17/08/2011

'Disaffected Youth' Win Lottery Boost

Ulster projects to improve the prospects of young people not in employment, education or training (NEET) have been awarded major grants from the Big Lottery Fund today.

As the focus in England after the recent riots and wanton looting remains on disaffected youth, four organisations working with vulnerable and isolated young people are being awarded grants totalling over £1,750,000 from the Big Lottery Fund's Reaching Out: Empowering Young People programme.

It supports young people most at risk in Northern Ireland, including those who have been disengaged from education, involved in crime or in care.

While having no connection with the extensive rioting in London and other cities on the UK mainland, the news is particularly apposite as many commentators are blaming a social 'sub strata' of disaffected, virtually unemployable youngsters for much of the multi-million pound destruction that resulted.

While NI was unaffected by the days of violence, young people here are still on track to benefit from this Lottery-funded project that aims to put teenagers on the right course.

Rathbone Training, based in a centre on Donegal Road, has been awarded £484,938 to work with young people in disadvantaged areas of north and west Belfast and Lisburn who are Not in Education Employment or Training (NEET) and are at risk of getting involved in anti-social behaviour and crime.

Staff will go out on to the streets to build relationships and trust with young people, and will then offer them a range of education and training courses, job placements and personal development programmes covering areas such as drugs, alcohol and suicide.

"To identify these young people we literally go onto the streets, into the parks, up through the forest glens where they gather - the places youth workers don't usually go," said manager Colm Fanning.

"It's where you find young people who have become disconnected from their communities. Often they feel completely hopeless about their lives and believe the education system has failed them.

"More recently we've seen the impact of the recession where young people can't get the jobs they used to get.

"Those with GCSEs can only get the jobs their peers with fewer qualifications used to get - which means those young people with few qualifications aren't working. They are lost to society," he said.

"We look at their motivation, their levels of self-esteem and the many other factors that impact, such as alcohol and drug abuse as well as criminality. Given the right opportunities at the right time young people really can achieve their potential."

Ballymena Family & Addicts Support Group has also been awarded £320,480 to run a programme supporting young people whose lives have been affected by drug and alcohol addiction, as well as their family members.

"Out of the 190 young people registered with us, 116 have parents dealing with drug or alcohol addiction, so it's clear that young people are copying the choices taken by family members," said Manager Anne Henry.

"This project will improve young people’s health and self-esteem, helping to rebuild family relationships and offering them stability and trust."

Commenting, Frank Hewitt, Big Lottery Fund NI Chair, said: "I am delighted that we are announcing these grants awarded through our £20 million Empowering Young People programme to support the most vulnerable and isolated young people in our society.

"Organisations in Northern Ireland can apply now for grants of up to £500,000 to run projects that will help this group of young people transform their lives through activities such as training and employment schemes, one-to-one crisis support, mentoring programmes and street outreach work," he said.

(BMcC/GK)

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