Press release

Big Society Awards 2012

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

Public Achievement in Northern Ireland is the latest Big Society Award winner.

Northern Ireland Office Minister Hugo Swire today visited Public Achievement in Belfast to present them with the latest Prime Minister’s Big Society Award - the first awarded in Northern Ireland . The organisation works with young people to show them how they can get involved with their local communities to make them democratic, inclusive and supportive places to grow and learn.

Set up in 1999 in the period following the Good Friday agreement, a key aim of Public Achievement is to help young people get involved in democracy and the running of their community to ensure that future generations live in a pluralistic, dynamic and thriving society.

One of the most well-known outcomes of this work is the website Where Is My Public Servant? (, run by and for young people. It is a searchable database of all public representatives in Northern Ireland at local Council, NI Assembly, Westminster and European Parliament levels. Any registered WIMPS member can use it to send messages to representatives about the issues they want to raise and it also features videos members film with representatives to explain how they relate to their lives and communities. During his visit Hugo Swire recorded an interview with Robert Murtagh from the WIMPS West Belfast Crew with other members of the crew on camera and sound which will be available on the site shortly.

Congratulating Public Achievement on the award, the Prime Minister said:

'’Involving young people in their local communities and showing them how they can help to shape them has huge benefits not just for them but for society as a whole. We’ve recently launched the National Citizen Service to do just that but Public Achievement has been successfully involving young people in democracy for over ten years.

“This is a fantastic example of young people getting involved in the Big Society but I’m also pleased to see them helping to make government more transparent and accountable. It is important that everyone in a community is able to give their views on local transport, schools, leisure facilities and everything else that affects them and understanding how to do that is the first step in achieving this. Where is my Public Servant is helping young people in Northern Ireland to have their say in their local, national and international communities and I would like to congratulate them for their success in doing this.’’

Presenting the award, Northern Ireland Minister Hugo Swire said:

It is an honour to present Public Achievement with this award today. I would like to offer my congratulations both to Public Achievement and to all the individual young people who make this project the inspiration that it is.

Public Achievement is Northern Ireland ‘s leading youth focused civic education organisation which supports young people to do real work on real issues in their communities. I have seen how the organisation works with young people in ways which encourage active citizenship, particularly on working with communities that face social and economic disadvantage and many which have also been adversely affected by the former conflict and its legacy.

It is this democratic engagement and commitment to making their communities better places to live and work that will be essential in moving Northern Ireland away from a legacy of violent conflict to becoming a thriving, vibrant, pluralist society.

This is exactly what Big Society is all about and I wish Public Achievement every success in the future.

Accepting the award, Paul Smyth, Director of Public Achievement said:

We are delighted that the Prime Minister has decided to recognise our work in this way. In our model of ‘Civic Youth Work’ we are working with young people from tough social realities to help them to become more successful members of their communities, and citizens of this society. It is wonderful that their energies, determination and commitment are being celebrated in this way. Northern Ireland is a society with enormous potential, and young citizens - including those who are socially disadvantaged - have a significant to building a new society in which the tragedies of the past are a bad memory, and where a shared society values all of its citizens.”

Notes to Editors

On Public Achievement


On the Big Society Awards

The Big Society Awards were set up by the Prime Minister in November 2010. The aim is to acknowledge individuals and organisations across the UK that demonstrate the Big Society in their work or activities. In so doing, the aim is also to galvanise others to follow.

The award focuses upon three specific areas:

  • Promoting social action - people being, and being encouraged to be, be more involved in their communities through giving time, money and other resources.
  • Empowering communities - local people taking control of how things are done in their area and being helped to do this by local government and others.
  • Opening up public services - public sector organisations and individuals demonstrating innovative ways of delivering public services and charities, social enterprises and private companies showing new ways of delivering public services.

Launching the awards, the Prime Minister said:

“There are some amazing projects and remarkable voluntary work going on in towns and cities up and down the country, by all kinds of organisations from large enterprises to tiny grassroots schemes and inspirational individuals.

“These awards are a chance to pay tribute to those making a valuable contribution to their community, the real champions of the Big Society, but perhaps more importantly, I hope they will motivate many others to take action, get involved and drive change in their area.”

Nominations come in from the general public after which there follows a process of scoring and short-listing by officials and a further short-listing by a Panel of Ministers and independent external experts. This Panel makes recommendations to the Prime Minister who then presents the final award. Around twelve winners are decided each quarter meeting and then announced throughout the year.

