Funding boost for young people’s programme

A PROJECT to improve the lives and job opportunities of at risk young people in the Banbridge area has been awarded a major grant from the Big Lottery Fund.

The Banbridge District Enterprise-supported Newry and Mourne Co-operative and Enterprise Agency Ltd has been awarded a grant of £498,650 from the Big Lottery Fund’s Reaching out: Empowering Young People programme, which supports young people most at risk in Northern Ireland, including those who have been disengaged from education, involved in crime or in care.

The organisation in partnership with Barnardo’s, the Southern Education & Library Board and REACT and supported by the District Council and a range of other stakeholders will use the grant to run a range of training and support services for vulnerable and isolated young people aged 14-18 in disadvantaged areas of Banbridge, Newry and Mourne and Armagh who are not involved in education or training, do not have a job and are at risk of turning to anti-social behaviour or criminal activity.

Services and activities offered to the young people involved will include pre-employment training, mentoring support, social activities and personal development courses.

Chief Executive Dr Conor Patterson summarised the rationale for the programme as follows: “Statistics show a great need for this type of support, a high number of 16 to 19-year-olds in the Banbridge Area have no qualifications and their future prospects are going to be affected by that.”

Project manager Pauline Coghlan explained what was on offer: “We will be providing a range of a support including team building skills, numeracy and literacy courses and practical job skills.”

person improve their confidence, develop a range of life and basic skills, perspectives and experiences that will help them understand they have the potential to go out there, return to education or find a job and change their lives.

“There are incentives to keep the young people interested, like Dragon’s Den type events to encourage them to come up with business ideas and a small amount of funding to help them develop these.”

She continued: “We hope this will totally change their prospects, keeping them away from anti-social behaviour and preventing them from offending and turning to crime. Without this programme they are at risk of facing a life time on benefits without any hope for improvement.”

Frank Hewitt, Big Lottery Fund NI Chair, said: “We are already seeing the positive impact that the Empowering Young People programme is having on the lives of our most vulnerable young people during this harsh period of recession in Northern Ireland.

“The programme is supporting a range of vital projects that are transforming the lives of isolated young people in our communities who are at risk of crime or have dropped out of school, are not in education or employment, or are living with disabilities or the impact of violence. Our funding is supporting those young people who need our help the most.”