A TEAM leader at a Barrow group that provides support to young people with disabilities is looking to the future as he seeks to keep the service going as an independent charity.

Les Mcleese became 'officially unemployed' last month after 15 years working for YouthAbility under the charity Leonard Cheshire.

"Recently, they have changed the way they are working, and YouthAbility wasn't the way forward with them," said Mr Mcleese.

Rather than allow the service to disappear, Mr Mcleese, 41, who has worked at YouthAbility in Barrow from its inception, is a member of a team looking to get it up and running as its own charity, to be based at Walney Community Centre.

He said the main aim of YouthAbility was to 'assist young people in their social and emotional development'.

"Our primary focus is those that don't fit in general services," he said.

"Sometimes it takes up to ten years to see any kind of improvement, but we know the model works.

"One of the first young people who worked with us, we have got their child coming to us - it makes me feel a bit old!"

Mr Mcleese said the YouthAbility service operated 'on an individual basis', finding a young person's passion and using it as a tool to slowly get them engaged.

"I was there from the beginning," he said.

"I was only 25 myself.

"And just seeing the difference it makes to young people and just seeing them grow into young adults, seeing the difference over a long period of time, is very rewarding.

"I'm very community-focused, I like to do events and bring the community together, so having a community centre is ideal for me."

Mr Mcleese said he and the team would be holding fundraisers and applying for trust funding to generate money to get the new charity - to be named 'YouthAbility Youth Services and Walney Community Centre' - off the ground.

"I have been working closely with Barrow council, who have set up a team around me," he said.

Mr Mcleese said charity status for the independent YouthAbility service could be sought once £5,000 had been raised.

In the meantime, he has taken on a voluntary caretaker role at Walney Community Centre for Leonard Cheshire until the charity's lease on the building in Central Drive runs out later this year.