Over 200 youth workers are to be trained to help young people in Cumbria fulfil their potential thanks to a £445,270 National Lottery grant.
The youth workers will be trained over the next five years as part of the Better Tomorrows programme, managed by Cumbria Community Foundation.
Better Tomorrows was set up to increase access to quality youth work following over a decade of massive funding cuts.
In its first two years, 54 people from across the county have accessed the accredited training, which is delivered by Cumbria Youth Alliance. The training ensures those who deliver youth work have the skills and qualifications to enable each young person to reach their full potential.
To help attract people to the youth work sector, Better Tomorrows also offers funding to cover the salaries of youth workers that are running new or additional youth club sessions in areas where it is limited.
To date, £1,062,330 has been awarded to 24 organisations employing 33 youth workers over the next three years.
One of its success stories is Kirkby Stephen Youth Centre, which opened in October and is now giving local youngsters a fun and safe place to meet each week while learning vital life skills.
Chrissie Hadfield, the youth centre chair, said: “We wouldn’t be able to run this centre if it wasn’t for the funding from Better Tomorrows.
The youth centre, which caters for 10 to 18-year-olds, and runs three nights a week, provides activities to help them learn vital skills such as teamwork, communication and empathy, understanding safety and risk, mental health and responsibility.
“It’s vital because this is such a rural and isolated area there’s nothing for children to do unless their parents can afford for them to be part of a sports club,” says Chrissie.
“We have gone from a world where kids used to go out to play and go to youth centres, to now where they are sitting in their bedrooms engaging with a screen instead of each other.
“We aim to teach all our children how to recognise risk, stay safe and know who their trusted adults are, along with other important resource work. Trained youth workers are vital for this work to be successful,” says Chrissie.
The National Lottery Community Fund recently awarded Cumbria Youth Alliance £445,270 to train 225 youth workers over the next five years as part of Better Tomorrows. But the scheme’s fund for paying youth worker salaries is in need of donations.
Better Tomorrows was launched by David Beeby in 2021 while he was High Sheriff of Cumbria. David said: “I wanted to focus on the young as they had paid a price to protect the elderly during the pandemic.
“What emerged was the massive decline in funding for youth services. There are a lot less opportunities for young people to go to youth clubs, yet there is compelling evidence that youth work really helps young people.
“The Lottery funding is a fantastic extension to the programme training youth workers and building their numbers in Cumbria. However, the salary budget is running low because it has been put to good use and we now need to push on and see if we can increase that.
“We need to continue to invest in youth workers in Cumbria so that more young people can get access to quality youth work.
“It’s about creating the best possible platform for the rest of their lives and helping to provide the skills and confidence, the aptitude and attitude to have a fulfilling life.”
Better Tomorrows is a partnership between Cumbria Community Foundation, of which David Beeby is chair, Cumbria Youth Alliance which trains the youth workers, and the Francis Scott Charitable Trust.
Becky Wolstenholme, CEO of Cumbria Youth Alliance, said: “I think Better Tomorrows is an absolutely brilliant scheme and it is something that is essential following Covid when young people came with far more complex issues, and youth workers asked for training and support to be better able to help their young people.
“Young people came out of the pandemic not having had any structure for two years and they had lost the ability to understand how to socialise. Quality youth work is about equipping young people with many essential life skills.”
If you would like to donate, you can do so online or by calling Cumbria Community Foundation on 01900 825760.