Department for Education
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A caring class of cooks - small grant makes a big difference to young lives

For most teenagers, volunteering to go into class during an evening would be unthinkable.  But for a group of young people in Cleethorpes, it’s not only a welcome highlight of their week but is one of a series they’ve organised themselves to learn new skills.

There is a special bond between the 12 young people in the group and some special reasons why being in a classroom means more than just learning.  Each of them is a ‘young carer’ with a responsibility for looking after a parent or other family member who is ill or disabled.

Because of the extra demands on their time – at least 20 hours a week outside of school - the teenagers, from Grimsby and Cleethorpes, often miss out on gaining qualifications and on mixing with peer groups outside the school gates.

Their answer was to look for an education course to suit their needs and then apply to North East Lincolnshire Council for a grant from the government’s Youth Opportunity Fund, specially set up to provide positive activities for young people.  This week, the Clee Young Carers Group started the first of a series of Monday evening classes after winning a bid for £600. 

Along with her parents, 16 year-old Shannon Dixon, from Humberston, cares for her twin sister Bethany, who suffers from cerebral palsy, and helps with a younger brother who has special needs. She said:  “We are responsible at home for some of the cooking but we are no master chefs!  We all want to learn more, to learn new recipes and find out about eating healthier. These courses will help us with our mums or dads, brothers or sisters, particularly if any are on special diets.

“It is difficult not being able to go out with your twin sister and enjoy the sort of fun that you’d really like, but she can’t join in.  Having the group is really helpful and we can share together and support each other – and just chill out and relax. When it started there was just me and another young person, now there are 12 of us and I just feel comfortable with the group.

“This is a new project for us and it will improve our lives and allow us to spend a bit more time in the group and away from other stresses. At the same time, all of us are hoping to achieve an award in food hygiene, cookery and kitchen safety as well as gold Mayor’s awards.”

Tracy Slattery, North East Lincolnshire’s Youth Services team leader, said she was proud of the initiative shown by the group in putting forward the Youth Opportunity Fund bid.

“The young people at the carers group spend at least 20 hours each week looking after a member of their family. The impact this can have on these teenagers should not be underestimated. It limits the time they can spend with their school mates.  It affects their ability to get formal qualifications and it can knock their confidence.

“But they are still keen to learn despite all this, and they showed a lot of initiative in putting in a bid for the youth opportunity fund grant and I am delighted they got the money to fund the courses. As well as the extra skills they’ll gain, it will build their self-esteem and they will see that they can achieve.  Gaining an accreditation will also help their future employment prospects.”

The training is one of many projects across North East Lincolnshire funded by money from the Youth Opportunity Fund, which aims to enable young people to make decisions about positive things to do and places to meet. It is part of the Government’s Aiming High strategy to ensure there are things to do and places to go for young people, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights. 

In total £1.96 million has been made available over three years through Aiming High in North East Lincolnshire to increase the participation of young people in positive leisure time activities. 

NOTES TO EDITORS

• In July 2007 the Government announced a £679 million investment supplemented by £160 million from the Children's Plan to ensure places to go and things to do for young people aged 13-19 as part of the Aiming High for Young People: A Ten Year Strategy for Positive Activities
• Experience shows that young people are more likely to get involved in positive activities when they have a say in what is available, and that taking part helps them to learn new skills, as well as divert them from behaviour that might be considered by the wider community as anti-social.
• All local authorities receive funding from the Department for Children, Schools and Families for the Youth Opportunity and Youth Capital Funds, the purpose of which is to enable young people to make decisions about positive activities and places to go in their communities. A total of £173 million is available for YOF and YCF in England between 2008 and 2011 with an extra £25 million invested to expand into the most deprived areas. Local Authorities also receive funding to provide intensive activity-based programmes targeted at young people at risk of negative outcomes such as involvement in anti-social behaviour and crime. In total the Government is investing £222 million in such programmes in England between 2008 and 2011.
• More information on Aiming High is available at: http://www.everychildmatters.gov.uk/youthmatters/aiminghigh/
• For information on the Youth Crime Action Plan and related initiatives visit www.dcsf.gov.uk/everychildmatters/ytf

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