Reaching Out: Empowering Young People

Big Lottery Fund NI has been talking to stakeholders about plans for a new young people’s programme, which opens for applications in early 2015.

Koulla Yiasouma, director of Include Youth, outlines how our funding has supported the young people they work to improve their lives.

Include Youth has been around for 35 years, and since 1988 has run services to support disadvantaged and vulnerable young people, particularly those in care, to gain skills and employment.

For the first 11 years these services were run on a shoe-string with a focus on work experience. However as we became more responsive to the needs of the young people we realised that we needed to support them to develop their personal and social skills and so piloted a personal development worker in the Belfast area. The pilot was very successful.

Soon our Give and Take Scheme projects in the Northern, Southern and Western Trust areas wanted the same support. So we applied to the Big Lottery Fund and received three years’ funding for personal development services as part of the scheme.

With this support young people worked on issues, one to one and in groups, relating to mental health, emotional wellbeing, identity, community relations, sexual health and life skills (they became very proficient at making stew). We were able to offer a drop-in resource which meant young people had a safe space they could come to when or if they needed. This funding helped (and continues to help today) young people to improve their confidence and self-esteem.

As the Give and Take Scheme has evolved over the years, now supporting 145 young people at any one time across our six sites in Northern Ireland, we have continued to gain further insight into the lives of the young people we work with.

For instance, we gathered evidence that some young people needed extra support to gain a basic education.

In 2012 we received funding from the Big Lottery Fund’s Empowering Young People programme to support young people on our Give and Take Scheme to take part in literacy, numeracy and ICT classes. To date the young people have achieved 362 Essential Skills qualifications in literacy, numeracy and ICT and a further 297 employability qualifications.

The tutors and young people on the scheme have worked together to develop resources to aid learning and make it more fun. These resources will be available to staff and other organisations that want to use them.

Include Youth’s employability service for this group of young people has grown from just offering work experience to include personal development, mentoring support and training, thanks to the Big Lottery Fund’s investment in young people.

This support has also enabled Include Youth and other groups to learn from the Give and Take Scheme model so that similar employability services can be developed in the community. Without this support these young people would not have been able to gain the skills and confidence needed to improve their lives.

View Big Lottery NI’s blog in full here.