An arts and advice project engaging young people in Alnwick and the surrounding rural area is proving to have a positive impact on their lives and the local community.
Gallery Youth Alnwick engages and consults with young people aged 13-24 years about issues that directly affect them within their community and provides a range of diversionary activities and support to help them make more informed choices about their lifestyles.
The project, which was launched last summer received investment of £13,000 from Karbon Homes to extend its service to young people, including residents living within the Alnwick area and surrounding villages.
Since October 2017, the project has successfully engaged over 60 young people in activities such as arts projects, outreach work, drop-in sessions and focussed workshops. Young people are encouraged to make positive lifestyle choices and can access advice on a range of issues such as education, employment, housing and relationships.
One of the outcomes of the project is the artwork that is displayed at the bus station in Alnwick. Young people from the area worked with local artist John Craggs on a project called The Bigger Picture where art boards have been displayed at the station, encouraging young people to take ownership of the area.
At their committee meeting in December, the Community Safety Partnership, which includes Northumbria Police, social workers, local councillors and other professionals, reported that anti-social behaviour by young people within the area was at an all-time low - making the town feel safer for older and more vulnerable people.
One-to-one support is available to young people including housing advice, access to training and employment, basic budgeting skills and assisting young people to complete application forms for jobs and benefits. Support is also available for young people with issues on relationships, mental health and in some cases, are signposted to relevant agencies to ensure they receive the right support.
Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has shown young people living in rural areas often feel isolated. For many children and young people, the 'rural idyll' of living in the countryside is far from reality. There are no cinemas, clubs, or other facilities their counterparts in urban areas take for granted. This isolation from services is often made worse by a lack of transport options and hidden poverty.
The lack of transport and local social networks can restrict their employment opportunities. This project offers support and guidance resulting in young people feeling included and valued in their community.
Mary Ormston, Community Engagement Officer at Karbon Homes, said: "We are passionate about supporting our residents and improving the communities where they live. This project engages young people, particularly those living in rural areas and encourages them to engage in a wide range of activities that offer personal support and on a wide range of issues that affect them and their lifestyles.
"Evaluation from those that have already engaged with the project has been extremely positive with most young people stating they felt more aware of safety issues, have more general awareness and feel confident about making positive decisions."
Ian McRae from Gallery Youth Alnwick, said: "Engaging young people in positive activities is key to their participation, which enables us to build relationships with them. Once this is in place, we can then support young people on a whole range of issues to build up their confidence and self-esteem."
For more information or to get involved in the project, please contact 01665 605 846.