`A place to make a fresh start'

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The Independent Online
TWO YEARS ago, Anna Bakiewicz was suicidal. After a year in a special unit for students with a phobia about lessons, she left school at 16 without qualifications or hope.

Anna felt she was destined to become one about 160,000 people aged 16 to 18 who are not in education, training or work. "Things were really bad," she said. "I didn't think I would be alive for long to think about it."

After an unsuccessful stint training to be a hairdresser, she joined the Career Club, a 13-week course run by Tyneside Careers, which gave her vocational advice, taught her interview techniques and helped rebuild her confidence. "For people who have been involved in crime and drugs or had other problems it's a place to make a fresh start," she said.

Anna, who lives with her parents in Newcastle upon Tyne, now gets a pounds 35-a-week training allowance to take the Bridge Programme, also run by Tyneside Careers, which offers more vocational guidance and the chance of work placements.

After receiving basic training in alcohol, drugs or solvent abuse counselling, she joined a voluntary group that sets up workshops in schools to advise children. "I love doing it," she said. "I'm giving something back to the community and I'm helping young people in the best way I know how."