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Development of £2 million Belfast Youth Space Announced

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Two leading children’s charities have announced a major new development in the heart of Belfast’s iconic Cathedral Quarter.

Paddy Mooney, Chief Executive of Include Youth, and Alicia Toal, Chief Executive of VOYPIC, have announced a £2m joint project to transform a derelict former warehouse at Great Patrick Street, Belfast, into a dedicated space for young people with experience of care in the city.

Two leading children’s charities have announced a major new development in the heart of Belfast’s iconic Cathedral Quarter.

Local charities Voice of Young People in Care (VOYPIC) and Include Youth have announced plans to develop a former industrial warehouse into a first-of-its-kind youth space for Belfast city centre.

Located at Great Patrick Street, Cathedral Quarter, work commenced on the 9000 square-foot space earlier this week, and will be ready to start operations in autumn 2022.

The project has been made possible with funding from three government departments- Communities, Health and Economy- with additional financial support from Atlantic Philanthropies, The Tudor Trust, Garfield Weston Foundation, Ulster Garden Villages, Whitemountain and Community Finance Ireland.   

Once complete, the new centre will have dedicated ground floor space to host the full range of programmes delivered by the two charities, who work with children and young people with lived experience of care. The upper level will serve at the organisations’ regional headquarters.

The property was first acquired jointly by the charities in 2016 and plans for the redevelopment of the site have been drawn up in partnership with children and young people involved with VOYPIC and Include Youth.

Together, the charities have over 70 years of experience supporting vulnerable and marginalised children and young people across Northern Ireland. 

VOYPIC is the charity for children and young people with experience of living in care in Northern Ireland. The organisation provides individual and group advocacy support, organises local and regional group-work programmes, and runs youth leadership schemes for young people in and leaving care. 

Speaking at a ceremony to mark the start of the works, Alicia Toal, Chief Executive of VOYPIC said:

“We are delighted to be part of the regeneration of an iconic area of Belfast city centre, and that we are putting children and young people at the heart of that regeneration. The area around our building is steeped in history, for years a gateway to the city and beyond. However, in recent years the area has been forgotten about, neglected, and not given the care and attention it deserves.

“We believe the area’s best days are ahead of it, and that’s why we are so proud to be building Northern Ireland’s first dedicated youth space for children and young people with lived experience of care right here.”

Include Youth is a rights-based charity for young people in or leaving care, from disadvantaged communities, or whose rights are not being met. It works to improve young people’s employability, and personal and social development.

Include Youth’s Chief Executive, Paddy Mooney, commented:

“This project has been a long time in the making. We are now at a point where we are in the final stages of realising a prestigious youth facility right in the heart of Belfast. 

“This reimagined building, creating a unique space that will be utilised by the young people we work with, our staff and the wider community is located in a part of Belfast that is in a period of positive and innovative transition. 

“Our young people will find a new home amongst brand new university buildings, forthcoming public spaces and park layouts, shops, cafés and riverside developments providing them with unrestrained opportunities and first-class facilities.”

The development is funded by a range of government funders, including the Department for Communities, Department of Health and Department for the Economy.

Communities Minister, Deirdre Hargey said: 

“I welcome the announcement of this collaboration project that will create an iconic, fit for purpose space dedicated to children and young people in care. I am delighted that my Department has been able to provide £420,000 funding towards this innovative initiative that will benefit the lives of the many children and young people who come through its doors. 

“With input to the design by the young people that will use the facility, it will help to transform how VOYPIC and Include Youth deliver their vital services through youth based activities.

When completed, the refurbished building will have a positive impact on targeting social need through the social, economic and physical regeneration of Belfast.”

Minister for Health, Robin Swann MLA, said: “I would like to congratulate VOYPIC and Include Youth on reaching such an important milestone in this exciting project. I would also extend my congratulations to all of the children and young people who have contributed so much to the plans for their new dedicated youth space. 

“The ‘Life Deserved’ Strategy commits to Government departments, their arm’s length bodies, local government and partner agencies in the voluntary, community and independent sectors acting together as the Corporate Family for children and young people in care. This project demonstrates that commitment in action and I am delighted that my Department has been able to provide funding to support the redevelopment work, alongside the Department for Communities and the Department for the Economy.”

Gordon Lyons MLA, Minister for the Economy, said:

Gordon Lyons MLA, Minister for the Economy, said: “I am very pleased that my Department is contributing towards the Belfast Youth Space project. VOYPIC and Include Youth have decades of experience in helping young people with experience of living in care access valuable training, employment and career opportunities that help set them on an assured pathway for life. I wish the charities the very best as they embark on this exciting new chapter.”

 

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