With levels of knife crime at an all-time high in Hertfordshire, the Herts Sports and Physical Activity Partnership (HSP) is using sport as an early intervention to deter young people on the cusp of the youth justice system away from engaging in criminal activity.
Sporting Chance has been designed with vulnerable young lives in mind and uses boxing and multi-sports as the conduits to focusing young people at risk, through positive diversionary activities. Supported by Hertfordshire Constabulary, Stevenage FC Foundation, Watford FC Community Sports & Education Trust, YC Hertfordshire and a team of boxing coaches, the programme offers weekly sport sessions in community venues such as schools, sports clubs and leisure centres.
The project first piloted as a six-week programme at St Mary’s School in Broxbourne during May 2019, after the school identified a group of pupils who were at risk of becoming involved in criminal activity. The success of this initial intervention led to the project being rolled across the county.
Project Officer Charlie Mann oversees Sporting Chance and is in regular contact with the agencies referring young people into the programme:
“The statistics surrounding young people and knife crime are frightening; individuals are increasingly being led – often unknowingly – into gang culture and are carrying weapons with little idea of the potential ramifications of their actions. Through our work with the police, we developed Sporting Chance in response to the types of activities young people would like to participate in.
“The referral process was established to ensure sessions are attended by those most in need of our support. We must also be mindful of local rivalries and boundaries to ensure that the safety of the participants is paramount. These are young people often known to the police already, and care needs to be taken to keep them focussed on making the right choices.”
The research consulted to create the programme also evidenced that there is a risk of young females becoming embroiled in criminality. Mann continued:
“We are developing three female specific sessions in the areas of the county where insight has indicated a need; namely Hertsmere, Watford, Welwyn Hatfield and Stevenage. Sessions for girls the Ridgeway Academy are already underway, with the other districts set to start up in 2020.”
Sporting Chance was officially launched at HSP’s recent Sport for Social Change conference with pupils from The Links Academy, St Albans. In November, the Partnership was awarded additional funding from Sport England to expand the programme and include a further ten basketball sessions.