New bus set to launch

Volunteers (left to right) Linda Pine, Paul and Mary Beck and Linda Harvey pictured with Stephen Akers-Belcher(second right) and Christopher Akers-Belcher.
Volunteers (left to right) Linda Pine, Paul and Mary Beck and Linda Harvey pictured with Stephen Akers-Belcher(second right) and Christopher Akers-Belcher.

THE Rifty Youth Project’s new community bus that aims to boost the health of teenagers is set to hit the road.

The Number Rifteen is a new mobile health service courtesy of volunteers at the Hartlepool project.

The service, which is set to launch in the next fortnight, will travel to the north, south and central areas of town throughout the week.

Trained volunteers will staff the bus and provide a range of services including sexual health advice, a smoking cessation service, healthy eating advice and condom distribution.

Community leaders say it will also act as a youth centre on wheels.

The new service, which will also signpost youngsters to other organisations, is specifically aimed at targeting teenagers across Hartlepool.

Labour councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher, who represents the Rift House ward, is project co-ordinator at the Rifty Youth Project.

He said: “This will be a first-class service provided on a shoe-string budget.

“We need to promote good healthy living and to make sure that young people are aware of that through good positive role models.

“We will be a first point of contact for young people and what better way than a mobile bus service.”

The Number Rifteen is the former Hartlepool Families First play bus, which has since been restored to its former glory.

Coun Akers-Belcher said the bus needed a new gearbox plus other equipment which they managed to get at cost price, while a lot of the work has been done free of charge by volunteers.

The bus has also been kitted out with DJ equipment and iPads.

Coun Akers-Belcher, who thanked the volunteers for their support, added: “We have about 18 committed and dedicated volunteers working for the project who are either qualified or are currently receiving training in this field.

“Our work is also aimed at helping to tackle anti-social behaviour and we are keen to work in hotspot areas.”

He added that the timetable is still to be confirmed but hoped that it could operate seven days a week if there is demand.

There will be a dedicated spot for the bus at each of the three areas, subject to consultation with local residents and youth groups.

But Coun Akers-Belcher said it will not duplicate existing services.

l For more information about the project, call Coun Stephen Akers-Belcher on 07904 402864.