Double Olympic Gold Medallist Dame Kelly Holmes has announced our vision to support over 10,800 young people facing disadvantage across Wales by 2020.

Speaking at a reception hosted at The National Assembly for Wales by Bridgend AM Carwyn Jones, Dame Kelly spoke about some of the challenges facing young people within modern society and how world class athletes can act as a solution to “transform lives” and empower young people to lead healthier lifestyles, achieve in education, enjoy career success and become involved in meaningful activities.

Her charity – Dame Kelly Holmes Trust – was launched in 2008 and develops the talents of world class athletes beyond sport to deliver transformational mentoring programmes for young people facing disadvantage. Its flagship

‘Get on Track’ programme was launched in Wales for the first time last year, in partnership with Bridgend County Borough Council and through funding from players of People’s Postcode Lottery.

At the launch event, Dame Kelly said: “Despite a range of successful initiatives in Wales over recent years, there still exists a number of young people who are currently facing disadvantage and require innovative solutions to enable them to lead a positive life.

“It’s more important than ever before that young people are equipped with the attitudes and behaviours needed to realise their potential and have a real impact within their local communities.

“We believe that every young person in Wales – regardless of their past or current circumstances – has the potential to have a positive future. It can take just one special individual to help them realise the confidence and determination needed to succeed and the resilience to go again if barriers or challenges arise.

“That’s why I’m so excited to see the impact of our work in partnership with Bridgend County Borough Council and the potential we have to reach so many more thousands of young people facing disadvantage across Wales over the next few years.”

Dame Kelly believes that the country’s “athlete workforce” is the solution to ensuring young people across Wales can become empowered to lead positive lives. She added: “To date we’ve worked with over 400 world class athletes across the UK and supported in excess of 300,000 young people facing disadvantage.

“We’ve been able to prove over the past nine years the transformational impact that our athletes can have across a range of social and economic outcomes.

“It’s vital that we harness the attitudes, behaviours and experiences of all the immensely talented elite sportspeople in Wales. If they’re supported correctly they’ll go on to deliver a lasting legacy to young people and communities across the country.”

As part of the charity’s ‘Vision for Wales’ they are planning to deliver transformational programmes in every Welsh local authority by 2020, which will reach a total of 10,800 young people. The Trust actively works with some of the hardest to reach and disadvantaged young people in society, including those who are homeless, full-time carers, at risk of sexual exploitation, below the expected educational threshold or long-term unemployed.

Last year, two thirds of young people who took part in the Trust’s Get on Track programme were in education, employment or training within only five months; and 77% felt more connected to their local community.

Jodie, 23, was part of the first Bridgend County Borough Council programme delivered by former Welsh Rugby Union International Philippa Tuttiett and former professional footballer Christian Roberts, said: “It’s made me realise that I can achieve something in my life. I’ve already done loads and am now excited about what the future holds.”

Carwyn Jones speaking at Welsh AssemblyCarwyn Jones, Assembly Member for Bridgend, said: “I am delighted to be sponsoring this event at the Senedd and to hear more about the Trust’s vision for Wales. The Get on Track programme has already made a difference to a number of young people across Bridgend County Borough and I was very pleased that the first Get on Track programme in Wales was delivered in partnership with Bridgend County Borough Council.

“It has been great to hear feedback from some of the young people who had the opportunity to take part in the mentoring sessions delivered by two of our elite sports people who have been using their skills to inspire young people to make more positive life choices.”

Tracey Fletcher, Interim CEO at Dame Kelly Holmes Trust, said: “Today’s announcement is tremendous news for young people in Wales. Our athlete mentors have demonstrated time and time again their ability to transform a young person’s life and deliver a lasting legacy to local communities.

“I’d urge any local authority, business or group who would like to be involved in the Trust’s expansion across Wales to get in touch and find out how you can contribute towards our vision over the next three years of our strategy.”

Councillor Huw David, Leader of Bridgend Borough County Council, added: “We are very proud that the Bridgend County Borough ‘Get on Track’ programme was the first in Wales. The young people who took part were from a range of backgrounds and were facing challenges in finding employment or engaging in education.

“We are committed to supporting young people to be in employment, education or training and the programme is a fantastic mechanism to help us do this. It clearly built skills, confidence and motivation in the group that took part in the first programme last year, which will go a long way to helping them to achieve their goals and make positive choices in life.”

Head of Charities for People’s Postcode Lottery, Clara Govier, added: “Players of People’s Postcode Lottery will be delighted to see the funds they have raised has helped bring this fantastic programme to Wales for the first time. The Get on Track programme has been so successful in England and Scotland - it will be brilliant to see young people in Wales benefiting from this service as well.”