A NEW scheme is being launched to help young people leaving care in the region to find employment.

The Project Hope initiative will support people, aged 16 to 25, to develop the skills needed for roles in the health and care sector.

Spearheading the venture is West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership, which has developed the programme with organisations from the sector and young people themselves.

Features of Project Hope will include paid placements, jobs fairs, help with education and training employment skills, discounted activities and subsidised travel.

Speakers at a launch event in Leeds tomorrow will include former javelin world champion and Olympic medalist Fatima Whitbread, who spent the first 14 years of her life in a variety of care homes. She is an Action for Children ambassador.

And a keynote address will be given by West Yorkshire's mayor, Tracy Brabin, who has responsibility for the region’s wider adult skills offer.

Amongst those also in attendance will be representatives from partner organisations including local authorities, NHS trusts, the Prince's Trust, NHS England and the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector.

Sayma Mirza, associate director for children, young people and families with West Yorkshire Integrated Care Board, pays tribute to all those that have given support.

She adds: "It's been heartening to see the immense support that the Project Hope initiative has received, and we would like to thank everyone for their commitment to helping young people have hope for a better future.

"Crucially, the launch means that 25 young people will soon be starting on a journey that could change their lives for the better."

Tim Ryley, joint senior responsible officer for West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership's children, young people and families programme, says Project Hope aims to address inequalities faced by care leavers.

He said: "We know that young people who have experience of the care system are much more likely to face isolation, physical ill health and poor mental health than other people their age. They are also significantly more at risk of becoming homeless and being in the criminal justice system.

"Project Hope will help address those inequalities and I’m delighted that our partnership has embraced this opportunity to make a real difference."

Jenny Lingrell, also a joint senior responsible officer for the programme, says: "Partners across West Yorkshire are already doing a great deal of work to improve outcomes for these young people. Project Hope adds another dimension."