Helping all our young people to have faith in their own Ability

February 9th, 2019 7:05 AM

By Brian Moore

Moira McCarthy, Claire McCarthy, Arran O'Driscoll, Fern Higgins-Atkinson and Elaine-Marie Murphy ahead of the official launch of the Ability Programme. (Photo: George Maguire)

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A major new programme being launched in West Cork hopes to help young people who struggle with mental health issues engage with job opportunities

A MULTI-million euro programme designed to bring young people struggling with mental health issues, closer to employment is being launched in West Cork. 

Called the Ability Programme, it’s an initiative of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and will be officially launched in the area by Minister Finian McGrath on Wednesday, February 13th.

Ability is designed to help young people, who are living with depression, anxiety, stress or low self esteem, to gain confidence, motivation and personal development with the ultimate goal of ensuring they can achieve what they want to in life.

It will be available through the West Cork Development Partnership (WCDP) with offices in Bantry, Clonakilty and Bandon and is open to young people who live anywhere in the region.

Arran O’Driscoll of the WCDP told The Southern Star that the programme, which is co-funded by the European Social Fund and the government, and administered by Pobal, is designed to help young people enhance the skills they need to make the most of what they want to achieve and the aim is to bring young people between the ages of 19 and 25, who need support, closer to the labour market.

But it’s more than that, she said. ‘It will also include community involvement, volunteering, building confidence and motivation.’

The overall national budget for the programme is €16m and the programme will run from 2018-2021 and is now supported by 27 other development groups across the country. In West Cork the Ability Programme team includes two dedicated personal development officers, a youth engagement specialist and an occupational therapist.

Personal development officer Elaine Murphy said: ‘The programme is all about one-to-one support and will be tailor made to the individual. Here in West Cork there are a lot of people who feel isolated and excluded, the programme can help provide the support they need to gain in confidence and to improve their skills.’

Practically it will work by supporting the young person in accessing training or exploring relevant courses and college places, or by helping the participant gain work experience and placements.

Youth engagement officer Fern Higgins-Atkinson explained: ‘The Ability Programme can help young people who are living with anxiety depression, stress or lack of focus and low self esteem, to develop and to explore their own personal skills.

‘We can help you to access, not only training for work or college, but just as importantly, to develop your self-awareness, confidence and positive mental health skills.’

Personal development officer Moira McCarthy added: ‘We will work with the young person to design a tailored plan and facilitate them to make this plan work for them. This is a continual engagement programme that can last weeks or years, depending on the needs of the person involved. We encourage community engagement with volunteer groups and other community organisations. The programme is all about getting out there and moving forward to achieve what you want to achieve, be that training for employment or personal development, not everyone is the same and the plan will be designed for the individual.’ 

Arran described it as a process ‘of discovery’. 

‘The programme is designed for those who need a helping hand to perhaps rediscover the skills they have, or to access the supports they need to achieve what they want in life. 

‘It is a service that we are delighted to bring to West Cork. 

‘We are here to help the people who wish to take part in the programme to develop their skills in the form of training and personal development and volunteering, while assisting them to assess their own skills and develop their own unique abilities.’


• For more, and to register, contact the WCDP on 023 8834035 or see

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