A project to provide outreach support for 16-24 year-olds across Wealden has been given a boost after a successful funding bid.

Wealden District Council has been allocated more than £72,000 from the Department for Work and Pensions to provide this vital support, in partnership with Wealden Works, in Crowborough, Hailsham, Heathfield and Uckfield.

The Youth Hubs aim to support around 175 young people who have been badly affected by the economic downturn as a result of Covid-19. This aid is free for the user, offering online and remote support, with the DWP offering to reimburse transport costs in order to remove this barrier.

The funding is targeted at improving current and future employment outcomes for long-term unemployed individuals and groups facing the most complex barriers to work. The Youth Hub facilities will provide a space for Wealden Works and relevant partners to deliver pre-employment training, work experience and enhanced job search to support young people. These spaces may also be used to interview candidates and hold employment events.

The funding not only gives young people an opportunity to gain some experience and employment, but it allows local businesses to find a trusted local employee that suits the role well. Many local businesses are looking for apprentices, but lack the time and resources to seek them, which is where Wealden Works can come in and remove that stress for both parties. A part of their service is the after-care given to all enrolled young people, to ensure long-term success. This involves remaining in contact with not only them, but their employers and families to ensure support and guidance on a regular basis.

The Youth Hubs will launch on 1st March 2022 and will run initially for 12 months. Venues will include Wealden District Council offices in Hailsham and the Wealden Works Youth Hub in Heathfield.  Other partners include Uckfield Town Council and Clued-Up Crowborough who are providing accommodation for sessions in the north of the District to ensure access for all young people in need of support.

Councillor Ray Cade, the portfolio holder of housing and benefits at Wealden District Council, said, “This opportunity for those youngsters struggling with unemployment is invaluable and should help those facing barriers to work to achieve their goals. I am extremely proud that Wealden District Council has managed to secure this funding and that a successful partnership has been formed with Wealden Works for the delivery of the Youth Hub support.”

East Sussex County Councillor Rupert Simmons, Chairman of Wealden Works, says “I am very proud of the fact that Wealden Works is to become the operational side of this programme. It has over the years had a major success in getting 16-24 year olds who are NEET into purposeful career paths with promising futures. This has had amazing benefits to the individual young people, their families and businesses who have also aided their recruitment. This hands on help should make a difference to all involved as the economy starts to recover.”

Department for Work and Pensions have said “we are delighted to be working with partners to support young people across Wealden struggling with unemployment. This partnership will provide practical help on the journey to sustainable long-term employment.”