New Project Aims To Tackle Sectarianism Among Young People

14 June 2019

A new project aimed at tackling issues surrounding sectarianism and hate crime among young people in Belfast, has been announced by social justice charity Extern.

As part of Belfast City Council's PEACE IV programme, the On the Right Track! Personal Change Programme will work with 14 marginalised young people each year between 13 and 16 years old. It will operate on a cross-community basis, exploring issues of equality, identity, diversity and peace-building. In particular, it will focus on young people who have been involved in the youth justice system for incidents related to sectarianism, interface issues and hate crime.

The main aim of the programme is to provide support to change the behaviours of the young people taking part by exploring and challenging the underlying and fundamental values that they hold.

Helping to launch the programme, Lord Mayor, Councillor John Finucane, said: "The Council is delighted to be working with Extern on the delivery of the On the Right Track! Personal Change Programme, under our PEACE IV plan and its Children and Young People theme.

"As civic leader for the city, we are taking the lead in bringing the community and statutory partners together under the Belfast Agenda, our community plan for Belfast and its citizens. Young people are very much part of this plan and their future, so this inspiring new PEACE IV project is one to be welcomed - providing personal and life-changing opportunities for young people to work on a cross-community basis across the city."

The project will use mechanisms such as mentoring, group work, visits and sport to build understanding of other cultures, values, experiences and community responses. Participants will also maintain logs that reflect their experiences throughout the programme and develop their own plans for the future.

CEO of Extern, Charlie Mack, added: "Extern is recognised as one of the leading and most experienced charities when it comes to working with marginalised and disadvantaged young people. We are trusted by families and we will be bringing a wealth of expertise to bear in supporting these young people to challenge themselves and break out of the sectarian mind-set which can have a detrimental impact on their lives.

"Projects like this are needed now more than ever if we are to ensure a happy and successful future for our young people in Northern Ireland. I look forward to seeing the positive outcomes which will come from this exciting new venture in the weeks, months and years ahead."

The project is financed through the European Union and managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB). The three-year programme has been commissioned and funded by Belfast City Council, and will be based at Extern's Nelson Street offices close to the centre of Belfast.

Match-funding for the PEACE IV Action plan has been provided by the Executive Office in Northern Ireland and the Department of Rural and Community Development in Ireland.

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