievement Award where really chuffed with what they had achieved and recognised that their learning would add value to a CV. This is especially important given their experience of education may have been negative and the recognition of achievement limited. 

Impact Drivers 

  • Regular attendance   
  • Fostering a routine
  • Developing confidence
  • Eagerness and openness to learn dance routines
  • Concentration and discipline to practice. 
  • Following instruction and dressing appropriately 
  • Taking responsibility, thinking of others – encouraging others to participate 
  • Opportunity to gain accreditation

 Impact Diverters 

  • Working with small groups 
  • Changing circumstances impacting on young people committing to the programme
  • The school environment: Rules and Protocols
  • Overcoming feelings of exposure / vulnerability
  • Competing with other subjects i.e., Home Economics
  • Managing the demands in terms of music / dance choices (no phones allowed) 

Lessons Learned 

  • Time the sessions so that young people have their breakfast before starting and do not run into breaks 
  • Watch out for timetable clashes with other popular subjects 
  • Run the session with breaks within the dance space so young people do not get distracted or diverted 
  • Get t-shirts to give a sense of belonging 

As the Classroom Assistant summarised, having YDance as an external specialist was key to success: 

I would say that if leaders had not thrown themselves in as they did, the programme would not have worked. They were key to this programme working. Another important aspect of the programme was the YDance staff did not have a personal relationship with the girls. I do not believe this would have worked in it was delivered by in-house staff. 

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Photo Credit: YDance