Fears over funding to help vulnerable and jobless

Major concerns have been raised over the future funding of projects in Shropshire which support young people not in education or employment.

The IN2 Training programme has helped hundreds of young people from across the county, aged 15-24, who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) or at risk of becoming NEET to build confidence and develop new skills to enable them to either stay in or return to education, move into work or embark on specific training.

It has been run since 2019 by Telford-based supported employment and training charity, Landau, in partnership with several businesses and charitable organisations with funding from the European Social Fund (ESF).

However, as a result of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, this funding will come to an end in March 2023 and although the government has said it plans to create a new pot of money known as the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF), it is not yet clear whether any money will be made available to enable the projects to continue.

Phil Taylor, chief operating officer for Landau, said the situation was hugely concerning.

“There is a lot of uncertainty at the moment about what available funding there might be to continue this programme and the fantastic work it enables partners to deliver to support young people in the area.

“Without it, so many would continue to face barriers to learning, education and employment and fall between the cracks.

“And, it’s not just this project which is at risk. The Community Grants scheme which has also been funded through the ESF has meant we have been able to distribute grants amounting to almost £1.5million to organisations in the area so that they can support people over the age of 18 in a similar way to build skills, confidence and gain sustainable employment.

“The people benefitting from this support are the ones who need it most. They are vulnerable, often face multiple barriers to learning and are furthest from the job market.

“The grant funding has enabled so many organisations to develop specific projects to reach these people and in so many cases they have helped to turn people’s lives around.

“We are currently in discussion with local authorities, who will have control of the new UKSPF funding, to try to ensure the future of these programmes but no decisions have yet been made.

“It’s critical however, from our perspective, that young people and unemployed people continue to get the help they need and that there are no gaps in service delivery.”

During the last three years, IN2 has supported more than 1,300 young people who are at risk of NEET or who are NEET by funding more than 360 different programmes to re-engage young people with education.

The Community Grant scheme has funded 46 individual projects and supported nearly 600 individuals.

A celebratory event was held by Landau at Shrewsbury Town Football Club on October 4 to showcase the success of the two schemes.

It was attended by numerous partner organisations including Southhall School, Renu Hairdressing, Bright Star Boxing, School of Coding, Yellow Ribbon, The Cavalier Centre, Social Heart CIC, Anta Education Ltd, Telford Christian Council – Stay and Smallwoods.

Participants involved in the programmes also attended to share their stories.

Niko Dobraczynski (17), who moved to Telford from Poland when he was 11, has been supported by the Futures Programme which was developed by Joe Lockley at Bright Star Boxing Academy with funding from IN2.

He was referred to Bright Star by his teachers after he started getting into trouble at school and acting aggressively as a result of feeling lonely and isolated.

He said: “When I first moved, I had no one and no language and it was hard to communicate. I was pushed to the side and this led me to forge fake relationships which put me in a bad situation. I started being aggressive and getting into trouble and taking drugs. Then, my teacher put me in touch with Joe at Bright Star Boxing.

“I still remember meeting Tim, one of the coaches. He was the first person I felt a connection with. He was in a similar situation to me growing up and I could open up and talk to him.”

Niko described having his life turned around by the support he received.

He added: “Being part of the Futures Programme helped me change my mindset. I started turning up to school, getting better results and making better relationships with people and I’ve even gone on to achieve a Level 2 Electrical Apprenticeship and gain an achievement award for that work.”

Joe added that Niko was a shining example of the difference that the IN2 Employment programme was making to young people in Shropshire.

“Anyone at any point in their life can make changes to their life with the right intervention and support and Niko is an incredible person and role model to have around our club.”

Those attending the event also heard from Yellow Ribbon, which has used Community Grant funding to run projects to support ex-offenders as they transition back to the community after prison.

One ex-prisoner, who asked not to be named, said the initiative had helped him build back his life and, without it, he would not be here today.

For more information about the services and programmes delivered by Landau visit www.landau.co.uk

CAPTION: IN2 participant Niko Dobraczynski pictured with Phil Taylor, chief operating officer for Landau and Joe Lockley, founder of Bright Star Boxing Academy in Shifnal.

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