According to the report into the riots that rocked the nation last summer, a lack of direction, support and opportunity for young people was a major contributor.
Although Bradford wasn’t involved in the 2011 riots, up to 15,000 people are thought to have taken part in rioting elsewhere in the country, with most of them aged under 24.
Bradford-born Darra Singh, chairman of the Riots, Communities and Victims Panel, said: “We must give everyone a stake in society. There are people ‘bumping along the bottom’, unable to change their lives. When people don’t feel they have a reason to stay out of trouble, the consequences for communities can be devastating – as we saw last August.”
The isolation and lack of direction felt by many young people is being addressed by a pilot youth programme being rolled out in Bradford this summer.
The four-week National Citizen Service Programme is delivered by youth charity Envision, aiming to empower young people, often from disadvantaged backgrounds, and develop their potential to make a difference to both themselves, in terms of skills and confidence, and to their communities.
The National Citizen Service Programme is a Government initiative aiming to promote a more cohesive, responsible and engaged society by bringing young people from different backgrounds together to make a difference in their communities. Out of 360 places in pilots across the region, there are around 50 for young people in Bradford.
“It’s about helping young people make a positive contribution to their communities, and develop their own personal and social skills,” says project leader Mel Dipple.
“In our experience, we find the creativity, energy, enthusiasm and commitment of young people is often underestimated. With the right kind of support they can come up with exciting, innovative solutions to issues they identify in their local areas.”
The NCS programme, designed for 16-year-olds, enables them to try new experiences and challenges, develop crucial skills for their move into adulthood, learn more about the community they’re part of and do something worthwhile to support that community.
Young people taking part will attend two five-day residentials, then work on developing a team project back in their community in Bradford.
“They will be supported by skilled facilitators encouraging them to become more self-aware, develop personal and social skills and co-operate with others,” says Mel.
“The programme can broaden the horizons, knowledge and awareness of students by offering them opportunities to connect with young people across social boundaries, build a range of skills, including communication, problem-solving, decision-making, time-management and team work, and build on their experience by becoming better informed and signposted to further opportunities to develop themselves and get involved in their community.”
The first residential session is in the Peak District, where young people in teams of 12 to 15 will take part in outdoor activities, such as abseiling and caving, designed to challenge them individually and get them working as a team. The second week will see them camping at Bramhope, taking part in skills-based workshops and activities, such as working on an urban farm.
The third week sees them back in their communities; researching needs by visiting community organisations, interviewing people and finding out what’s important in the area. Once they have identified an issue to tackle, they will pitch ideas to a Dragon’s Den-style panel.
“The issues they identify might be homelessness, a lack of young people’s facilities or a campaign to clean up green spaces,” says Mel. “They’ll be advised by a local business or community leader on developing a project, then they’ll have 30 hours to make it a reality, from marketing to setting up pop-up venues.”
The programme, culminating in a graduation-style ceremony, is aimed at boosting project management and presentation skills.
“At 16, young people are at a key stage in their lives – they need to assert themselves and stand on their own feet,” says Mel.
“Being equipped with these skills helps in terms of employment and helps them develop a sense of ownership, belonging and responsibility in their communities.
“It is better to have young people belonging to communities than feel disaffected and isolated, but they need the skills to put across their views, and the right people to talk to and guide them. We’re about opening doors for young people and getting people to listen to them.”
Envision has been delivering presentations in schools and is seeking young people to take part, as well as local organisations and businesses to support them on the programme.
* For more information, or to register for a place, visit ncs360.org.uk.