A group which works with some of the most vulnerable young people in Sheffield has been awarded nearly half a million pounds by the Big Lottery Fund.
The Really NEET project will use the windfall to create a free course for 16 to 24-year-olds who want to get qualifications.
The project, based on the Wicker, works with young people not in mainstream education for many reasons – as homelessness, mental health problems or single parenthood – but want to get back into education.
The new Big Lottery-funded course will be open to 40 Sheffield young people a year.
At the end of the scheme, students will have obtained GCSE-equivalent qualifications in English, maths, creative arts and crafts and personal and social development.
But the course will not be limited to teaching and as over 50 per cent of the students are in sheltered accommodation, lots of pastoral care will be provided.
Youth worker Claire Bradwell, from the project, said: “We will give them all the support they need.
“If necessary, we will find them emergency accommodation or drug counselling, for example.”
They will also provide a food and clothes bank.
Big Lottery Fund spokesman Lyn Cole said: “The Really NEET Project will support vulnerable young people to attain the skills they need to realise their potential.
“It is a great example of people working together to make a difference to the lives of others in their local community and we wish it every success for the future.”
The project, set up six years ago, and has started working in Barnsley as well, supporting around 170 people every year.
It was founded by Sophie Maxwell, who was homeless as a teenager for two years.
It runs several projects every year, including a scheme called Talent Match, which is also funded by the Big Lottery Fund.
Talent Match coaches work with up to 115 young people in the city every year to get them ‘work ready.’
The 18-month scheme funds qualifications, arranges work placements, helps find accommodation and pays for child care and transport.
Talent Match coach Helena Kiely said: “For every young person that approaches us, we will create something specific to them.”
Helena said many of the young people end up in sustained employment.