Director Paddy Mooney speaking at Let's Celebrate

Speaking at the 'Let's Celebrate' event marking the achievements of young people involved in the Belfast Trust's Employability Service, our Give & Take Scheme and START360's Switch Onto Employment programme, Paddy Mooney Director at Include Youth said:

"Thank you Ann-Marie and I'd like to both echo and build on what you have said. It's great to be here today and it's always great to celebrate when young people achieve.

For more than 30 years Include Youth has been delivering youth work based employability programmes to disadvantaged young people, in particular young people in and leaving care.

26 years ago we began delivering the Give & Take Scheme for young people in the greater Belfast area and for this past 12 years we have had a presence in all Trust areas. In 2009, regional guidance placed even greater onus on each of the five Trusts to increase the number of its young people leaving care who engage in education, employment and training.

In 2010 we were delighted to be awarded the contract to co-deliver a new employability service that would work with young people aged 16-21 in the Belfast Trust. We remain privileged to run this service with our partners START360 and of course the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust itself.

Indeed now in 2015, we have a very well-established Employability Service that this year worked with 92 young people – 80% of those young people have moved into training or employment. A number of you are in this room today and I want to say just two words for you to remember: well done!

We see the key to the success of the service being, without a doubt, the ability to work in partnership and to build relationships - relationships with young people, with colleagues, and many, many other people who have the best interests of young people in their hearts.

Partnerships become even more important in difficult times and developments this year have re-enforced this for us. DEL's withdrawal of the Pathways EMA allowance for young people in March 2015 meant that vulnerable young people were left without the financial incentive or support provided to their peers in college or training. I can assure everyone here Include Youth is working hard to have EMA re-instated. We take some encouragement from the Minister for Employment and Learning's indication that he continues to be committed to this allowance, and would hope that, with the recent Fresh Start Stormont deal, that some monies can be found by DEL to ensure that this inequitable situation can be speedily resolved. In this context we would like to acknowledge, with deep appreciation, the support given by the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust in providing the young people with an allowance in the interim period.

Our staff work in partnership with social workers, personal advisors and Trust departments to promote a culture of education, employment and training. By doing this, the employability workers Gary, from Include Youth, and Roisin, from Start 360, were able to create opportunities including: tours; work tasters; extended work placements; training and employment; and match the young people leaving care to them. Include Youth's Transitional Support service also has partnership working at its core.

Include Youth's Give and Take Scheme also falls under each of the Health and Social Care Trust's overall Employability Service. In particular in the Belfast Trust area, our evidence demonstrates that outcomes achieved are significant, mostly due to our youth work approach – in the past year 70% of Give and Take participants had a positive move on into Education, Training or Employment and a total of 150 qualifications were obtained by the young people.

Finally, at times like this when we get the chance to stop to celebrate and reflect on the wonderful achievements of the young people, it is good to lift our heads and look at what is happening elsewhere, and we find we are increasingly looking to Scotland for inspiration. Last year Scotland introduced a new law 'the Children and Young People's Act 2014, which extended the leaving care age to 21 as well as enabling young people to remain in the same accommodation until 21. Both of these provisions will undoubtedly provide much greater stability and support for care leavers and should help to improve their Education, Training and Employment outcomes. Food for thought for us here in Northern Ireland.

Include Youth looks forward to continuing to play a significant role, in partnership with the Trusts, DEL, the wider public and private sectors and our colleagues in Start360 in helping young people in and leaving care achieve positive Education, Training and Employment outcomes."

Read what the young people from our Give and Take Scheme had to say here.