For more information visit

Thirty - seven winners have been announced to date:

Make a Difference South East - a project that inspires young people in Milton Keynes to better their lives and those around them through positive action and volunteering

Why Not Change North West - a social enterprise which builds the confidence and capability of individuals and organisations to make a positive difference

HERO North West - a project that inspires an enterprise culture amongst young people in Blackpool and beyond

Food Cycle London - a project that brings together young volunteers, surplus food and free kitchen space to create nutritious meals for people affected by food poverty in the UK.

Biddick Hall Community Focus Group North East - a project that has transformed the community through local action on health, crime, employment and activities for young people

Altogether Better Yorks & Humber - a programme involving volunteer Community Health Champions engaging with communities to help them lead healthier lifestyles

Greenwich Leisure Limited London - a social enterprise that manages over 70 public leisure centres in partnership with 20 councils across the South East

Kendray Initiative Yorks & Humber - a project that has transformed the community through local action on housing, crime, employment and activities for young people

CREATE Yorks & Humber - a not-for-profit company which delivers innovative training and employment opportunities for people who have been homeless, marginalised or vulnerable.

Central Surrey Health South East - a social enterprise providing community nursing and therapy services on behalf of NHS Surrey and other partners

The Old Vic Tunnels         South East - A unique performance space offering opportunities for young people to gain experience in production and be part of an innovative and diverse arts venue

Shelley Community Association Yorks - Shelley Community Association, a voluntary organisation that represents and brings together village residents

The Sweet Project A social enterprise that develops and trains students while supporting families in deprived areas

Bevendean Local Action Team A volunteer run initiative that aims to reduce anti-social behaviour and promote pride in their local community.

Disability Challengers South East - A children’s charity offering exciting activities and play opportunities for disabled children and young people

Higher Croft Action Group North West - A group of volunteers making a difference to the lives of young people in Blackburn

Wotton under Edge Swimming Pool South West - Wotton under Edge Swimming Pool Club, a group of volunteer swimming enthusiasts who mobilised the whole community in support of their local pool

Christine Gibson East - An individual who brought together people from her community and worked with her housing association to make a real difference to her fellow residents.

Digi Steps South West - a social enterprise run by school pupils who wanted to share their internet and computer skills with senior citizens in their area

Anfield Breckside Community Council North  West - an umbrella group that works with 14 residents associations, linking different groups together, providing training and advice, assisting with securing funding, helping the community with planning and regeneration and resolving issues such as anti-social behaviour.

The Children’s Forum South East - offering children the chance to play an active role in developing and improving local services for young people

The Welcome North West - a community centre which has been providing activities and vital services for the local community in Knutsford for over 15 years

Magic Breakfast National - A charity dedicated to ensuring every child starts the school day with the right breakfast

Orange RockCorps National - inspires people to volunteer within their community by producing concerts for which you can’t buy a ticket as a reward

Blacon Community Trust         North West - a social enterprise in Chester offering a wide range of community-based activities and services, all focused on ‘Building a better Blacon’

Sports Traider/ Lance Haggith East - Lance Haggith runs a chain of charity sports shops offering affordable sporting goods and employment opportunities for the long-term unemployed and ex-offenders

Mitzvah Day National - a national day of social action where thousands of people take part in hands on projects top support charities and build stronger communities

Creation Development Trust        Wales - a social enterprise set up to revitalise the local area in Bridgend which has become the largest timebanking scheme in Europe

UBS Bridge Academy London - The UBS Bridge Academy partnership, where UBS employees work with the Academy to support and inspire students

Gateway 97.8 East - a community radio station in Basildon which aims to enrich the lives of young people and to tackle anti social behaviour

Waitrose Community Matters Scheme   National - an innovative scheme which allows shoppers to choose three charitable causes each month to receive a £1,000 donation from their store by voting at the check-out and has given over £10 million to good causes

Social Media Surgeries West Midlands - Nick Booth started up ‘social media surgeries’ to help local community groups to make the most of the internet to support their work.  He developed this into a network of experts helping groups all over the country.

Linklaters LLP ‘Learn for Work’ London - employees of the law firm go in to local schools to help give children the aspirations, skills and experience they need to fulfil their potential.

Christian Nightlife Initiative

National - a community group that has helped to reclaim no-go areas of their town once blighted by binge drinking through night-time weekend patrols by volunteers

Cool2Care Nationwide - Social Enterprise helping parents of disabled children to recruit fully screened and trained Personal Assistants

BT           National - employee volunteering scheme which offers all staff three days of work time a year to volunteer in an activity of their choice with over 49,000 days of time donated in the 2011 financial year

Public Achievement Northern Ireland - organisation that works with young people to show them how they can get involved with their local communities to make them democratic, inclusive and supportive places to grow and learn.