AN organisation that supports Fencing clubs across the North-East has been recognised by the Prime Minister with a Big Society Award.

Fencing North East was set up in 2008 in partnership with Durham and Northumbria universities and has supported young fencers in Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, Durham, Cumbria and Teesside who have gone on to compete at National, European, and Paralympic levels.

So far it has introduced fencing to 2,500 under 16s by working with schools, scouts, colleges and local authorities, specifically targeting young people from less well off areas.

Fencing North East has also trained 69 unemployed young people as ‘Go Fence’ leaders, who have in turn introduced over 800 people from their communities to the sport.

Paying tribute to the group’s achievement, Prime Minister David Cameron said: "Fencing North East has had a real impact across the North-East, inspiring young people to take up a new sport and helping them gain confidence, skills and even qualifications.

"I’m delighted to be recognising the achievements of everyone who volunteers, coaches and takes part with this Big Society Award."

A major success for Fencing North East has been the Street Swords project which it set up in 2011 in partnership with the Princes Trust.

The project works with disengaged youngsters from deprived areas and provides bursaries to ensure cost does not prevent young people from taking part in the sport.

It received the Inspire Mark for promoting the Olympic ethos and the organisation hopes to take ten of its fencing leaders to the Rio Games in 2016.

Wheelchair users have also benefitted from the efforts of Fencing North East as it has increased participation in wheelchair fencing throughout the region.

Marie Matheson, chair of the organisation, said: "I'm very proud of my involvement with Fencing North East, and have found working with all of our volunteers and participants inspirational on so many levels.

“I'm delighted that the hard work and creativity of our volunteers has been recognised with a Big Society Award from the Prime Minister."

The Big Society Awards were set up by David Cameron in 2010 to recognise the work of individuals and groups who dedicate themselves to improving their communities.