Catching the bus to better health

Volunteers and guests at the launch of the new 'Number Rifteen' bus service
Volunteers and guests at the launch of the new 'Number Rifteen' bus service

A DAY of celebration was held to officially mark the launch of a new community bus which aims to boost the health of teenagers.

The double-decker Number Rifteen bus is a mobile health and youth service that will eventually travel to the north, south and central areas of town.

Dedicated volunteers at the award-winning Rifty Youth Project, which is behind the initiative, were at the launch on Saturday at the Masefield Centre, in Masefield Road.

The bus, which is equipped with games consoles and fun activities, is designed for teenagers and has been described as a “youth club on wheels”.

The Rifty Youth Project works with youngsters aged between seven-18 from the Rift House area on a Tuesday and Friday night, but the bus will target teenagers.

Labour councillor Christopher Akers-Belcher, who chairs the Rift House East Residents’ Association which is also a key partner of the project, said: “We had a fabulous day.

“It was really well supported by the community and there was also a lot of support from the fire service and elected members from across the political spectrum.

“The community open day gave everyone the chance to have a good look at the bus and the services it will offer.”

The bus was officially opened by chairman of the council, Labour councillor Carl Richardson, while Hartlepool MP Iain Wright was also in attendance.

Teenagers will be able to enjoy the bus’s facilities at the Masefield Centre from 5pm on Tuesdays and Fridays.

It will be based in the Rift House area of town to start with, but will be travelling to other areas of town in the future.

The organisers will work with the police and fire to identify areas in town that suffer from anti-social behaviour and do not have any provisions for young people.

The long-term aim is to provide a seven-day a week service.

Trained volunteers will staff the bus and provide a range of services including sexual health advice, a smoking cessation service and other health-related issues.

The new service will also signpost youngsters to other organisations.

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

For more information call Christopher or Stephen Akers-Belcher on either 07947 226878 or 07904 402864.