Young people at Prior's Court are to gain further opportunities to develop their employment skills thanks to a new grant award.

Prior’s Court has been awarded a grant of £45,176 from BBC Children in Need and the Youth Futures Foundation to support a project to develop an orchard at our 50-acre site in Hermitage, near Thatcham, Berkshire.

The grant will fund the initial capital set-up costs of the orchard - purchasing trees and associated items, and a surface irrigation system. Also funded will be staffing costs of a Job Coach to work with the young people on the orchard project and other horticulture activities over 16 months from January 2021.

Sue Piper, Prior’s Court Director of Education, said: “Vocational learning, including land-based programmes such as horticulture, is one of our key areas of learning- to give more opportunities for our young people to develop the skills and experiences required to enter the world of work. This is particularly important as only 32% of people who are affected by autism are in paid employment.

“The orchard project supports this ambition as our young people can learn vital horticulture-based skills, such as using tools and plant care.

“Not only this, the project will also provide opportunities to improve wellbeing for both young people and our staff members by increasing time spent outside, and further develop positive relationships with trusted adults.”

The grant, to be awarded over an 18-month period, has been allocated through the Inspiring Futures grant programme. Inspiring Futures is a joint funding programme between BBC Children in Need and the Youth Futures Foundation.

Karen White, Prior’s Court Head of Fundraising, said: “This grant from BBC Children in Need is hugely important in allowing us to deliver this project.

“The eventual ambition is to use the apples from the orchard to create a commercial enterprise, similar to our ground-breaking Bread & Beyond bakery. This then gives our young people further opportunities to practice vocational skills in the field of business and enterprise.

“This grant will truly help to enhance the lives and employment opportunities of our young people both in the short-term and long-term future.”

BBC Children in Need relies on the generosity and creativity of the thousands of supporters and fundraisers who raise millions of pounds for the charity every year. To date the UK public has raised over £1 billion for children and young people across the UK.

BBC Children in Need and the Youth Futures Foundation are partnering to deliver Inspiring Futures, a £7m fund to support organisations working to improve employment outcomes for young people who face disadvantage across the UK and who have been affected by the impact of COVID-19.