*Justice Secretary Keith Brown commends charity for creative approach during pandemic*

Scotland’s largest sail-training charity will recommence its youth work on the waves this week – following a 15-month wait on the shores of Greenock.

Ocean Youth Trust Scotland, which supports more than 800 young people each year through life-changing residential youth work at sea, will set sail on Wednesday [28 July] with a group of young people from St Paul’s Youth Forum in Glasgow. This will be the Inverclyde-based charity’s first voyage since the pandemic struck in March 2020.

The voyage is funded by the Scottish Government’s Cashback for Communities programme – an initiative that reinvests criminal assets into life-changing community projects. The 12-month programme encompasses elements of land-based youth work activity in schools, and residential activity delivered in a unique sail training environment. Young people are taught about risk-taking behaviours on land and at sea, while taking part in activities that nurture confidence, resilience, teamwork and personal and social skills.

The group from St Paul’s Youth Forum, an organisation based in Provanmill in North East Glasgow, consists of eight young people aged 13 to 15 identified as those most likely to benefit from such preventative measures and early intervention. They will spend three days on the charity’s 70-foot yacht, Alba Venturer, camping overnight at Inverkip, as covid restrictions still prohibit shared accommodation on board.

While unable to deliver youth work at sea during the pandemic, Ocean Youth Trust Scotland successfully adapted its youth work model to deliver a pioneering shore-based support programme, an approach lauded by Justice Secretary Keith Brown and local MSP Stuart MacMillan. It has worked with young people, including those from St Paul’s Youth Forum, Action for Children, REACH and the GK Experience, via activities including white water tubing, archery, orienteering, crate climbing and kayaking.

Barry McLaughlin, the Trust’s dedicated Youth Development Worker, commented: “The voyages funded by CashBack for Communities are specifically to support young people and communities most at risk of being affected by crime. But in the wake of the pandemic, we’re aware of the social benefits our work will also bring. Studies continue to show the devastating impact that lockdown has had on the mental health of young people in Scotland. Getting these young people outdoors, learning life skills and trying new activities in a safe and structured environment will help them emerge from the pandemic more resilient and on track for more positive life destinations.”

Justice Secretary Keith Brown commented: “It is vital that we offer young people an alternative to a life of crime. OYT is a fantastic example of a project that builds confidence, resilience, teamwork and social skills that will be immensely useful on and off the water.

“Covid has affected us all and it is incredibly heartening that as we recover from the pandemic an organisation like OYT is using our CashBack for Communities programme, funded through the proceeds of crime, to get back to doing such valuable work.

“The benefits will be felt not just by the young people that take part in these exciting activities but also by our wider communities.”

Stuart MacMillan, MSP for Greenock and Inverclyde and long-term ambassador of the Trust, commented: “I am pleased that local organisation Ocean Youth Trust Scotland are re-starting their voyages of life changing experiences once again. I know they do help young people and the work will be even more important in the years ahead assisting young people by giving them unique and memorable experiences. I wish everyone well with this first voyage and the many more to come.”

Neil Young, Team Leader at St Paul’s Youth Forum, commented: “As young people, growing up in a community surrounded by crime, it is easy to be drawn into a negative lifestyle. By partnering with Ocean Youth Trust Scotland, the team has helped our young people who were struggling with the pandemic to try new activities, be surrounded by positive role models, recognise their own value and have a more promising future to look forward to.”

Ocean Youth Trust Scotland has provided youth work on the waves for more than 20 years, supporting schools, youth groups, young carers, those from care experienced backgrounds and those struggling to achieve in education or their community.

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