January 17, 2013
Local community sports projects are highly effective ways to beat youth crime, gang culture and anti-social behaviour, according to a ground-breaking report from Laureus.
The report, commissioned by the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation and launched by Tottenham Hotspur Head Coach André Villas-Boas, shows that 80% of youngsters who take part in such programmes said they were more likely to stay away from gangs and were more optimistic about their future.
The findings come from research undertaken at Urban Stars sports-based projects in London, the West Midlands and Gloucestershire. Urban Stars is a global strategic partner of the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation.
André Villas-Boas, who is also named as the newest Laureus Ambassador, was present at the Urban Stars project at Walworth Academy, south London, for the launch of the report. He met young people at the project and conducted a football training session.
He said: “Laureus has shown over the years that it understands how to help young people through sports projects and this research is very significant.
“It’s great to see Urban Stars using football in London to help young people turn their lives around and becoming valuable members of the community. Laureus has once again proved that sports projects are highly effective when it comes to giving young people an alternative to gangs and youth crime and giving them a more positive outlook.”
The research was conducted through questionnaires and focus groups with more than 250 participants and projects leaders from the Urban Stars programmes. Interviews were also held with local authorities, teachers and ancillary workers from schools, youth development workers, sports coaches and local residents.
An average of 80% of participants who were asked in the survey said they were now more likely to stay away from gangs after attending the project. In the West Midlands, where Urban Stars uses boxing to engage young people, the figure reached a massive 94%.
Since its inception, Urban Stars in Gloucestershire has engaged with residents at Ashfield prison and youth offenders institution, many of whom have received support during post-custody resettlement. Researchers talked to prison leavers and found that the programme achieved a 30% reduction in re-offending rates among those who participated compared with the national average.
Among the other findings from the research are:
· 69% of the youngsters had improved confidence about their future
· 65% said they had improved social skills as a result of attending the projects
· 76% said they were more likely to help other people in their daily life
Youth crime and anti-social behaviour costs the UK Government an estimated £4 billion a year and one in five young people admit to being involved in some way at some time.
The Urban Stars projects work with young people, aged 13-19, who are described as vulnerable, marginalised and disadvantaged, with more than half not in formal education and almost 90% not in training. Most are living against a back drop of anti-social behaviour, active gangs and gun and knife crime.
Lead researcher Professor Andrew Parker from the University of Gloucestershire said: “What the findings of this report clearly show is that the Urban Stars initiative is meeting its aims and objectives to use sport to engage young people who are identified as marginalised, vulnerable, or ‘at risk’ of social exclusion. The report also demonstrates that sport can be effective not only in engaging marginalised youth but in tackling youth crime and reducing re-offending. At the same time it can provide a variety of support mechanisms and educational/life course pathways.”
Gary Stannett, Chief Executive Officer of Active Communities Network, said: “This research evidences our belief that sport can act as a catalyst for both personal and community enhancement when delivered by quality staff in local neighbourhoods. We are proud of our strategic alignment with Laureus and would like to thank them and St James’s Place Foundation for their support in developing and delivering these projects across the UK and Northern Ireland.”