When life gets tough, young people need someone to turn to for support. Sadly, for so many young people today these basic supports are simply not there.

At Extern we offer practical and emotional support so that young people can enter adulthood with the confidence they need to achieve their full potential.

In partnership with employers, schools, colleges and colleagues in the charity sector, we support over 6,000 individuals and families every year through our specialist services. 

Over 40 years of experience tell us that every young person is unique and, therefore, the path they each take to independence will be different. With that in mind, our specialist staff works with each young person to support them to take their next step, wherever they are on their journey.


Pathways Project

Pathways is a Belfast-based alternative education programme for young people, aged 14-16, at risk of being excluded from mainstream education and who may also be at risk of offending, or entering into care or custody.

Pathways educates participants in core subjects and prepares them for the next steps in their lives, such as entering the workplace or going back into the education system.

The Education Authority-funded project typically works with ten young people in each of its three sites across the city.

The pupils are usually outside of mainstream education for a variety of reasons, and referrals are made by the Education Welfare Service, in conjunction with the host school, if their attendance slips below 85 per cent.

Since starting in 1998, around 4,000 qualifications have been achieved by our young people through Pathways.

The programme offers English, Maths and ICT up to GCSE level, while some participants have taken their education even further to sixth form.

Aside from the conventional subjects, the programme also emphasises personal and social skills through a well-being programme.

Beth's journey with Extern's Pathways Project

HOW DO YOU ACCESS THIS SERVICE? Referrals to this service are made via the Education Welfare Service

CONTACT: Ceri O’Reilly
Pathways Project,
Unit 5, Nelson Trade Centre,
Nelson Street,
BT15 1BH

Tel: 028 9027 8189 or 028 9027 8583
Email: [email protected] 

Moving Forward Moving On

Extern’s Moving Forward, Moving On project works with young people, aged 16-25, who are not in education, training or employment (NEET) and/or have a history of offending behaviour.

It is a research and evidence-based model of working with young people, which provides support and the tools they need to make a successful start in the world.

Based close to Belfast city centre, the mentoring support service works with young people and young adults from across the city, who have previously been through alternative education projects, such as Extern’s Pathways Project.

Since 2013, 1,050 young people have been supported through MFMO

Ensuring the young service users have employability skills is also an important part of the project’s work, and it offers accredited qualifications, as well as group work and one-to-one sessions in areas such as:

  • Job-hunting skills
  • Money management and
  • Personal development

Alex discusses her journey from MFMO to becoming an Extern Mentor

Referrals to the programme can be made from alternative education projects, statutory agencies, and organisations including social services, the PSNI or the Youth Justice Agency. Self-referrals are also possible.

HOW DO I ACCESS THIS SERVICE? Referrals can be made by young people themselves, their parents/carers, or any other agency

Catriona Clifford (Project Co-ordinator)
Moving Forward, Moving On
Unit 5, Nelson Trade Centre,
Nelson Street,
BT15 1BH

Tel: 028 9027 8189
Email: [email protected] 

A year of transforming lives with Moving Forward Moving On

Putting young people first

Our Mentoring Support for Children Looked After programme supports young people aged between 10-17 who are ‘looked after’ or living within the care system to develop their skills and improve relationships.

Just as we do through our Pathways and MFMO projects, we look at each and every young person we support not as a set of problems to be 'solved' but as an individual to be encouraged and nurtured. We believe that mentoring always begins with the young person, and should always be focussed on meeting their needs.

From the very beginning, our team engage with the young people they support on a one-to-one basis, with regular and consistent contact across a six-month period. Not only does this create a trusting relationship to assist, guide and support them, so too does it give them a positive role model, someone who they know will never give up on them.

Download Above and Beyond: a relational approach to peer mentoring

Our 'Continuum of Care'

We are an organisation which goes above and beyond to meet the needs of our young people, and this is reflected in our ‘Continuum of Care’. Through this, we support young people across a range of ages and stages in their lives, from primary school years through to young adulthood.

Find out more about Extern's Young People's and Families Services