project showcase   


QUEST is an employability project, funded by ESF, the DfE and the DoJ, dedicated to helping young offenders positively change their current path and unlock their true potential.

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This project is part funded through the Northern Ireland European Social Fund Programme 2014 – 2020 and the Department for the Economy.

"I was at a bump in my road of life, Quest has shown me that I can be successful and even more I believe I will be successful"

Young Offenders (YO) represent some of the most marginalised people in our society.

  • 75% of YO live with someone other than parents (compared to 1.5% of general youth population).

  • 18-24 year olds account for 10% of the general population, but 33% of the prison population.

  • 50% are first time offenders but 74% reoffend within one year.

  • More than a third have literacy problems and over half have numeracy difficulties.

  • 21% have learning difficulties and 54% have a communication need. 

  • 38% of prisoners are on prescribed medication; 44% reported having a problem with alcohol, and 55% considered themselves to have an emotional or mental health problem.

  • In the wider context of all prisoners in Northern Ireland:  48% have experienced suicidal thoughts; 32% have self-harmed, and, 32% have attempted to take their own lives.


Quest is designed to break the reoffending cycle by equipping young offenders with the skills, support, resources, network and ethics to compete more effectively for employment.  Quest also actively encourages inmates to develop an entrepreneurial mindset and encourages young offenders to see starting a business as a realistic and viable career option.


The key outcomes of the QUEST programme include:

  • 26 young offenders pa are put through employability training endorsed by the Federation of Small Businesses FSB and accredited by NOCN

  • 2 social enterprise businesses offer practical work experience in real operating businesses

  • Bursary scheme financially supports trainees post release

  • Two restorative justice programmes designed and implemented each year

  • Marked reduction in the reoffending rate (national average 74% QUEST 34%)


Quest delivers employability skills through two social enterprise businesses established in Hydebank YOC; MUGSHOTS & BLANK|CANVAS. MUGSHOTS operates as a commercial printing business whilst BLANK|CANVAS produces high quality printed and mounted canvas images. 


26 young offenders each year complete Quest Employability Skills training which then sees trainees progress to work experience in the social enterprises. The trainees are not paid but instead can access our Bursary Scheme to help them in their future careers upon release.  


In 2015, 98% of our young participants reported that they were better equipped to maximise their future employment options since completing Quest training, with six participants even going on to start, or planning to start, their own business post-release with the support of the Bursary Scheme.

“Quest provides young people with a unique opportunity to build up a range of transferable skills which will be valued by potential employers. Participating in the initiative will build confidence and give a sense of pride and achievement to these young people and allow them to face the world upon release with renewed hope and self belief."

- David Ford

Northern Ireland Minister of Justice

"I just wanted to say thank you to the Quest Team for everything.  You have taught me to think about things more positively and to believe in myself.  I know for a fact if I hadn’t been a part of Quest, I would be getting out of jail with the same attitude as before.  I’m getting out believing that I will do something with my life and help others." 

- QUEST Participant



“Since being released from Hydebank I started driving lessons which were arranged and paid for through the bursary I received from Quest.

I have a new lease of life with support that I received from Advantage and through completing the Quest Programme.”

- QUEST Participant



"I received financial support from the bursary fund that Quest had set up, this helped me get my own place and stay out of trouble.”

- QUEST Participant



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