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22 May 2023 | 16:16

More than 200 representatives from community sport organisations gathered in Birmingham to share learning from the first Youth Justice Sport Fund, and plan for the future.

The £5million fund from the Ministry of Justice was distributed by Coalition partners StreetGames and the Alliance of Sport in Criminal Justice, with 220 voluntary and community organisations across England and Wales funded to carry out targeted work supporting children and young people who were at risk of entering the criminal justice system. 

Attendees at the conference heard how 7,832 young people had been engaged through the funding programme – which was launched in January – participating in fun, supervised activities, building pro-social friendships, and engaging with positive adult role models. Furthermore 1,546 young people took part in training as part of the programme, with 1,002 gaining a new qualification – providing additional protective factors and supporting them to achieve.

YJSF info

Stuart Felce, National Lead for Community Safety and Sport for StreetGames, explained the primary target of the fund was what is known as the ‘secondary cohort’ of at-risk young people aged 10 to 17. 

“Secondary prevention supports children and young people who could be considered to be at risk of entering the justice system due to particularly challenging circumstances or additional vulnerabilities,” he said. “This includes those at risk of school exclusion, those experiencing complex safeguarding issues, and those identified by the police as being at-risk, or already being involved in anti-social behaviour, as well as a more targeted approach to young people who are at-risk as a result of the area where they live, i.e. those living in areas with high rates of youth crime or in the bottom 20% for deprivation, where children are at greater risk of being perpetrators or victims. 

“Targeted interventions provide more intense support for young people at the most risk and, as such are necessary. They require trained, skilled staff and suitably equipped organisations to be effective.” 

The fund supports the ‘Reduced crime and anti-social behaviour’ area of the Coalition’s #OpenGoal framework, which seeks to demonstrate the value of targeted sport-based interventions to policy-makers, and how they can help to reduced public expenditure. 

 Sport was increasingly recognised as having a role in prevention and early intervention work with children at risk of, or already involved in, offending behaviour. Although sport was unlikely to stop offending by itself, it had the potential to make a positive contribution. 

Many of the fund recipients were showcased at the conference, including: 

  • The funding supported Team Kinetix in Essex to offer a range of activities including parkour and aerial skills, with attendees making a positive effort with their behaviour at school so that they can attend the sessions.
  • Tranai Todd, founder of Support Through Sport in Nottinghamshire, said: “We’ve built the capacity to bring on two more youth mentors who work intensely with disadvantaged young people. Having the space and ability to be able to perfect that was really important, and that's something the funding allowed us to do.”
  • Targeted boxing sessions delivered by West Herts Amateur Boxing Club supported young people to develop key skills, including resilience, confidence and communication.
  • Caroline Fallis–Taylor, Development Officer for UDOIT! Dance Foundation, explained: “If you put sport at the centre of your delivery, the results are absolutely amazing... with that wrap-around support and that care and that ear, young people can thrive.”
  • The fund allowed Endeavour Youth and Community Club in Sheffield to provide new development opportunities in sport for their learners, as well as continuing their wrap-around care.
  • Mike Gibson, founder and CEO of City of Hull Sports & Community Group, told the conference: “Boxing teaches self-respect and discipline. Mix that in with a funded programme and that gives the young people more choices about positive behavioural changes.”
  • The work of Boxing Saves Lives in Bedfordshire supports young people to understand that they are worthy of positive outcomes, using boxing as a tool to build discipline, respect, integrity and self-worth. 
  • Jamie Patterson, Grant and Partnerships Manager for Onside Warrington Youth Zone (below), said: “The funding enabled us to combine our sports offer with a targeted approach that is at the heart of the Youth Work the organisation strives to achieve, and the result on the young people was nothing short of transformational.”

The fund demonstrates how through capacity building, sport sector delivery organisations can work effectively with their local criminal justice partners, including Youth Justice Services, Police and Police Crime Commissioners (PCC)/Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) structures. This work focused on building sustainable relationships for the medium to longer term to facilitate potential future access to the new ‘Turnaround’ programme and other funding. 

In his blog for, Stuart added: “With the first programme now drawing to a close, we’re excited to find out more over the coming months about how projects have approached the challenge and the impact it has made in local communities. But what is already clear is that some of the most at-risk young people across the country have received support that is tailored to their needs and has begun to give them the skills and mentoring they need to build a pro-social identity, recognise the control they have over their own choices and behaviours, and begin to really think about what they can achieve in the long term. 

“It’s a sad but undeniable fact that young people living in low income, under-served communities face real challenges and are more at risk of becoming victims or perpetrators of youth crime. Sport-based interventions can help break this cycle and provide the support and mentoring that young people need. Sport, provided in a safe, supportive environment, gives young people a sense of belonging, and exposes them to diverse, positive role models. It builds confidence, teaches new skills, and perhaps most importantly it offers these young people a safe space to go, with trusted mentors who can give them the support they need and which too many of them aren’t getting elsewhere.” 

Access programme resources and links from the Youth Justice Sport Fund.