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10/01/2011

Young Disadvantaged Show 'True Grit'

Despite news that a tenth of 16-24 year-olds registered as unemployed in NI are at the 'thin end of the social wedge', having fallen through the net of education, training and employment and are sometimes counted as 'the new lost generation' others have shown 'true grit' in overcoming the odds.

Today, a bid to recover this lost human resource - that could be costing taxpayers over £400m a year without intervention to prevent those at risk from falling into drug and alcohol abuse or crime - has been showcased.

Nearly 200 young men and women from all over NI have been given a unique opportunity to improve their lives by participating in the award winning Gerry Rogan Initiative Trust (GRIT) experience, and the success of the programme is being showcased today at a special event hosted by Social Development Minister, Alex Atwood at Stormont.

Supported by the International Fund for Ireland (IFI) and the Department of Social Development, the GRIT Programme is delivered in cooperation with Opportunity Youth NI.

Organisers are calling on the NI Executive to look at this project as a cost effective and innovative way to help our most disadvantaged and young people make a positive contribution to our society.

Therese Rogan, Chairman of the GRIT Board (pictured here with Denis Rooney of the IFI and Minister Attwood, right, along with participants, Conor McHugh and Aaron Sinclair) is adamant that this innovative programme demonstrates significant value for money at a time when public resources are scarce: "We are not asking government to spend more money, quite the opposite.

"We are challenging all our political representatives to recognise that if this intervention were adopted within existing training programmes money can be saved for the whole economy in the long term," she said, this afternoon.

Results are impressive with 13 programmes to date providing this life changing experience.

Each programme was oversubscribed and had a 100% completion rate and GRIT has exceeded all expectations with 9 out of 10 participants remaining in training following their experience.

Denis Rooney, Chairman of the International Fund for Ireland, which has been the main funder of the GRIT Programme from its inception, with co funding from Department for Social Development, is fully supportive of the impact achieved by the initiative to date.
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"The resounding success of the GRIT Programme is testament to the importance of supporting work that ensures the most marginalised of our young people are given opportunities to fulfil their potential and share their hopes for the future with young people from different cultural backgrounds," he commented.

On the GRIT programme the participants are challenged physically, emotionally and socially, and are also encouraged and nurtured to believe in themselves and their ability to make better life choices.

They are shown how to respect themselves and others by demonstrating how they are each responsible for their own life choices and are given an opportunity to achieve for their personal goals.

Therese Rogan continued: "Recent statistics show that youth unemployment here costs up to £4.5m a week while it costs £95,000 a year to keep a young adult in prison and we are spending £680 million a year as a consequence of alcohol misuse.

"Much of which could be saved if we could reach young people earlier.

"As a compassionate society we cannot continue to allow whole generations of young people to become unemployable.

"If we want our economy to grow we cannot afford to allow this human and monetary waste to happen. This problem affects every area of government spending across the Executive and we know it does not have to be this way.

"We believe that it is important to showcase the achievements of these young people right now because they will potentially suffer most in cut backs.

"Critically the Executive is about to finalise a new Budget and priorities for a Programme for Government. This is set against a background of the need to work smarter for less and we aim to show that our intervention works and most importantly can save valuable resources for the Executive and the taxpayer," she said.

Also commenting, Alex Attwood, Minister for Social Development, who also contributes to the funding of the programme, said: "I welcome the opportunity to hear again, at first hand the impact this innovative programme has had on its participants.

"The GRIT initiative gives young people at risk of falling out of training the opportunity to realise their potential within society.

"In my short time as Minister, GRIT and other youth initiatives have proven successful and deserve praise and support," he said.

The GRIT event was held in the Long Gallery at Stormont this afternoon and was attended by participants of the programme who told their story to Ministers and other MLAs.

They heard that GRIT was set-up in 2006 in honour of Gerry Rogan, an NI civil servant who died in 2003 and has since won the Innovation Category of the 2010 NI Youth Awards.

The £400m estimated cost of the youth unemployment being fought is a percentage cost of young people in prison and young offender centres, and a percentage cost of alcohol misuse.

Picture: Brian Thompson, Presseye.com

(BMcC/GK)

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