Deputy Prime Minister: Sport has vital role to play in ‘turning young lives around’

The Deputy Prime Minister has hailed the vital role that sport and physical activity can play in “turning young lives around” following the launch of a groundbreaking new fund.

More than 200 grassroots organisations across England and Wales have been awarded funding from the Government’s £5million Youth Justice Sport Fund to run targeted local sports schemes – from climbing to kayaking – aimed at keeping vulnerable young people away from crime and anti-social behaviour. The fund is the first of its kind delivered by the Ministry of Justice, and has been co-ordinated by StreetGames and the Alliance of Sport for Criminal Justice, with the support of the Sport for Development Coalition.

Youth crime costs the taxpayer £1.5billion a year and research shows over three quarters of adult prolific offenders received their first caution or conviction as a juvenile, making the need to focus on early prevention even more critical.

To launch the fund, the Deputy Prime Minister visited Thru Life – one of the projects which have been awarded funding – at a school in Tottenham, north London. Joined by Thru Life founder Richard Allicock and Sky Sports pundit Jobi McAnuff, he swapped into his trainers and took part in penalty practice with young people benefitting from the programme.

Deputy Prime Minister, Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor, Dominic Raab, said: “I know first-hand how powerful sport and mentoring can be in turning young lives around.

“Sport has the power to boost confidence, build resilience and teach discipline, and evidence suggests sports can be effective in reducing offending among young people. That’s why we’re supporting over 200 organisations across England and Wales to encourage more young people to engage with sport and stay away from crime.”

Targeted sport-based interventions can also help to build young people’s resilience, self-confidence and discipline. Through their programmes Coalition members across the UK are helping to support physical and mental wellbeing, improve educational attainment and increase employability skills, as defined by the #OpenGoal framework.

Former professional footballer Jobi McAnuff is an ambassador for Thru Life. He said: “Organisations like Thru Life do amazing work. I know how important activities and places like this are, and to have positive role models, particularly in areas like this where I grew up.

“You can’t take shortcuts in life, whether that’s to be a professional footballer or whatever you want to achieve. There will be tough times in life, so if you have a passion for something like sport, it can help you to stay positive and committed.”

Richard Allicock, the founder of Thru Life, said: “We are delighted to have been awarded this funding, which will help us to continue the positive work that we are doing in the community but also extend our offer to engage with more young people across the borough of Haringey utilising the power of sport through our mentoring offer.”

In November, the Deputy Prime Minister invited sports charities and organisations from across England and Wales to bid for funding, and hundreds applied. Over 200 organisations with a proven record of using sport effectively to reduce crime were awarded funding.

Minister for Sport, Civil Society and Youth Stuart Andrew said: “We believe every young person should get the best start in life. Doing sport is a brilliant way of building focus and discipline while also improving physical health and stopping people becoming involved in crime.

“This funding will help make sure people are set on the right path from the outset.”

The funding is part of the commitment made in the Prisons Strategy White Paper – published in December last year – to cut youth crime and create safer streets.

Stuart Felce, StreetGames Director of Sport and Community Safety, said: “At StreetGames we believe that community sport, delivered in the right way, can have a transformational impact on children’s lives and the communities they live in. We’re really excited to be partnering with the Sport for Development Coalition and the Alliance of Sport in Criminal Justice to deliver this ambitious new programme from the Ministry of Justice. This investment in sport will support voluntary and community sports organisations to carry out targeted work to enhance positive outcomes for vulnerable children, providing the practical and emotional support they need to grow and helping to keep them and their communities safe.”

Hitesh Patel, Executive Director of the Coalition, added: “Reducing crime and anti-social behaviour is a core element of the Coalition’s #OpenGoal framework, which shows how the multiple returns on investment created by sport for development can help to generate significant public cost savings. We are delighted to be working alongside StreetGames and the Alliance of Sport in Criminal Justice to ensure this new funding supports and strengthens those organisations that can already demonstrate the positive social impact they are having on their local communities.”

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