New £1.4m Belvoir youth centre 'long overdue'
Up to 1,000 young people are set to benefit from a proposed £1.4million investment on a youth centre in south Belfast.
The stand-alone youth facility on the Belvoir Primary School site has been given the go-ahead by Education Minister John O'Dowd.
The new facility will create greater opportunities for young people to participate in a wide range of youth work programmes including employability, social and life skills development, whilst working in partnership with many other voluntary and statutory organisations.
Prior to the approval youth groups were given the opportunity to contribute to discussions on the design and layout of the building which is set to include a sports hall, IT facility and social meeting spaces.
Brian Dunwoody of the Belvoir Community Association welcomed the facility as and said that it was a much needed boost to the community.
"At the minute we have portacabins that are being used as activity centres and community groups operating in church halls and local venues but these facilities are not adequate to accommodate the activities taking place.
"The permanent structure will provide a great boost and hopefully be available most days and nights of the week as well as being financially easier for local children to attend."
Work is expected to start before the end of the year and will be completed in 2014.
Announcing the investment, Minister O'Dowd said: "Youth work makes a very important contribution to education, employability and life skills for young people and helps them to positively engage as active members of their own and wider communities.
"I have made it a priority to tackle educational underachievement and promote equality and the raising of standards across education. It is therefore vital that the non-formal side of education plans and delivers high quality youth work services in line with the broad education priorities. We must place a greater emphasis on the needs of those for whom youth work can provide a valuable link to future education and training.
"As with the schools estate, it is important that youth work activities are conducted in safe, fit-for-purpose facilities.
"Today's announcement will not only benefit young people in the area it will also provide a further much-needed boost to the local construction industry."
South Belfast MLA Michael McGimpsey, who raised the issue of the lack of facilities in the estate in the Assembly last week, said: "The announcement of a £1.4 million youth facility for Belvoir, Milltown and Newtownbreda is very welcome.
"This long overdue investment will make a vital contribution to the development of our young people within the local community and further afield. It will also benefit future generations.
"It provides the much needed positive environment in which youth can learn and develop with their peers and discourage them from pursuing less positive activities," he said.
"At a time when investing in our young people is of absolute importance, this development must be just the beginning and not the end. It is an excellent start but very much work in progress."