Think tank studies success of Holt Youth Project

Norman Lamb MP presents a cheque to the Holt Youth Project for £1,772. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Norman Lamb MP presents a cheque to the Holt Youth Project for £1,772. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

Worries over attending class had kept them off school for more than two years.

And all attempts to treat them by traditional methods had failed.

But two schoolboys from Sheringham High School who had been diagnosed with a series of medical conditions, including eating disorders and anxiety, returned months later to sit their exams – after the intervention of Holt Youth Project.

That led to the charity setting up its own mentoring service – Achieving Confidence Training for Young People – and it has proved so successful founder Julie Alford has been invited to address Mental Health and Rehabilitation Commissioners at Centre Forum - an independent, liberal think tank seeking to develop evidence based, long term policy solutions to the problems facing Britain.

Mrs Alford, who first opened her home to the young people of Holt 30 years ago, said: 'The ACT programme started up because Sheringham High School asked us if we would engage with two young people who had eating disorders, anxiety, self-harming and they hadn't been to school for two-and-a-half years.

'So we did that and, within four months, both those young people got better – to our amazement as well as everyone else's.

'It was a non-medical approach, just a nurturing, caring environment offering them opportunities and allowing them, at their pace, to build confidence and self-esteem.

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'Because both those boys got better we did some numeracy and literacy work with them and then were able to get them back into school to take their exams, and by this time they hadn't been in for three years.

'And because that was so successful we would take other young people in and it kind of snowballed from that. We now have young people coming on the programme throughout the year and we support them with lots of mentoring and social interaction with other young people suffering similar issues.'

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb is a patron of the project, which is run by the charity Ormiston Families, and, on Tuesday, he presented them with a cheque for £1772.

He raised the money by completing a 10 mile sponsored walk, entitled Walking Out Of Darkness, through London during Mental Health Awareness Week in May.

Thanking Mr Lamb for his support, Mrs Alford said: 'Funding is very important; we have delivered programmes without funding but the work we do to help young people turn their lives around has grown so much we wouldn't be able to do it without being supported.'