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Prisoners and justice staff undertake ‘Diamond’ effort

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A charity fund-raising initiative celebrating 60 years of The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) has been launched jointly by the Northern Ireland Prison Service, Probation Board and Youth Justice Agency.

The ‘Diamond Challenge’ invites those in custody, as well as prison staff, probation officers and youth justice workers to take part in the fund-raising effort during September 2016. Monies raised will be shared equally between the DofE and the NI Children’s Hospice.

The initiative was launched earlier today at Hydebank Wood College where Sue McAllister, Director General of the NI Prison Service, PBNI Catherine Maguire and Mark Nicholson, PBNI Area Managers and YJA Assistant Director Michael Heaney each completed a 1km gym cycle ride. They were also joined by a number of students and Richard Taylor, Governor at Hydebank Wood College, representatives from NI Children’s hospice and the DofE.

Tom Ferguson, NIPS Head of Learning and Skills, Employment and Enterprise, said: “We are encouraging everyone within the criminal justice sector and our partners in the wider justice family to take part in the challenge. Individually, or as part of a team, they can choose their challenge, physical or otherwise, motivated by knowing they are contributing to two worthwhile charities.

Sue McAllister, Director General NIPS, said: This event showcases the excellent partnership between The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award and prisons, probation and youth justice.  It encourages students, prisoners and staff from the partner organisations to take up a personal or team challenge for a great cause.  It is important that people who have come into contact with the justice system are given the opportunity to give something back to society and the money raised from the challenges will help to support the local charities.”

Cheryl Lamont, (Acting) Director PBNI, said: “The Probation Board has proudly held a Licence to deliver The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award programme, in partnership with NI Prison Service and the Youth Justice Agency, for nearly 30 of its 60 years.  This anniversary is an opportunity being promoted nationwide to raise funds to help young people in the future and I am delighted that staff from probation, youth justice and prisons are fully involved in the Diamond Challenge.”

Michael Heaney, Assistant Director, Youth Justice Agency (YJA), said: “We are delighted to be involved, along with partners in PBNI and NIPS, in celebrating the 60th anniversary of the DofE Award. Our statement of purpose is, ‘making communities safer by helping children to stop offending’.  The DofE Award helps YJA to achieve this aim of promoting desistance from offending by providing a developmental framework which encourages and accredits those children who demonstrate considerable commitment to developing their skills and abilities, and to giving back to their communities.”

Valerie Pitman, DofE Manager, added: “Over several decades many prisoners have benefitted from their participation in the DofE.  This has provided them with new skills, improved fitness and enhanced their employment prospects.  The Challenge is an opportunity to promote the DofE and raise much needed funds to extend the reach of the programme in Northern Ireland.  In sharing the funds raised with the N.I. Children’s Hospice the criminal justice sector is also helping young people in the community.”

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