A PIONEERING scheme that has transformed the lives of young people in Runcorn has won praise from a Government Minister.

Nick Hurd, Minister for the Civil Society, visited the Canal Boat Adventure Project in Preston Brook and met youngsters who have conquered personal difficulties and are now filled with confidence and ambition.

The boat project was one of only two organisations involved in designing the Youth Adult Trust many years ago with David Cameron, when he was an MP.

The trust was a prototype for the National Citizens Service (NCS), which now inspires young people from troubled and chaotic family backgrounds across the UK to turn their lives around.

It is open to all 16 and 17-year-olds and helps them to build skills for work and life, take on new challenges and meet new friends.

It includes residential courses and encourages teenagers to work as volunteers and create social projects in their own neighbourhoods.

Norma Hornby, MBE, who founded the Runcorn project, said: “It has brought about radical changes in young peoples’ levels of ambition, confidence and willingness to make a difference in their communities.

“The programme has provided our organisation with concrete evidence that young people from deprived communities have a wealth of untapped talent.”

Many of the teenagers have continue to work with the boat project as advisors and volunteers, demonstrating their commitment to the local community.

Mr Hurd, who personally developed the NCS, said he was very impressed by the imaginative projects created by Runcorn’s dedicated teenagers.

He spent more than an hour chatting to them on board the Ada canal boat last Thursday.

The boat project has encouraged hundreds of young people to achieve good jobs, apprenticeships, professional careers and university places since it was founded in 1976.

It was hailed the country’s best social enterprise project last year.