Valuable programme for vulnerable youngsters to be scrapped

Sue Stokes, who worked with Catch22 students
Sue Stokes, who worked with Catch22 students
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Some of Portsmouth’s most vulnerable young people look set to miss out after the decision to close the city’s Catch22 study programme.

The programme in Portsmouth was specifically aimed at young people aged 16 to 19 who come from disadvantaged backgrounds or have specific learning needs.

Sue Stokes, who has worked closely with the Catch22 project for the last two years is particularly concerned about the educational vacuum the decision leaves for this cohort of vulnerable young people.

‘Catch22 provided education for students who may have issues which would ordinarily be prohibitive to attending mainstream college. If this kind of service which reaches out to ‘kids on the edge’ no longer exists then these young people will end up jobless and without direction,’ explained Ms Stokes. 

A key focus of Catch22 is to improve maths and English attainment for students and provide vocational opportunities to improve employment prospects for young people. 

As founder of Southsea Green Ms Stokes regularly worked with students on the programme who would come to the community garden premises to work on both horticultural and craft based projects.

‘I know a number of young people from last year’s cohort who would probably have been written off in mainstream but are now in employment . The project provided a focus which looked brilliant on their CV’s,’ added Ms Stokes.

It is not just the young people who look set to miss out with many of Catch22’s projects focused on social enterprise which benefited the local community.

The ‘Solent Allstars’, the final Catch22 group in Portsmouth, were recently recognised for their community work on a range of projects including up-cycling of clothes and furniture for the Salvation Army, providing support packs for the homeless and selling homemade cakes and sweets to raise money for local charities.

Teacher Vik Burnand said: ‘We are immensely privileged to have worked with you all and we hope that Catch22 ceasing to exist won’t impact on your futures.’

Ms Stokes, who worked with the young people on the projects, added: ‘They stopped thinking about their own problems and started thinking about other peoples.’ 

Dependent on funding from the Department for Education, Catch22 director of vocational training, Chris Stoker Jones, said that it was a difficult decision to remove the programme from Portsmouth with choices having to be made on a ‘needs most’ basis.

‘As a charity and social business we want our work to be as effective as possible and reach those who need us most. This sometimes means making difficult decisions about where we can provide services. In closing our Portsmouth programme we’ve worked closely with local colleges and employers to ensure our students are still preparing for work in the area,’ explained Mr Jones.