A brand new Youth Service targeting young people who are not in mainstream further education and employment is being rolled-out across Belfast and Lisburn.

The joint venture between Stepping Stones NI and NOW – partner training and employment organisations for people with learning difficulties – will engage with 160 young people who are experiencing difficulties with learning and communicating.

The Youth Service is funded under the Collaboration and Innovation Fund (CIF), one of a number of the new initiatives funded by the Department for Employment and Learning to ensure the successful implementation of the Executive’s ‘Pathways to Success’ Strategy to help young people who are not in education, employment and training.

The service is designed to help young people identify what they love and are good at doing and break down their personal barriers to volunteering, education and employment. Programmes provided by the new service, which will be wholly participant-led, include:

  • Three days-a-week group engagement;
  • One-to-one mentoring;
  • Support in building skills in assertiveness, health-awareness, citizenship and anxiety management;
  • Residential trips;
  • Learning how to set up a small business;
  • Skill-sharing and advice from 20 especially-recruited specialised, professional volunteers in the areas including arts, social media skills, business, among others.

By the end of participants’ time with the Youth Service, they will have the option of moving onto established and successful employment and training services already provided by NOW and Stepping Stones.

Speaking at today’s (Thursday, May 30, 2013) launch of the Youth Service in Belfast city centre’s Oh Yeah Centre, the Minister for Employment and Learning, Dr Stephen Farry, said:

“The Collaboration and Innovation Fund has the design flexibility to allow projects like the ‘NOW and Stepping Stones Youth Service’ to personalise their provision to help the NEET group. It will help young people who have learning and communication difficulties make a successful transition into and within the labour market. I have provided over £9 million to 18 projects from the community, voluntary and educational sectors to enable them to provide support to over 5,500 disadvantaged young people.

“The employability needs of young people with learning and communication difficulties are at the heart of the Youth Service project. The integrated packages of support on offer will help them to cope effectively and prevent them returning to the NEET group. The new Youth Service is an excellent example of a collaborative and innovative project and I look forward to hearing the outcomes as the project progresses.”

The new Youth Service is the latest collaborative venture between Stepping Stones NI and Now. The organisations have a proven track record of successfully working together to enable and support people with learning disabilities and difficulties to access training and gain and retain employment.

The service will also be recruiting 20 specialised volunteers who will share their skills and expertise through a planned activity and training programme.

Maeve Monaghan, Chief Executive of the Youth Service’s lead partner NOW, said: “We were delighted to receive this funding from the Department for Employment and Learning. We have designed a programme to support young people with learning and communication difficulties who we believe have lots of potential but for many different reasons have not felt able to access mainstream training and employment services.

“This programme is built around Collaboration and Innovation and we are really excited to be partnering with Stepping Stones again and a range of other innovative youth and support organisations. With so many negative images of young people in the press and in wider society, we have tried really hard to listen to them and provide the additional support they say they need to highlight the positive impact they can make in their communities. The Youth Service is the latest string to our bow and will complement our current transition, employment and volunteering programmes.”

Paula Jennings, Chief Executive of Stepping Stones, said: “We are very excited at the roll out of the new Youth Service at Stepping Stones NI and delighted to be working in collaboration with NOW on its development.“Young people with learning difficulties in Lisburn and Belfast will have the support from our Outreach Workers to engage in a variety of new activities that will bring out the best in them, helping them to realise their full potential.”

If you would like to know more about the NOW and Stepping Stones Youth Service, contact Project Coordinator, Joanne Hudson, on Tel: 028 9043 6400, Mob: 07796172636.