Written by Mark Lawrie, Chief Executive
The Summer Holidays are in full swing across the country, and what a summer it is for sports fans. As I write, our Lionesses may yet be the team to make those dreams a reality and finally bring football home. And in Birmingham, the Commonwealth Games are bringing communities together in celebration of some of the world’s greatest athletes.
Sport is a great unifier, with the power to bring people and communities together. It is fun, inspiring, and hugely beneficial for those who can access it. But sadly, as we know all too well, that is not everyone.
As the Summer Holiday wears on, I’d ask you to cast your mind forward and imagine that first day back in school in September. As children pile back into school classrooms and share stories about what they did during the holidays, the places they travelled to and the activities they took part in, imagine the kid on the edge of the group, keeping quiet because they have no stories to tell.
For too many young people, the summer holidays are not some idyllic adventure full of fun and travel. For families without the means to afford holiday clubs or trips, those six weeks can feel like an eternity – hungry, socially isolated, and deprived of the support on offer during term time. The Townsend Centre for International Poverty Research, in their analysis of the Family Resources Surveys from the years 2003/4-2013/14 found that an average of 26% of couples with children and 55% of lone parent families in the UK were deprived of a holiday due to low income, while figures from the Family Holiday Charity show that 2.2 million families, more than 7 million people in the UK, miss out on an annual holiday and 2.5 million children live in families that are too poor to even afford a day-trip. Today, in the midst of the worst cost of living crisis in a generation, and with underserved communities still struggling to recover from the pandemic, more and more families face a summer of hardship bereft of the experiences that make school holidays special.
The Family Holiday Charity defines social tourism as “the inclusion of people living on a low income in holiday and leisure activities”. Social tourism is not simply providing free or subsidised holidays but about recognising that holidays can have great benefits and a positive impact on young people, their families and the communities in which they live.
StreetGames recognises the value of taking young people out of their day-to-day environment and giving them the opportunity to gain new experiences. That’s why, as part of our #Inspiration2022 campaign, we’re working hard to bring this summer of sport directly into the lives of young people in underserved communities.
Between now and 8th August, over 440 young people will attend the StreetGames Summer Camp in Bromsgrove. For many, this will be the first time they have spent an extended amount of time away from home. Our previous experience tells us that those who get involved in Camp will develop new leadership skills, enjoy meeting and mixing with young people from across the UK and perhaps most importantly, be inspired to do more to grow Doorstep Sport in their local communities when they return. The opportunity offered by StreetGames Summer Camp for young people to be included in leadership and leisure activities is blended with the chance to visit a live, elite sporting event. This is part of addressing the disparity in spectation between the least affluent and most affluent families.
Over 2000 young people will have the chance to go to the Commonwealth Games for free, as a result of our work. The chance to see live, top-level international sport is usually far out of the reach of the young people we support. Through #Inspiration2022 we are opening that door and looking to inspire young people to play, volunteer and maybe even coach other young people to get involved in these sports when they are back in their neighbourhoods.
And in Birmingham, more than 30,000 will be involved in Games-inspired activities as part of our Bring It On Brum HAF delivery. We are working with partners including the Golf Foundation, England Athletics, England Hockey and the ECB/Warwickshire County Cricket Club to bring sport to the doorstep of thousands of young people living in underserved Birmingham neighbourhoods. All of that is before you even begin to think about the thousands of young people we will support to have a better holiday through Fit & Fed and HAF in areas like Derbyshire, Lancashire, Tower Hamlets, Sheffield, Hull, Newcastle, Merthyr Tydfil, Cardiff and Gwynedd – the list goes on.
StreetGames believes that trips like these are important formative experiences for young people, affording them the opportunity to mix with people from different backgrounds and broaden their horizons. Participants return home with increased ambitions, enhanced social skills and improved overall wellbeing. This summer, we’re looking forward to giving as many young people as possible the chance to go back in September with their own stories to tell.