YOUNG people in West Somerset can start a new hobby paid for by the council thanks to a new £170,000 grant. 

Individuals and groups can apply for grants in an initiative which is part of the Government-funded and Somerset County Council-backed West Somerset Opportunity Area (WSOA).

Nine-14-year-olds can take part of sport, performance classes, music, get a gym membership or visit a skatepark after £170,000 was provided by the Department of Education as part of the Essential Life Skills programme. 

The aim is to improve confience and mental health in young people within the area. 

Councillor Frances Nicholson, cabinet member for children and families at Somerset County Council, said: “Evidence shows that these sorts of activities boost young people’s social skills and emotional wellbeing, and this in turn helps them develop the skills to achieve their potential.

“This is a great opportunity and I hope groups and individuals across the area will seize it with both hands.”

West Somerset is one of 12 'opportunity areas' chosen in recognition of the challenges young people face in education and employment. These have been highlighted by the Social Mobility Index which looks at the chances of children from different backgrounds doing well at school and getting a good job.

Projects are being developed by the West Somerset Opportunity Area Partnership Board, chaired by Dr Fiona McMillan OBE. Its membership includes representatives from Somerset County Council, West Somerset Council, local schools and employers.

Dr McMillan said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for young people in West Somerset who currently do not benefit from taking part in organised activities outside of school. 

“They will have the opportunity to take part in activities that might be new to them or which they have previously been unable to access, which in turn will bolster their confidence and equip them with essential life skills.”

The individual grants can be applied for with the backing of a responsible adult such as a teacher or youth worker throughout 2018 to March 2019, while funding for groups will be made available on a quarterly basis throughout the year.

For more information on the grants and funding deadlines and to download the forms go to