Columnist: Dermot Finch, regional director of The Prince's Trust
EVERY day, the Prince's Trust supports young people who have had extremely difficult starts in life, whether they have grown up in care, faced mental health issues, been in trouble with the law or were homeless. Issues like these make life even harder at a time when youth unemployment is still high.
Latest youth unemployment figures show that more than one in five young people are struggling to find work in Bristol, while long-term unemployment is also on the up. The amount of young people claiming Job Seeker's Allowance for more than 12 months in the city has increased by 13 times since September 2008.
It's a very tough time, which is why I never fail to be inspired by the stories of young people who have changed their lives after help from The Trust.
Last week I spoke at the Prince's Trust and Samsung Celebrate Success Awards, at St George's in Bristol, which recognise the achievements of young people across the South West.
Young people from Bristol scooped three of the seven awards, with Jade Andrews, 20, picking up the Clifton College Young Ambassador Award and Jack Stowell, 15, taking home the UWE Educational Achiever Award. A further two finished as runners- up with Jess Hale, 24, shortlisted for the Samsung Young Achiever of the Year Award and Naomi Jones, 22, shortlisted for the Young Ambassador Award.
Each inspirational nominee highlighted exactly why we need to invest in our young people. Take Alice Bambridge, 24, also from Bristol, who won the HSBC Breakthrough Award. Her start in life was far from stable. Put into care due to her mother being unwell, she ended up living at 25 different placements by the time she was 14. It was then she found a brilliant foster carer and life started to get better.
After securing a place at university reading architecture, Alice threw herself into her work, determined to do well; but she had also begun caring for her mother. The combination was too much and she took the difficult decision to leave. Alice tried again, pursuing other studies but was left exhausted, suffering a breakdown and becoming anxious, depressed and agoraphobic.
With hopes of turning her life around, she joined the Truth about Youth Experience Performing Arts project, run by The Prince's Trust and the Bristol Old Vic, and funded by The Co-operative Foundation.
The course helped Alice get back on track. She is now a qualified fitness instructor, is employed as a children's entertainer and is completing a course at Circomedia. She speaks publicly as a Prince's Trust Young Ambassador, volunteers with two different children's charities, and represents care leavers on Bristol City Council's Corporate Parenting Panel.
Alice's story speaks for itself. It is stories like hers and the others at our Celebrate Success awards that show why we have to keep working hard to change the fortunes of even more young people across the city. Last year, The Trust helped 680 young people in Bristol. It's vital we build on this so we can help halt the youth unemployment figures and give young people the future they deserve.