What it is: Peer Support Project, Manchester

Goals: To provide advocacy and peer support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning young people who are not in education, employment or training

Funding: Provided by Manchester City Council, Connexions, the community budget and other funding streams

Manchester’s Peer Support Project offers excluded lesbian, gay and bisexual young people a range of services, including an internet chatroom.

The chatroom gives the young people advice from experienced peers. The group has teamed up with the national Youth Action Network on an e-mentoring project and is working in partnership with other organisations to train young mentors. Jill Greenfield, project manager of the Peer Support Project, says: “Technology helps us reach marginalised and isolated young people, allowing them to take the first step in a support process.”

The project also runs creative schemes, such as Romeo and Julian, Rosemary and Juliet, a play developed in conjunction with the Royal Exchange Theatre. This joint initiative with another youth group from Wigan was a huge success, says Greenfield. “We filled more than 90 seats and it was an unforgettable experience. The young people introduced their own ideas into the classic Shakespeare play, moving audience members to laugh and even cry,” she says.

The main problem is that these young people are not all based in one area, says Greenfield, so the group also provides a freephone helpline during office hours. However, one-to-one and drop-in services still play an important role. This avoids an overreliance on technology, which can exclude young people who do not have web access.

Alex, 18, a member of the group, says: “The whole thing is really good. The support is always there when we need it and the workers make you feel comfortable and confident. Peer work is great because it benefits the people with the problems and those giving the advice.”

Published in Young People Now, 31/8/05 – click here for original.