Nearly 25 percent of Belfast citizens regard anti-social behaviour as the worst thing about living in the city at the moment, according to research carried out by Belfast City Council.
However, a BELB scheme run with the help of Belfast City Council’s ‘Belfast Community Safety Partnership’ (a council-led partnership of over 30 organisations whose services impact upon crime, fear of crime and anti-social behaviour), has been doing its part to address the escalating problems associated with this modern-day blight.
Under the Youth Inclusion Project, BELB youth outreach teams working in north, south, east and west Belfast and the Shankill have been awarded a grant of £10,000 each to help deliver additional programmes specifically geared towards improving community safety in their areas.
The programmes concentrate on areas such as personal development, exploring communities, political and safety issues for young people and citizenship.
Elaine McWilliams, community safety officer for Belfast City Council, said getting involved with the work of the BELB’s localised youth outreach teams was an ideal way to address the concerns raised in the survey about anti-social behaviour.
“The youth workers were already in post and had good local relationships with the young people,” said Ms McWilliams.
“Also, each of the area projects was already working with a steering group made up of local community representatives who ensure they are targeting the young people that need the help most.
“The outreach officers have been able to deliver a range of activities which have encouraged the young people they deal with to make informed decisions about nuisance behaviour, in turn preventing its escalation to more serious anti-social and criminal behaviour.
“This work has brought big, but localised improvement across the city. As a result, the Belfast Community Safety Partnership intend to continue its relationship with the area youth projects and plans are currently in the pipeline to put in place a small team of roaming youth workers who will move around the city to support the area projects when needed.”
Funding from the Youth Inclusion Project has enabled the BELB’s East Belfast Area Project to deliver a range of innovative and exciting programmes to young people who are considered to be “at risk”.
The East Belfast Area Project works in a number of communities across the area, offering young people aged from 12-25 the opportunity to participate in a range of personal and social development programmes, explains project outreach worker, Alan Wilson.
“The money has been able to do a lot. We have been able to run a lot of different initiatives and community saftey programmes with young people.
“One programme was directed towards the safety of young women walking home. We were able to run a self-defence programme which taught them how to protect themselves if they were attacked, and sensible things like walking where there is street lighting,” he said.
The funding also went towards another programme which involved young people aged 12—17 years-old who designed and put together a safety parks leaflet.
“There was always a bit of trouble in the parks in east so we wanted to get the kids involved to make them aware of their responsibilities to their communities. It was about them staying safe, getting involved in their environment but knowing they had responsibilities to their communities. It was a cross-community project involving kids from the Short Strand and wider Protestant community,” he added.
Mr Wilson said although the projects all had positive outcomes one major programme involving young people in the Inverary area, which has been dogged by anti-social behaviour, showed how things can be turned around for the benefit of everyone living in the community.
“Many of the young people involved in that project were known to the police but things have now got a lot better up there. They have a bit of pride in their community. It [the anti-social behaviour] is no way near at the level it was like,” he said.
Local community groups in the north Belfast area have combined to address the issues of anti-social behaviour and recreational rioting in the Waterworks area.
A football coaching day was organised in conjunction with Coerver Coaching (Ireland) in an attempt to bring young people together, using the popularity of football to encourage community cohesion.
The day is part of the overall strategy to improve community cohesion through sport, and it is hoped that it will be the starting point of other similar coaching events amongst the two communities.
Stephen Mann, the Sports’ Development officer for the Westland, said: “It’s great that we have an opportunity to get this quality of coaching for the young people of our local communities in north Belfast.
“Coerver is internationally recognised as one of the pre-eminent coaching methods used by professional clubs, including Manchester United and Arsenal.
“Their commitment in providing this fun day is to be welcomed and we hope it will be the start of more coaching days in the Waterworks facility.
“At last the Westland and the Waterworks area is in the news for positive reasons and we hope to use this event as a springboard for further coaching initiatives that both communities can engage with and enjoy.
“This is merely the start of a series of events to address the anti-social and recreational rioting problems that have blighted north Belfast for too long.
“I hope that all groups can work together with football as the catalyst for creating better relationships and communication channels between those most affected by disturbances in the Waterworks, hopefully making trouble a thing of the past.”
Funding from the Youth Inclusion Project has enabled the BELB’s South Belfast Area Project to deliver a range of innovative and exciting programmes to young people who are considered to be “at risk”.
“The South Belfast Area Project works in a number of communities across the area, offering young people aged from 12-25 the opportunity to participate in a range of personal and social development programmes,” explains project outreach worker, Joanna Clarke
“With the help of Belfast Community Safety Partnership, we have been able to run numerous successful youth outreach programmes including: a cross-cultural programme bringing together young people from the Chinese Welfare Association, Arts Ekta, Finaghy Youth Centre and the South Belfast Area Project to examine their values and beliefs and develop a greater understanding of other cultures; the Finaghy Citizenship Project, which offered young people from the area the opportunity to look at the issue of active citizenship through learning how to lobby politicians; and several personal development programmes.”
Ms Clarke said that the programmes have had “several very positive outcomes”.
“The young people involved have gained increased levels of confidence and self-awareness, a greater understanding of a range of cultures and beliefs and increased awareness of citizenship and public safety issues,” said Ms Clarke.
“It has enabled the South Belfast Area Project to offer additional programmes to help meet the needs of a range of young people, including those who did not previously avail of any youth provision. This is a positive example of partnerships working together.”
Funding from the Youth Inclusion Project has enabled the BELB’s West Belfast Area Project to deliver a wide range or activities for young people in the area.
Angela McKeown, project outreach worker said there are many continuing programmes across west Belfast.
“The money we received was a great boost in tackling anti-social behaviour in west Belfast.
“There can be so much bad press surrounding the area that it was great to put together events celebrating all that is good in our society. It certainly went a long way to enhance and reverse the opinions of west Belfast,” she said.
Angela continued: “One of the events we organised was a health day which took place at Corpus Christi College.
“This gave young people in the area the chance to speak to professionals and gain information concerning alcohol and drug awareness, sexual health, relationships and eating disorders.
“The young people could also try out some alternative therapies including Indian head massage and back and shoulder massage.”
On top of this we were able to sponsor a project in Lenadoon as part of the Lenadoon Community Festival.
“We organised a talent competition which will run through different stages and will hopefully give young people something to work on.
“We have already held the first heat and it was very popular with the young people,” she said.
Angela concluded: “The money we received helped us organise different activities and we are looking forward to the end of August when we will be taking a group of young women on a residential. This will involve team building and games.”
- We asked our readers to vote on how safe they felt Belfast was on an online poll. 21 percent of voters said they felt Belfast was “not safe at all” while 57 percent felt the city was “moderately safe”. 21 percent of voters said they felt Belfast was “very safe”.