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Violence prevention project embraces digital communications to reach vulnerable youth amid Covid-19

Women standing outside a front door with a food delivery
Food Delivery

Award-winning charity Leicestershire Cares is rising to the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic by developing imaginative support sessions to connect to its vulnerable service-users.

The Unlocking Potential (UP) project is funded by Leicestershire’s Violence Reduction Network (VRN) as part of its efforts to prevent serious violence among young people between the ages of 16 and 25.

The service provides direct support to young people both at risk of offending and those already involved in crime and violence, brokering partnerships with local businesses to create work placements and employment opportunities and helping participants overcome social, practical, economical and emotional issues which act as a barrier to employment, training or education.

Project development officer Siobhan Hirrell describes the process as “a person- centred approach where we offer holistic support to the participants and when they are ready we link them up with our business partners so they can start to develop the soft and hard skills required to get a job.”

Since social distancing measures were introduced, the project has continued to deliver support in individual and group sessions via social media and Zoom, developing positive new workshops to engage with young people.

Working in conjunction with Leicestershire-based British food producer Walker & Son, the charity is delivering food to vulnerable young people during the crisis who then join a virtual group to learn how to cook a cheap and healthy meal from the ingredients provided.

It has also continued to arrange mock interviews and develop employability skills virtually with the young adults thanks to support from local businesses Walker & Son and engineering firm Nylacast.

Other sessions promote good mental health and wellbeing and include a regular yoga session offering meditation practice.

Lord Willy Bach, Leicestershire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, who launched the VRN in August last year, said: “The Unlocking Potential project has already made great strides to improve young people’s self-confidence and the way they perceive themselves and the world around them. It’s imperative we provide continuity of support to maintain the bond between the project’s youth mentors and the young people they are supporting during this time of unprecedented change.

“While the global health crisis is impacting all of our lives and changing the way we operate, our work with vulnerable people of any age must remain a priority and any opportunity to continue these valuable resources online should be utilised. The VRN is very grateful to Leicestershire Care for its vision and adaptability.”

Strategic Director of the VRN, Grace Strong, added: “Leicestershire Cares has developed innovative and imaginative methods to sustain its work amid the coronavirus crisis and we are proud of their efforts. These sessions engage young people in fun and relaxing activities, as well as develop their practical sessions to improve their career prospects, and will arm them with vital life skills for the future.”

The project, which received £50,000 from the VRN for 2019-20, aims to prevent the progression of serious violence by intervening early and offering effective, tailored support.

The charity recognises the transition to adulthood can be challenging for young people who face social and economic difficulties and can increase the risk of crime. Its vision is to develop an inclusive and safe Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland where nobody is left behind and all children and young people are supported to reach their full potential.

Kieran Breen, Chief Executive of Leicestershire Cares, said: “Partnership between, business, community and local government is key to the success of the project and it’s great to have a PCC and VRN who are willing to invest in and support this “Together” approach.”

For more information on the project visit:



Media Enquiries: Sallie Blair - 01283 821012 / 07702 541401

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