Get Hooked on Fishing is a charity which aims to keep children out of crime by giving them something else to focus on. Reporter VICKI FOSTER spent a morning with the Kent group to find out more.

IT IS mid-morning on a school day, but instead of sitting in a classroom, 13-year-old Russell Woolnough is sitting on the edge of a lake in Darenth.

This is because Russell is one of six teenagers who have been sent to join the scheme, Get Hooked on Fishing Kent.

The scheme is aimed at people who have been identified by local agencies such as the police, youth offending teams, and schools as being at risk from crime.

Some people on the scheme may not attend school and others struggle in class or simply need more one-on-one support.

The Kent project, run by the charity Groundwork Kent and Medway, does not have a venue of its own at present and currently focuses its activities in the Dartford and Gravesham areas, mainly attending Darenth Fishing Complex in Darenth.

David Evans, senior project officer for The Groundwork Trust, manages Get Hooked on Fishing Kent.

He said: "The scheme has been around in Kent for about 18 months.

"The interest we have had in the scheme has been phenomenal, but funding is always a problem and we always need more."

Get Hooked on Fishing Kent works closely with many different partners, including The Environment Agency, Gravesend Adolescent Resource Centre, Kent Youth Service and Kent Police.

It was originally set up by a Durham-based policeman in 2000, who tried using angling to combat forms of social exclusion among young people.

Funding comes from various organisations, including the Kent People's Trust, the Environment Agency and Kent County Council youth opportunities.

Mr Evans says it costs around £25,000 per year to run the project.

The results of the original scheme were very positive and because of this, schemes have been replicated in various forms around the country.

James White-Doyle is a Communities Against Drugs worker and is employed by the Adolescent Resource Centre in Gravesend.

Mr White-Doyle takes the youths fishing or assists them in completing coursework every Tuesday.

He said: "It's about young people picking up angling skills as well as gaining qualifications and it's an opportunity to set goals and targets."

The 25-year-old added: "It helps to grow their patience and they know if they keep working through the modules, then they can become better anglers and learn a lot more about fishing than just the practical side of it."

Russell, who has been on the scheme for around two months, caught a bream and a mirror carp when the News Shopper visited.

The teenager said: "I really like it and I have learned a lot about different types of fish.

"I'd like to learn how to really fish and when I'm older maybe have a job in fishing."

The scheme needs more money, volunteers and coaches to keep going and to expand.

Anyone who is interested in becoming a coach or volunteering can call David Evans on 01322 384848 or 07988 054718.