Blog: Helping young people reach their potential

We are living in unprecedented times. The uncertainty surrounding the Coronavirus has swept across the world and here in Suffolk this is impacting on every single one of us in one way or another.

I have a regular update from the Chief Constable and I know he is committed to doing everything he can to ensure his officers are able to continue providing the level of service you would expect during the Coronavirus outbreak. He has the unenviable task of ensuring plans are in place to mitigate the impact of Covid-19 on his staff, whilst working with emergency service partners and other agencies to keep us all safe.

I don’t know about you but business as usual doesn’t seem very normal at the moment but it is important that we all continue to do what we can to help those who are less able and vulnerable.

One of the key areas of responsibility of a PCC is to commission services which help reduce crime and anti-social behaviour in the county. One recipient of my PCC fund is the Albany Pupil Referral Unit (referred most commonly as a PRU) in Bury St Edmunds, which supports students excluded from school. I visited the PRU earlier this month and was truly inspired by the work being carried out by the young people who are facing challenges that many of us couldn’t even imagine.

These youngsters need our support and I am determined to do whatever I can to help and give them hope and confidence for their future – everybody has potential and that needs to be nurtured and cherished.

The reason I visited the Albany PRU was to find out more about a project I had funded. The PRU has worked with Pushforward Education and Youth Work Ltd to design a project which bridged the gap between mainstream education and the ability to gain practical skills which help improve employment opportunities and supports the young people to make the right choices in life.

For me the visit was really inspirational since it showed a strong partnership between the PRU, several local businesses and sixteen pupils. The project involved the young people – girls and boys – constructing a large timber framed workshop. The construction was impressive but what was even more impressive from my perspective was that, once completed this shed will be fitted out by the next year group who will in turn gain painter/decorator skills, and then this will be used as a repair shop for another cohort of young people to gain motor repair skills. This legacy project means that my investment of £9,200 goes a lot further than just the current group working together to build the workshop.

What was particularly striking to me was the enthusiasm of everybody involved combined with a real sense of teamwork and respect for the instructors, and a sense of achievement. While I was there I witnessed the roof taking shape – a little like a small-scale DIY SOS! One of the outcomes identified when the I approved the the grant was to ‘park an interest so they can focus their education around a new passion or obtained skill’ and this was clear evident.

Their passion was so obvious and it was clearly demonstrated when one of the pupils was telling me how he hoped to become a qualified carpenter when he finished his time at the PRU – and he already has a job lined up with one of the business sponsors; a wonderful outcome for all.

I have always believed in helping young people whatever the difficulties they face. So well done to all involved and a huge thank you as well.

Published in the Bury Free Press March 2020