Lottery funding provides winning ticket for youth skills programme

Leonard Cheshire in Scotland’s innovative Can Do programme will continue to empower young people with additional support needs in Dumfries and Galloway thanks to the Young Start Fund delivered by The National Lottery Community Fund.

A group of teenagers standing in front of a fire engine holding certificates

Can Do supports young individuals with additional support needs to gain new life skills through training and social action opportunities in their local community. Participants who complete the programme can gain an SQA Personal Achievement Award.

The participant-led programme has collaborated with schools, colleges and local community groups to provide practical lessons that allow participants to give back to their community in a meaningful way.

The new funding from the Young Start Fund, which distributes money raised by National Lottery players for good causes and is the largest community funder in the UK, will see Can Do continue to support young people in Dumfries and Galloway.

The Young Start Fund will enable Can Do to reach 160 young people aged 16 to 24 over two years in Dumfries and Galloway from September 2020.

Alastair, 21, who participated in a Can Do conservation project, was able to improve his skills and become more guided in his approach to employability. The project, delivered in partnership with The Princes Trust, developed land in the Drumlanrig Estate, aiding path development and forestry with the inclusion of new benches and bird boxes constructed by the Can Doers. In addition to attaining an SQA award, participants earned a John Muir Discovery Award for their efforts.

Alastair said: “I participated in this project to improve my knowledge of the outdoors, gain a certificate and better my CV. Before the project, I was struggling to find work and had difficulty socialising while feeling nervous and unsure.

“Can Do helped me to feel more capable and has had a positive impact on my confidence. I also feel it has helped build my knowledge and skills, particularly in sawing and working with wood. Now, I will get a new job or start more training.”

The Holywood Trust – an organisation who help young people fulfil their full potential through financial grants – has awarded an additional top-up to the Young Start Fund towards the delivery of Can Do in Dumfries and Galloway.

Additionally, The Orcome Trust has pledged its support for the significance of local areas and communities in the south west of Scotland by providing further top-up funding for the delivery of the programme.

Announcing the funding, National Lottery Community Fund Scotland Director, Neil Ritch, said: 

“Young Start aims to help children and young people across Scotland realise their potential while also building invaluable skills and confidence for the future. 

“By placing young people at the heart of project design, delivery and evaluation, these projects will empower young people to achieve whatever they set their mind to.”

Can Doers on other projects have promoted community safety through learning about hate crime from Police Scotland, fire safety from the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service and the importance of road safety from Baldy Bane Theatre Company, among many other collaborations. 

The most recent instance of giving back to the community involved a Can Do group from Dumfries and Galloway College developing educational resources for their peers. These activity books were provided to all emergency services in the area and can be a practical resource to support and educate young and vulnerable individuals when involved in emergency incidents.

Gillian Pearce, Lecturer at Dumfries and Galloway College, said:

“Can Do participants have always been able to personalise the project to fit their own interests and abilities.

“You get to work with radically different groups and you can tell that all participants get real enjoyment out of the programme. It promotes student independence and encourages them to make real life choices while giving back to the community.”

During the current lockdown period, Can Do is being delivered through digital platforms to keep young people engaged and focused on developing their personal skills in these difficult and isolating times. Participants have completed social media challenges and quizzes, and adapted projects that would usually be delivered in the community.

Stuart Robertson, Director for Leonard Cheshire in Scotland, said:

“We are delighted that the Young Start Fund has recognised our work this way. Now, thanks to the funding, we will be able to continue empowering young people with additional support needs in Dumfries and Galloway to give back to the community.”

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