A PROJECT to support isolated and vulnerable young people in the Banbridge area has been awarded almost £400,000 by the Big Lottery Fund.
Laurencetown, Lenaderg and Tullylish Community Association (LLTCA) is one of seven Northern Ireland organisations that have been awarded grants totalling nearly £3 million from the Big Lottery Fund’s Reaching Out: Empowering Young People programme.
The programme supports young people most at risk in Northern Ireland, including those who have been disengaged from education, involved in crime or in care.
LLTCA has been awarded £387,008 to run a range of services and activities to support young people in the Banbridge and Craigavon areas who are not involved in education, employment or training (NEET) and are involved in, or at risk of getting involved in, anti-social behaviour and crime.
They will also offer training and activities for local young people who have Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and have dropped out of school because of their condition. “This project has two strands. The first is to support isolated young people here,” said Community Development Officer Neil Gillan.
“This is a rural community with few jobs and a lack of training support and we have issues of anti-social behaviour. A lot of young people leave school and just ending up hanging about aimlessly with nothing to do.
“Because they have no purpose in their lives they end up hanging about on the streets causing trouble and the community starts to view them as dangerous or threatening.
“That can lead to them feeling even more isolated and can lead them into negative behaviour such as alcohol and drugs and criminal activity.
“So we will be offering courses and classes that help them gain qualifications and teach them skills to find jobs and build their confidence and self esteem, while also showing the local community that they can make a positive contribution to society.”
He continued: “The second strand is to support the increasing number of young people in the Banbridge and Craigavon areas who have ASD and are refusing to go to school. Young people with this condition can often be perceived as different and they can find it difficult to form friends. They often don’t like the school routine or can be perceived as challenging and disruptive, so they won’t go.
“We will be running activities and skills training to help them get back into education, get them involved in community activities, help them meet new people and support them as they move from school into adult life.
Neil explained that there will a range of services and activities available at the organisation’s centre in Laurencetown for the young people involved. “for those isolated young people we will run things like a weekend youth club, intergenerational activities, careers and arts workshops, job skills and sessions on relationships, active citizenship and using Facebook and Twitter.
“While for young people with ASD we will begin with social nights and arts projects, then leading into programmes such as independent living skills and money management. Young people with the condition often have excellent numeracy and IT skills so we’ll also offer them training and opportunities in areas such as digital photography and animation.
“This is a five year project and we think it will make a big difference. There’s so much talent out there and these young people have so much to give and we want to show local people that they really can play a positive role in their communities.”
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 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.”
To find out more about the Reaching Out programmes visit www.biglotteryfund.org.uk