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New scheme to help youngsters; HEALTH Reporter HELEN RAE takes a look at how a new health scheme in the region is helping reduce the risks to young people from alcohol.

Byline: HELEN RAE

A NEW initiative to reduce the risk to young people in areas of Tyneside from drinking alcohol is starting to benefit the wider community. The multi-agency project Off Watch has been established to reduce kerbside drinking by young people in the region, and to provide them with positive and interesting activities to access on a Friday and Saturday evening.

Colleagues from North Tyneside Council, Northumbria Police, YMCA North Tyneside, Phoenix Detached Youth Project and North Tyneside PCT, have created a partnership to offer a wide range of opportunities for young people and also benefit residents by aiming to create a safer community. Elected Mayor, Linda Arkley, said: "This is an exciting initiative for our residents living in the North Shields area.

"We have been working with young people throughout the last few months to identify what activities they would like to get involved in and I would encourage more young people to sign up to the programme.

"Residents in the area should also benefit from our work with Northumbria Police and local retailers to reduce the numbers of young people obtaining alcohol."

The Off Watch scheme was developed out of early project work between North Tyneside Council's neighbourhood management team and Northumbria Police.

It also benefited from the insight work carried out by the International School of Tropical Medicine that highlighted problems with young people drinking alcohol on weekend nights.

Early research showed that young people needed diversionary activities as a positive alternative to drinking on the streets, and retailers also needed to take more responsibility when selling alcohol in their shops.

This insight was also used to develop Sub 21 which was launched to bring down kerbside drinking with a package of support for retailers and activities for young people in parts of North Tyneside.

Under Off Watch young people can now access activities every weekend in a variety of locations that were agreed with a group of young people prior to the launch.

All partners are keen to highlight that this programme is so much more than having access to skate ramps and dancing sessions, it is also about raising the awareness that risky behaviour can have a negative impact on their personal health and wellbeing.

"Activities planned for the next 10 Through the project we aim encourage safer recreational and in turn kerbside early weeks include football, creative art sessions, access to recording studios and young people's club nights, to name a few. The programme benefits from its multi-agency approach and will spread activities across locations including YMCA North Shields, The Avenue in Meadow Well, North Tyne Community Centre and local councilrun sports centres.

launch of this to continue to people into activities bring down through In addition to the planned sessions, a number of detached youth workers will be working in the area to meet with young people affected by drinking and other risky behaviour.

intervention" They plan to engage with young people and identify new activities or projects that will aim to offer a genuinely positive alternative to drinking on the streets on a Friday and S urday night. Satross supning Health professionals from acr North Tyneside PCT are also s porting the initiative and are plann to attend a number of activities o the coming months to offer advice a support on a number of issues fr alcohol harm to sexual health.

over and rom Dr Meng Khaw, acting directo r of PCT this ourcrering public health for North Tyneside P said: "Through the launch of t project we aim to continue to enco age young people into safer rec ational activities and in turn br down kerbside drinking through p vention and early intervention."

preare Residents of North Tyneside also benefitting from retailers in North Shields area signing up to Off Watch initiative. the the More than 21 stores in the a have agreed to specially mark chea area aper alcohol targeted by under-age drinkers, so that if found in the possession of young people, police and council workers can track any bottles and cans back to the source and take necessary action.

"North Shields neighbourhood inspector Geoff Cross said: "We regularly visit offlicences to offer support to staff and also to remind them of the necessity to remain vigilant so that alcohol does not get into the hands of children.

"We will continue to work with our partners including North Tyneside Council's Trading Standards officers to make sure shop staff check the age of younger customers to prevent illegal sales of alcohol. We are pleased so many local stores have signed up to support this initiative." We''ve what we we know fun. It me feel involved. the think less underage and lower anti-A spokesperson for the partners involved said: "We are excited about launching a new initiative that will deliver activities in response to what young people have told us they want to do on a Friday and Saturday night.

A number of partners have shown their commitment to making sure young people can have some interesting activities to go to over the coming weeks and months ahead."

One of the keys to the success of the Off Watch initiative is ensuring young people want to get involved in the activities. There is no better way to do been asked want, so it will be this than to get young people to help shape the programme itself.

makes happy to be As well as activities I will be less drinking rates of social With the support of the participation and engagement team, various schools have been involved in consultation for the project.

Teenagers Rachel Leslie, 15, and Tyler Hughes, 13, from Norham Community Technology College, in North Shields, are leading peer consultation for the project on behalf of their school.

Other schools involved in the area are St Thomas More High School and John Spence Community High School. Tyler said: "It's fun because, if you think about it, you never hear about things happening for young people, and now they are asking us what we want to do, we don't have to keep quiet - we can see what's happening and tell everyone.

"We''ve been asked what we want, so we know it will be fun. It also makes me feel happy to be involved. As well as the activities I think there will be less crime, less underage drinking and lower rates of anti-social behaviour." Rachel supports this view and said: "Young people go out drinking because there's nothing to do. Now there are these activities.

"It's good because we are the student council and the voice of the students, so we can say what other young people want.

"It's not just adults deciding for us, we have had a say from the beginning. And more importantly it's like our own opinions count."

With a number of activities to get involved in over the next few weeks and months, Tyler has one last message to any young people thinking of getting involved.

She said: "Come along to these activities ... don't sit around!" If you want to see the full programme of activities and find out more information on how to get involved in the Off Watch initiative visit www.northtyneside.gov.uk Off Watch members Organisations involved in the Off Watch partnership: Phoenix Detached Youth Project: This project started in February 2004. Due to the hard work of the staff and commitment of several funders, the detached youth work provision has continued in the Meadow Well and surrounding areas of North Shields for many years.

It is a creative young person-led project which allows youngsters to develop their own activities, projects and ideas.

YMCA North Tyneside: The YMCA has long been at the forefront of providing quality, low-cost programming for youngsters.

It is a leader in the provision of services and programmes that aim to build strength and resilience in all young people, in body, mind and spirit.

Norham Community Technology College: The college has been working as part of the multi-agency steering group over the past couple of months to try and develop a programme of activities that young people in the area would like to be involved in.

There is an exciting programme of activities for young people to participate in while at the same time raising their awareness of risk-taking behaviours.

Northumbria Police: Tackling underage drinking and the problems of alcohol-fuelled antisocial behaviour and disorder is a priority for Northumbria Police.

CAPTION(S):

GET INVOLVED Off Watch activities for young people include break dancing ACTION GROUP Mayor of North Tyneside Council Linda Arkley, Young Mayor Rebecca Leighton and Chief Superintendent Gary Calvert celebrate the launch of the anti-alcohol initiative Off Watch with partners from the South East Locality youth action group PROACTIVE Young Mayor Rebecca Leighton at the launch of Off Watch, which aims to stop underage drinking on the
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 24, 2011
Words:1474
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