The power of sport to change lives and prevent crime

The VRU is working with StreetGames UK to undertake a survey of local provision of sports and physical activities provided for those young people who may be vulnerable to being drawn into crime and violence. This survey will inform our new Sports & Inclusion Board’s work as it seeks to identify provision, gaps and opportunities to improve.

Graham Helm, StreetGames UK

Our guest blog is from Graham Helm, the National Partnerships Manager of StreetGames UK, who explains more about the work they have been delivering across the country and the impact it can have.

Who are StreetGames UK?

StreetGames is an anti-poverty charity that aims to harness the power of sport to create positive change in the lives of disadvantaged young people, their families and their communities in the UK. Its` ‘Doorstep Sport’ approach bypasses many of the traditional barriers to activity amongst young people in underserved communities. This is achieved by providing sport & physical activity opportunities in local communities that operate at the right time, in the right place, for the right price and in the right style, and by the right people.

Why Sport and Physical Activity?

Sport is often described as a ‘gateway into a better life’ for those experiencing poverty and living in areas of socio-economic disadvantage where sport can provide opportunities to do something positive and pro-social. This transformative role of sport is characterised by a belief that sport can build confidence at the individual level whilst also developing strong community links more widely. Through providing opportunities for individuals to engage in social activities, gain a range of experiences and develop life skills, sport offers opportunities for young people to experience first-hand positive experiences including teamwork, achievement, meeting challenges and being a winner.  These opportunities can also be used to contribute to the prevention and reduction of youth offending.

Sport, in its role as a positive activity, is well placed to take a universal, preventative role. It has the potential to act as a diversionary activity by removing individuals from potentially negative situations, peer contacts and routines’ which can help to prevent involvement in youth offending. It can also help to provide positive opportunities and experiences that can act as a protection against involvement in offending behaviours.

Sport can also act as a form of early intervention or rehabilitation for young people with challenging circumstances who might be at risk of involvement in offending or who have already been involved in offending.

Our work in Thames Valley:

One of the key pieces of work being undertaken by Thames Valley Violence Reduction Unit is the development of a Thames Valley Community Sport Audit. The purpose of this audit is to:

To ensure that the community sport sector is providing well designed, targeted, and accessible sporting activity in the heart of these communities, the data gathered from the audit will be used to establish where provision currently exists, and where new opportunities would be of most benefit to those most vulnerable.

The audit tool will provide a dynamic tool that commissioners, and it is hoped in time, referral organisations, can understand what sessions voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations are delivering for young people aged between 10 – 25 years old in their local areas. Specifically, these are organisations that operate in the ‘Sport for Good’ sector, where the use of sport which focuses on improving quality of life, tackling social exclusion, increasing access, preserving the environment, and expanding the pursuit of excellence, rather than sport organisations who focus solely on competition performance.

Working with and promoting these groups and organisations, whilst ensuring their local grounding and position is not compromised, is critical to the success of community sport being an effective intervention tool to reducing serious violence, whilst at the same time furthers the Thames Valleys Violence Reduction Units, and wider Thames Valley economy’s, commitment to community and place base working.

This comprehensive understanding and commitment to realising the potential of the community sport sector is aligned to work being undertaken in a number of Violence Reduction Unit regions across the country. The continuing pursuit of advancing the evidence base for effective delivery along with building trust and confidence in the sports sector remains core to the work of StreetGames and its Violence Reduction Unit partners.