The power of sport…… Positive Futures!

Sports:

Multi-sport

Location:

Newport

When we think of the benefits of sport it's probably a healthy heart and a reduced waistline that first spring to mind.

But in Newport, and more recently Gwent (South East Wales), a targeted project is reaping the rewards of changes in behaviour among young people who are engaged through sport.

Positive Futures is a social inclusion programme using Sport and Physical Activity as a tool to engage young people at risk of anti-social behaviour or crime.

The programme started in Newport over 12 years ago, and in 2014 Positive Futures rolled out across the five local authorities in Gwent with support from Sport Wales (through LAPA funding) and the Office of the Gwent Police and Crime Commissioner.

Newport LIVE Sports Development Team, and Newport City Council, have led the concept, development, and coordination of Positive Futures and now work closely with colleagues across Active Gwent; as well as a wide range of partners including the Police, Community Safety, Education, Social Services, Youth Services, Youth Offending Services, Communities First, Families First, and third sector organisations.

Targeting predominantly young people aged between 10-19 who are seen as at risk of crime or anti-social behaviour it provides:

- Positive alternatives to anti-social behaviour for young people living in deprived communities across Newport and Gwent.

- Local sports provision at minimal or no cost for participants.

- Voluntary and leadership opportunities.

- Qualifications and accreditations to young people.

- Role models and support packages for 'at risk' young people. 

In Newport alone in the last year there were 22,640 participations - a 5,740 increase on the target.

Emily Kemp, Anti-Social Behaviour Officer at Newport City Council, said:

"Positive Futures are a huge asset to Newport and it's forward planning for the reduction of Anti-Social Behaviour. The Positive Futures team engage with the most problematic persons within the most deprived areas of Newport. Without their input the reductions we have achieved would not have been possible. The information they hold relating to some of the most deprived estates in Newport helps us as partners to implement prevention tactics to stop anti-social behaviour from escalating."

But it's not just the numbers that are impressive. The individual personal stories of young people turning their life around through sport shows its true power.

One young man, referred to Positive Futures in November 2014 by the Families First Preventions team in Newport, was having varying issues of violence and anti-social behaviour. He had been excluded from comprehensive school and received a ban from playing rugby for four months as a result of hitting one of his coaches.  After working with a sport mentor he is now attending a school in Hereford, is back playing rugby with his club, and has long-term goals to get into coaching.
Linzi Proctor is the Inclusion co-ordinator at St Julian's School.

She commented:

"Positive Futures staff have always managed to develop excellent working relationships with our most disengaged pupils. Through accessing the programme, pupils have benefited from increased self-esteem and self-confidence, a more positive attitude and have been encouraged and motivated towards involvement in wider school life. I would not hesitate to recommend this excellent programme to other disengaged learners."

In Caerphilly town centre, the start of evening sports engagement sessions between December 2014 and March 2015 has coincided with a reduction in the local crime rate of 36%. There has also been a 50% reduction in anti-social behaviour calls within the area.

Stefan Williams, an Inspector at Gwent Police, commented:

"Positive Futures provides exactly what their name suggests. Through the focussed work dealing with young people across Newport, there is a clear feeling that when we get together, the future problems always have some positive outcomes. This is because the energy and initiatives are always about giving young people opportunities, whilst solving issues to make Newport a better place.

"Positive Futures is a key partner assisting the Police in finding different ways of reducing nuisance behaviour when dealing with youngsters."

 

Challenges the programme has faced

Consistent reporting, evidence based case studies highlighting life changing experiences has ensured that funding has been maintained. The Home Office ended the national programme in 2013 and directed funding locally to Police Crime Commissioners. It was essential to illustrate to the Commissioner how important it was for him to support this programme. The Gwent PCC has been very supportive and has part funded the initiative since 2013.

A number of organisations have regularly received funding for youth engagement programmes, and Positive Futures has had to work to gain recognition and in some cases try to change a historical culture of how best to engage with young people.  Sport is still not seen by everyone as a fantastic engagement tool for impacting on big social agendas - so the evidence and feedback is key.

 

Successes

- Growing and sustaining a Positive Futures programme in Newport since 2002 purely on external grant funds

- Developing a pan-Gwent approach since April 2014

- Thousands of young people engaged in sport

- Reduction in low level crime through diversionary and engagement activities

- Young people case studies - literally changing lives

- Young people becoming volunteers

- Young people gaining employment

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