A PROJECT has been launched in Darlington to help get more than 2,500 people across the Tees Valley into work or training.

Step Forward Tees Valley is targeting people who might have found it difficult to get a job due to issues such as self-confidence, alcohol or drug addiction, a criminal conviction, or poor health.

Now a consortium of 23 partners and local employers has come together to boost people’s chances of employment by tackling the reasons at the core of preventing them from finding work or training

Step Forward is run by the Northern Inclusion Consortium and jointly funded by the Big Lottery Fund and European Social Fund.

People can apply to join the project or be referred by an organisation. If accepted they are partnered with a “navigator” to help them them access any support they might need.

Helen Collins, programme manager, said: “Working and training is about more than bringing a wage home, important though that is. It’s about having a purpose, interacting with other people, feeling connected, providing role models and allowing people to have plans, aspirations and hopes for the future.

“We have access to a range of specialist services to help people build upon their strengths and aspirations to overcome some of the complex reasons that have prevented them from finding work in the past. If you struggle with self-confidence how can you access the right training course? If you have a conviction how do you tell an employer so they will consider you for a post? These are the type of real issues people deal with and Step Forward can help. We are committed to working with our partners and the people of Tees Valley to make real and lasting changes.”

The project launched in Darlington and Eston, Middlesbrough, last weelk and has already taken on its first referrals. For more information visit www.sfteesvalley.co.uk or call 01325-387713.