Earlier this week we awarded almost £3 million to five projects across Northern Ireland through our Empowering Young People programme.

CAN, based in Ballymoney, is one of the groups celebrating after it received £574,217 for a project led by young people with learning disabilities in the Causeway Coast and Glens area. The five year YE (Youth Empowerment) CAN project is working with the young people and their parents to help them make the move to adulthood and plan for the future.

It is supporting young people aged 12-18 with learning disabilities and their parents to move from children’s to adult services, while helping to improve their employability, self-esteem and independence.

arly McClements and Gemma McMullan fundraising for CAN
Carly McClements and Gemma McMullan fundraising for CAN

Janet Schofield, CEO of CAN, said the project is helping young people across the Causeway Coast and Glens area with learning disabilities at an important time in their lives.

“Our young people struggle when it comes to leaving school, leaving children’s services and moving into adult services – it’s a massive leap,” she said.

“There isn’t a lot of transition support out there so we’ll be bridging the gap by signposting the young people to the right support, providing one-to-one mentoring and training and education in life skills.

“It is also a lot for parents to navigate and it can be overwhelming. It can also be hard for a parent who has always been protective over their child to let them be more independent – they can be afraid to let go. So part of this project is about supporting parents to share their experiences and be a positive support network for each other,” Janet said.

Janet explained the project would be shaped by what each young person needs, including support with independent living skills and opportunities to make friends. It will also connect the young people with programmes in their communities and CAN’s other projects.

The young people will help promote the project and activities and they will have their own leadership forum.

Mary Hunter, whose daughter attends CAN’s Best Buddies project said: “Hollie has been involved with CAN for three years now. It’s building up her social skills and helping with her independence. She is making new friends in her community which is fabulous for her future. It’s great for me, and other parents to know that CAN will be there to help us too.”

Jade Millen preparing a speech for the Ambassadors Programme
Jade Millen preparing a speech for the Ambassadors Programme

Jade Millen from Coleraine has been involved in the organisation for over six years.

“Being part of CAN really helped me. I was going through a bad time when I got involved in the youth project but by being part of the group, I’ve been able to make friends and had so many experiences I would never have had. CAN gave me the confidence to go to college and I’ve just started my first job.”

Other projects receiving funding:

The Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children has been awarded £600,000 to provide tailored support for young people across Northern Ireland aged 8-17 whose parent or carer has cancer, young people who have lost someone to cancer and young people who find themselves in a caring role.

MACS Supporting Young People has received £599,977 to help young people in Belfast, Lisburn & Castlereagh, Newry Mourne & Down aged 11-25 to improve and better manage their mental health, reach their potential and become active members of society.

Liberty Consortium in Derry/Londonderry has been awarded £600,000 to offer activities, work placements and training to increase the personal and social skills of young people aged 16-23 with learning disabilities.

Youth Action Northern Ireland Limited has received £599,999 for a project supporting young men in Belfast, Derry City and Strabane, Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon and Newry, Mourne and Down who are involved in or at risk of becoming involved in violence to make better choices.

The Empowering Young People programme can support projects working with young people across Northern Ireland including young carers, young people with a learning disability and young people who face barriers to education, training or employment. More information about Empowering Young People can be found on our website,  


  1. Hi how do i get my 12 year old daughter involved in this she has moderate learning difficulties and is in the process of getting tested for other things

    • Hi Lynne
      thanks for your comment. You can get in touch with one of the projects directly. I’m not sure which area you are in, but they should all have contact details on their own websites. The CAN project featured in the blog covers the Causeway Coast and Glens area. CAN is short for Compass Advocacy Network. If you have any problems getting in touch drop us an email at

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