NI projects supporting young people awarded major Lottery grants

3 May 2013 02:10 PM

A project to help young people with ASD to cope better in school so they are at less risk of being expelled has been awarded major grants from the Big Lottery Fund.

Parents’ Education as Autism Therapists (PEAT) has been awarded a grant of £472,596 from the Big Lottery Fund’s Reaching Out: Empowering Young People programme. The announcement is part of a grants roll-out of £5,370,839 to 13 projects across Northern Ireland that will support young people most at risk in Northern Ireland, including those who have been disengaged from education, involved in crime or in care.

A full list of Reaching Out: Empowering Young People grants across Northern Ireland

The organisation will use the grant to develop a range of support for children with ASD who are struggling at school. Part of the grant will be used to develop a Virtual Buddy ‘app’ to help young people manage their own behaviour and give them remote assistance if they need it, for example if they have missed a bus.

Nichola Booth, Behaviour Analyst with PEAT, said it was now common to find children in a mainstream school setting with a diagnosis of ASD. “A lot of these children have severe difficulties in various aspects of the school day, be it coping with moving between classes, the acoustics in the gym or dining room or in following instructions within a busy classroom,” she explained.

“These issues can lead to behaviour that may prove difficult for staff to manage as they also have to also manage the other children within the classroom. This project will aim to help teachers understand and manage this behaviour, ensuring that the risk of expulsion or suspension to the child is minimal or non-existent.

“This project will help provide a service that will ensure that these young people will have every opportunity to achieve their full potential.”

The Gerry Rogan Initiative Trust (GRIT) has also been awarded £499,324 to support some of the most isolated young people across Northern Ireland to change their lives by taking part in a tough residential course.

The GRIT Trust was established to recognise the dedication of the late Civil Servant Gerry Rogan to disadvantaged young people. His wife Therese Rogan, chair of GRIT, said: “Gerry was a dedicated professional who made a difference to the lives of young people who had lost their way. He believed there was no such thing as a bad child, and that everybody deserved a chance. That is the ethos of GRIT.”

GRIT will use the grant to expand its project and young people will be recruited at a major Challenge Day at the Belfast Activity Centre.

“These young people will have a range of issues,” explained Therese. “Some will be coming out of care, some may live in hostels or be homeless. They may have fallen out of the school system and don’t have jobs while many will have drug and alcohol addictions. We are looking for young people who want to change their lives but don’t know how. We want to empower them to move forward.”

The Challenge Day will be followed by a Challenge Week on the north coast. “This is not for the faint hearted. The week will be really tough for them,” said Therese.

There will be team building activities such as canoeing and rock climbing, but the residential will focus on behaviour and interaction as the young people look at how they became the person they are and develop strategies to change their behaviour or circumstances. They will be supported by peer educators, who will also be involved in mentoring in the months after the Challenge Week.

“This grant allows us to build on and strengthen our programme for young people who deserve a chance to turn their lives around,” said Therese. “I am confident it will help all these young people to take a step forward in their lives and empower them to make the changes and plan to reach their full potential.”

Frank Hewitt, Big Lottery Fund NI Chair, 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.” 

He added: “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.”

For more information contact:
Amanda Doherty Big Lottery Fund Press Office: 02890 551 472
Out of hours contact: 07760 171 434

Notes to Editors

  • The Big Lottery Fund (BIG), the largest distributor of National Lottery good cause funding, is responsible for giving out 40% of the money raised for good causes by the National Lottery.
  • BIG is committed to bringing real improvements to communities and the lives of people most in need and has been rolling out grants to health, education, environment and charitable causes across the UK. Since June 2004 BIG has awarded over £4.4bn.
  • The Fund was formally established by Parliament on 1 December 2006.
  • Since the National Lottery began in 1994, 28p from every pound spent by the public has gone to good causes. As a result, over £28 billion has now been raised and more than 383,000 grants awarded across arts, sport, heritage, charities, health, education and the environment.