Our headline community project, Positive Futures targets young people at risk of social exclusion and provides the structure they need to enrich their lives, develop their skills and improve their employment prospects.
Launched in Cotgrave in 2008, the project identifies a core group of young people deemed at risk of social exclusion and works with them and their families to plan a route to prosperity.
The scheme was kick-started by the award of a grant from the Football Foundation of £175,000 which contributed to an overall programme £323,000. A summer programme of free-to-access activities for the young people of Cotgrave was attended by more than half of the town’s 11-19 year olds, heralding the start of a three-year commitment to improve prospects in the village.
It has proved to be a runaway success and has now been extended to engage young people from neighbouring villages Keyworth, Bingham, and Radcliffe on Trent.
Mark Clifford, the scheme’s full-time co-ordinator, calls on an extensive list of contacts who offer recreational sports sessions and give children the chance to try activities of their own choosing for the first time.
Staffing infrastructure has also been enhanced with Mark leading a full-time team of five including two serving apprenticeships.
“Our priority when we begin working in a new area is to win the trust of the young people and all of the residents,” said Mark, a former professional footballer.
“We try and provide some quick wins and make it clear that we’re committed for the long-term. Our experience in Cotgrave certainly helps us to settle in a new area but slight variations in approach are needed to remain effective.
“Everyone wanted to do different things and we found very early on that not everyone is sport-focused. If there’s a demand for a particular activity then we’ll try and put it on and organisations have helped us to do that. Some like acting so we’ve arranged a drama club and a group of girls were keen to try horse riding so we did some research and found a contact at West Bridgford Equestrian Centre and arranged a structured programme for them.
“Some things are costly but we don’t charge anything because it gives children a great chance to try things and we hope that it will give them something to pursue long after the summer holidays have finished. We’re building links with leisure centres who are giving us discounts because they realise that the young people value their facilities and will become long-term users.
“We have had as many as 50 young people taking part in activities and there’s a real buzz.”
Whilst the activities are open to all young people resident in Cotgrave, Keyworth, Bingham, and Radcliffe on Trent the core group are given close attention after signing a commitment to work towards achieving agreed outcomes in partnership with their schools and their families.
“The group that we work particularly closely with are a key part of the programme,” said Mark.
“We have to engage them and get to the stage where they look forward to going to bed early so that they can come and work with us the following morning.
“It’s a great group we’ve got and we all bounce off each other and try and move things forwards.”
The demise of Cotgrave’s mining heritage was a key factor in a downturn in prospects but a dramatic reduction in crime figures since the scheme’s inception has helped to restore positivity.
Year on year statistics revealed an 80 per cent reduction in burglary, criminal damage instances down by 76 per cent, theft diminished by 63 per cent and violent crime down by 66 per cent.
“We’ve made activities available for young people without charge that they wouldn’t have been able to do if we weren’t here,” said Mark.
“Some of our success can be measured but a lot if it is very personal to the young people. The statistics are great but knowing that we’ve helped to coax a young person away from a habit of self-harm and encouraged several young people to return to education and sit exams is infinitely more valuable to me.
“Kids can be challenging and we’re working with young people who have problems at school but give us 100 per cent effort and take advantage of the opportunities that we’re giving to them.
“The scheme has evolved to an extent that the crime figures are remaining low and we can turn our attention to intervening at an earlier age and identifying junior school pupils who need support to make a bright start when they move to secondary school.“It’s very rewarding to see a young life change direction for the better and we’re grateful for any support that we receive to allow us to continue to make a difference.”
“We have seen the difference that this scheme makes to so many young people and the transformation in attitude and outlook is remarkable.”
Mark Worrall – Trent Bridge Community Trust Trustee