ON THE GROUND: Dusty Forge Project

Scheme: A facility for 16- to 25-year-olds, offering social activities and information on law, social security, education and careers.

Funding: £83,000 per year from Cardiff County Council. The project has received Cardiff's High Sheriff Award and applied for grants from The Prince's Trust, local companies and banks.

Objectives: To provide young people with the opportunity to improve their lives and provide a safe environment for social activities.

Residents of the Ely Carneau housing estate in Cardiff, one of the biggest in Wales, have created an invisible divide by distinguishing themselves as coming from either Ely, on one side of the estate, or Carneau, on the other. But the Dusty Forge Project, a disused-pub-turned-community centre on the road that bisects the estate, has done much to integrate the community.

Children from the area often drop out of school early at around 14 or 15, copying their parents. It is these young people that the Dusty Forge Project aims to help, says community education officer Poppy Hadfield, the centre's only full-time staff member. The team also includes a part-time information adviser, three instructors, an administrator and a caretaker.

The pub was converted into a community centre four years ago and has developed an extensive programme of evening social activities, such as the girls' group. Every Wednesday evening, around 10 girls aged between 14 and 16 meet at the centre. They choose their own programme and activities have included guest speakers and a sponsored dive from a crane for Kidney Research.

Other courses include DJ-ing classes and dancing. However, most young people come to the centre to access training, says Hadfield. The centre has a computer suite offering internet access and computer courses. Young people come to study and then discover the information on offer, she says.

The centre offers advice on social security benefits, employment and training, health, money and law. It also hosts a Citizens Advice Bureau two mornings a week and a solicitor leases an office at Dusty Forge and offers free advice to young people.

The centre boasts some success stories. Two of the staff at Dusty Forge came through the centre as teenagers.

The centre also attracted media attention a few years ago when it sent a group to Uganda to help rebuild a community centre.

This summer, however, Hadfield is keeping the project's activities closer to home, offering classes in car mechanics, graffiti art and silver-service training.

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