£1m in lottery funding for groups helping local children

Published: 7 Feb 2013 12:05

Almost £1 million has been awarded to two organisations that help children in Fermanagh whose lives have been affected by their parents' drug or alcohol abuse or their own disabilities.

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Almost £1 million has been awarded to two organisations that help children in Fermanagh whose lives have been affected by their parents' drug or alcohol abuse or their own disabilities.

Breakthru offers a range of support services to help young people whose parents drink or take drugs develop coping skills and prevent them from mis-using substances themselves or getting involved in anti-social behaviour or crime.

Leonard Cheshire Disability supports teenagers with a physical, mental health or learning disability in the Enniskillen, Omagh, Strabane, and Londonderry areas.

The two organisations are among nine in Northern Ireland that have been awarded grants totalling nearly £4.2 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.

Breakthru has been awarded £485,862 to support young people in the Fermanagh, Omagh, Dungannon and Armagh areas who are in care or have been in care because their parents have misused substances such as drugs and alcohol.

Support will include group sessions and education programmes covering areas such as positive mental health and drug and alcohol education and one-to-one counselling sessions to boost the young people's self-esteem and confidence.

Breakthru will also provide services to ensure young people in local communities receive support. Awareness sessions will be run in local schools for young people aged 10 to 13 and there will be training for teachers and child care staff.

As Rory McDonald, community alcohol and drugs co-ordinator explained: "Seventy per cent of young people in the care system are there because of alcohol or drug misuse by their parents.

"Many have been through traumatic experiences that can lead to what is called 'hidden harm'. That is the effect that a parent's alcohol and drug mis-use has on their emotional and mental health and the lasting impact this can have on their lives, leading to low self-worth, low educational attainment and poor relationships," he added.

"Working with a range of partners, this project will be delivered in Fermanagh, Dungannon, Armagh and Omagh areas. One-to-one and group support will help the young people build resilience and coping skills, enabling them to understand parental substance mis-use and the impact it has had on their lives," he said.

"An important element will be training for teachers and child care professionals, which will help them recognise children potentially affected by parental substance mis-use to provide the support and sign posting needed," said Mr. McDonald.

"This project will aim to break the cycle of substance mis-use and help young people to live their lives to their full potential," he stated.

Leonard Cheshire Disability, has also been awarded a grant of £485,677 to support young people aged 14-19 with a physical, mental health or learning disability.

The organisation will tackle issues such as isolation and social exclusion to give young disabled people greater independence and increase their opportunities for education, employment, volunteering, mentoring and personal development. It will also support young people not in education, employment or training.

Tonya McCormac, Director of Leonard Cheshire, explained: "Many young disabled people have the opportunity to go to college for two to three years after school or to access supported employment, but the longer term picture is very different. Many living in rural areas have limited employment and development opportunities.

"By the time these young people reach their late 20s early 30s, many are not in employment and are still living at home, dependent on their families for support. We want to build confidence and help young disabled people in Northern Ireland feel empowered. Our key focus for this project is self-employment and social entrepreneurship," she stated.

"The chances of a young person with a disability getting a job in a rural village are limited, but there is the opportunity for that young person with the right support to become self-employed or develop and be part of a community social enterprise.

"This programme recognises that there has been some work done but we want to do more and do something different. We want to see more disabled young people becoming social entrepreneurs. This will boost their confidence self-esteem, increase independence, and improve overall quality of life," she added.

Frank Hewitt, Northern Ireland chairman of the Big Lottery Fund, said: "Our Empowering Young People programme is transforming the lives of the most vulnerable young people in Northern Ireland including those 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.

"The programme is supporting vital projects to improve the opportunities of isolated young people by giving them the chance to volunteer, improve their education, take part in training and find jobs. These projects are bringing young people from different backgrounds together to increase understanding and tolerance and prevent them from getting involved in anti-social behaviour, violence and crime," said Mr. Hewitt.

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