The Alliance of Sport for the Desistance of Crime is launching a pilot programme to gather evidence on how sport can support looked-after children.
Current evidence points to the fact that looked-after children (i.e. children in foster care or living away from home for over 15 days) are over-represented in the criminal justice system. The study’s intention is to discover how sport can be shaped in order to help this demographic make better life choices.
Professor Andrew Parker and Jon Cryer from the University of Gloucestershire sit on one of the Alliance's Positive Action Groups (PAGs), alongside Jackie Roberts from Public Health England and Alliance of Sport Co-Founder and Secretariat Justin Coleman.
Professor Parker explained: “We believe that sport can serve a very specific purpose for looked-after children and young people in terms of their journey out of a cycle of crime.
“We would like to instigate a piece of research in order to gather an evidence base about why looked-after status is such a common denominator in young people’s backgrounds when it comes to criminalisation.
“We then want to find out if sport can serve a particular purpose for that group of people, and if so how it can be shaped to stimulate bigger life conversations with them.”
Having secured research funding from the University of Gloucestershire, PAG members have contacted Secure Units with a view to rolling out an evaluation later this year through sporting interventions with looked-after young people in the youth justice system. If successful, the study will then expand further across the youth and adult estates.
As the success of many organisations and programmes proves, the power of sport can undoubtedly be used to stop the classic ‘classroom to courtroom’ spiral amongst young people. However, this is the first time that sport’s potential effect on the specific demographic of looked-after children has been investigated in this way.