Northern Ireland youth charity Public Achievement closes with nine jobs lost

The charity cites difficulties in securing new funding and dealing with cash flow as factors in the decision

Charity closed
Charity closed

The Northern Ireland-based youth charity Public Achievement has closed with the loss of nine jobs.

The charity, founded in 1999, worked to support young people in Northern Ireland and improve their local communities.

Public Achievement, which in 2012 became the first charity from Northern Ireland to receive a Big Society Award from the Prime Minister, cited in a statement such difficulties as the challenges of securing new funding and dealing with cash flow.

The charity and its social enterprise arm, Achieve Enterprises, ran two pilot programmes – Be the Change and Lead Your Own Learning – as part of the Northern Ireland Department for Employment and Learning’s £2.2m United Youth initiative.

United Youth, which is due to end in March, is a good relations programme that runs 13 programmes focusing on opportunities for 16 to 24-year-olds.

A statement from Public Achievement’s board said the charity struggled in a "very difficult climate for our sector" and closed to ensure the organisation was not trading in an insolvent position. Achieve Enterprises is also to close because it has insufficient funds.

Public Achievement’s abbreviated accounts for the year ending 31 March 2015 say the charity’s net assets fell to £5,079 from £85,853 the year before. Its income is not listed in the accounts, which raised concerns about the financial future of the charity and its need to reduce its dependency on grant funding and to diversify its income.

A statement from the charity said it often found "that our work doesn’t fit the boxes of funders and government departments, who are often driven by moral panics about young people – often lacking any vision of young people as co-creators of a new Northern Ireland".

It said: "We are particularly sad to lose our dedicated, wonderfully creative and diverse staff team – we had created a unique blend of skills and expertise never before seen in a youth organisation here. They have fought through many crises to ensure we deliver the best possible outcomes for the young people we work with.

"We are devastated to have to stop our United Youth programme at a critical point for the wonderful young people involved. We hope that the Department for Employment and Learning can find a way of supporting these great young citizens through another organisation. They have so much to give our society."

The statement added that the "stop-start nature of funding for our sector and the frequent gaps between funding programmes have been major contributors to the situation that has led to this regretful and very difficult decision".

A spokeswoman for the Department for Employment and Learning said: "The department’s key priority is to ensure that the 44 young people involved across the two pilots concerned have the opportunity to complete the programme they started. We are currently exploring options around this, and officials are meeting with the young people."

A petition calling on the Northern Irish devolved government to save the charity has been launched. As of Tuesday morning, almost 200 people had signed the petition.

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