DARE: Raising Aspirations (12-16) – NI Alternatives  

DARE: Raising Aspirations (12-16) – NI Alternatives  


CR1, CR3, CR6, CR7, CR8, CR9 


The DARE project recognised the necessity of engaging post-primary groups in Northern Ireland in a comprehensive educational and support programme. The goal was to increase young people’s understanding of various important topics, including mental health, coercive control, mindfulness, stress management, body image, internet safety, anti-social behaviour, relationships, and sexual health. 


The project hosted group work sessions and provided intensive youth support when needed, integrating services from the wider community. One of the groups, ‘Kilcooley Sr’, spent the last year exploring these topics and subsequently expressed a desire for more intensive youth support, including one-to-one work. While weekly group meetings continued, staff dedicated significant time to meeting and supporting the young people individually. Additionally, all groups engaged with a former combatant and a PSNI Officer who worked to de-glamorise the role of paramilitaries and highlight the consequences of criminal activity. The young people also participated in online safety workshops with the PSNI, offering them a chance to interact with police officers in a relaxed setting and discuss a range of issues. 


The DARE project successfully facilitated a comprehensive educational and support environment for young people. Through group sessions and individual support, participants developed a strong understanding of key societal and personal issues. The engagement with former combatants and PSNI officers provided valuable perspectives, helping to demystify and challenge the glamorisation of paramilitary involvement. The online safety workshops with the PSNI also fostered a more relaxed and informative interaction between the youth and police officers, contributing to a broader and more nuanced understanding of these crucial topics. 

The programme supplemented its youth work with parental support, responding to feedback from Phase 1 parental surveys, the DARE Programme sourced additional funding from the Department of Communities to deliver adult English and Maths classes. This has helped parents in terms of becoming more employable and it has also built confidence in terms of supporting their children with homework.  DARE Programme staff have built capacity of parents through family mediations, homework club, and signposting to support services. The Kilcooley After School Programme was launched in September. Young people from P7 in Kilcooley Primary School attend a weekly session with DARE staff and volunteers in the local church building. Staff provide a snack, and homework support to the group. Following the completion of homework, the young people participate in fun games and educational activities.  

The police officers I have engaged with through DARE understand why young people might not like them from past first-hand experiences, family history or unrealistic viewpoints based on fictional portrayals in movies and TV. Like in any job there are those that shouldn’t be in that profession, not all teachers can teach, some nurses don’t have a good bedside manner and some police officers aren’t great at engaging with young people and don’t really know how to but the ones that do their jobs and care about us and the communities we live in help us understand what police officers should be like. And with this strategy being rolled out, there is an opportunity for greater connections to be made between the police and young people across Northern Ireland.”

DARE Participant
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