When it comes to youth crime and anti-social behaviour sport is part of the answer, an audience from across London was told last week (Thursday 25 April) at House of Sport.
“We should have a seat at the table, but if we want that seat we can’t just be bouncing a ball in the next room we’ve got to act professionally, we’ve got to think professionally.”
That was the challenge laid out by Graham Helm from Street Games, a charity which harnesses the power of sport to create positive change in the lives of disadvantaged young people.
The event, ‘Using sport to tackle youth offending’, was organised by London Sport as part of a monthly programme which aims to help the capital’s stakeholders to make connections, learn from others and collaborate.
A lot of discussion focused on the importance of stepping beyond diversion and towards desistance while the importance of reaching out to the whole community to influence negative perceptions of young people’s activities was another idea that caught room’s attention.
“It’s not just about boxing, it’s also about providing opportunities beyond boxing… it’s about approaching young people with two arms.
“We flyered. We knocked on doors. We talked to the parents, because loads of parents don’t have internet at home. Flyers, communication, that’s the key. Angell Town is a big estate and we covered everywhere – boys that were in gangs, we gave them flyers too.”
The importance of putting time into those community connections was echoed by Helm.
“Go to the local shop-keeper, the head of the local Tenants’ Association, the local park keeper … and introduce yourself,” he said.
“You might be there an hour-a-week, but seven days a week they’ll talk-up what you [and the young people] are doing.”
All speakers commented on the importance of providing opportunities for young people to take on responsibility and adopt positive identities.
PC Jason Hill from the Metropolitan Police spoke about ways projects could engage young people’s challenging mindsets and creativity; including leading on the redevelopment of a local BMX track, or a graffiti project that also helped educate on the legalities of street art.
“Sometimes anti-social behaviour can be quite subjective, so it’s important to think about how a something viewed as a negative can be given a positive spin,” he added.
One final takeaway from the day was that just as young people need to be provided with consistency from those who deliver to them, the sector needs that same kind of consistency from funders.
“We can’t stop the activity because the coach needs a holiday, or it’s the Friday before Christmas, but we can’t just bring an unknown coach for one week [who doesn’t hold the young people’s trust],” added Helm.
“We need to introduce the coach two or three weeks before. If we’re putting a proposal for 52 weeks activity, then we need funding for 60 weeks of coaching, and funders need to accept that.”