A charity which aims to get teenage boys in North Wales singing instead of sinning has received a major boost – thanks to cash seized from local criminals.
Only Boys Aloud, which runs four choirs across North Wales and has around 70 members based in some of the region’s most deprived areas at Wrexham, Rhyl, Caernarfon and Holyhead, has won a grant of £5,000 from the Your Community, Your Choice initiative.
It’s the second year running that the choir has landed one of the all-North Wales awards.
The grants are all paid out of cash confiscated from the area’s crooks which is distributed by North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones, North Wales Police and and North Wales Police and PACT (the Police and Community Trust).
Much of the money was recovered through the Proceeds of Crime Act, using cash seized from offenders with the rest coming from the Police and Crime Commissioner’s own funds.
The scheme is aimed at organisations who pledge to run projects to tackle anti-social behaviour and combat crime and disorder in line with the priorities in Commissioner’s Police and Crime Plan.
This year there are 14 grants totalling almost £40,000 given to support schemes by community organisations with an online vote deciding the successful applicants from among 35 projects submitted and almost 10,000 votes cast.
During the Your Community, Your Choice presentation ceremony at North Wales Police headquarters in Colwyn Bay, Eleri Watkins, Project Manager of Only Boys Aloud in North Wales, said: “It’s really fantastic that we have been awarded one of the all-North Wales award once again this year.
“It’s good to see that we are being recognised as beneficial to the various communities we work in.
“We hold weekly rehearsals where the boys, aged 13 to 19, come to develop their singing.
“It’s all about bringing people together in a friendly, family atmosphere and we work hard to improve the well-being of the boys.
“We’ve seen real differences made to people’s attitudes to school and general behaviour through being members of one of the choirs.
“The choirs are free to join and there are no auditions to take part, so the scheme is fully inclusive and accessible.
“This means that each rehearsal is a ‘melting pot’ of boys from completely different social and economic backgrounds who mix together and form new friendships.”
She added: “As we don’t charge membership fees the award from Your Community Your Choice will help us to meet the cost of hiring venues and travel.
“For instance, at various times throughout the year we get all our choirs together for a big performance in Cardiff and this will go towards paying for coach hire.”
The other project to win an all-North Wales grant of £5,000 from Your Community Your Choice is the CyberPoint project run by DangerPoint, which from its base in Talacre covers all six of the region’s counties.
This is the second year running the scheme had landed an overall grant after voters were impressed by its achievements in delivering safety awareness education to over 77,000 children, young people, families and community groups since it was set up in 2005.
The latest grant will pay for subsidised interactive tours for 368 pupils from targeted schools across North Wales to visit DangerPoint’s base and look at vital topics such as cyber, personal and community safety and the consequences of actions. They will also tackle subjects including crime and anti-social behaviour.
Julie Evans of DangerPoint said: “The grant is very important to us and will enable us to reach many more people.
“As an organisation we are completely self-financing and rely on grants such as this, along with help from sponsors and our own fundraising, to continue our work.
“We’d like to thank Your Community Your Choice and the members of the public who voted for us to receive this second successive all-North Wales grant.”
North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones, who jointly presented the awards with Assistant Chief Constable Richard Debicki, said: “I am delighted that my Your Community Your Choice fund continues to support community projects across north Wales for a sixth consecutive year.
“I recently launched my Social Value Policy which seeks to expand our support to local communities and ‘Your Community Your Choice’ provides me with an opportunity to do just that.
“This unique fund allows our communities to decide which projects should get financial support and the response showed that communities can work together to make our public places safer.
“I have visited a number of last year’s successful projects and have been extremely impressed with the work done to ensure that our communities continue to be some of the safest places to live, work and visit in the UK.
“Delivering Safer Neighbourhoods is one of my key priorities in my Police and Crime Plan and I am delighted that your organisations have developed projects that support this Plan.”
Assistant Chief Constable Richard Debicki said: “The funding which you have received has been made available by the Police and Crime Commissioner and through assets seized from criminals under the Proceeds of Crime Act.
“This is a particularly vital message as, through the professionalism of North Wales Police Officers and with the support of the Courts, we are able to hit the criminals where it hurts – in their pockets.
“This is the fifth year of Your Community Your Choice funding and during this time North Wales Police has recovered £2.3 million of cash and assets with £627,000 coming back to North Wales from the Home Office to support schemes such as this.
“It sends a really positive message that money taken from the pockets of criminals is being recycled. This is turning bad money into good.”
PACT chairman David Williams added: “We are delighted that we can assist in the administration of this fund.
“I think the breadth of our grant giving right across North Wales, from the tip of the west to the furthest part of the east, really sends a strong message to communities to access this money, it’s there for them.
“Very appropriately, one of the conditions is that the people who apply for this money have to be doing something that combats anti-social behaviour or addresses crime and disorder in some way.
“The aims Your Community, Your Choice scheme also coincide with the objectives of the Commissioner’s Police and Crime Plan so it creates a virtuous circle.”