A community sport project which is helping to turn young people’s lives around will have a wider impact, thanks to a funding boost.
Colchester United Football in the Community launched the Premier League Kicks programme in the 2016/2017 football season and works with about 120 young people.
The project offers a range of activities across Colchester, Clacton and Harwich to support young people engaged in antisocial behaviour or those at risk of in the future.
Using the power of sport, the programme engages hard to reach youngsters, aged eight to 18, in some of the most disadvantaged communities to turn their lives around.
In the latest Community Safety Development Fund distribution from Roger Hirst, the Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner for Essex, the group was awarded £12, 500. It was given £15,000 in the 16/17 funding round.
Tom Tayler, senior development officer and Premier League Kicks co-ordinator, said the money will enable the club to take the programme wider to make a bigger impact.
He said: “Last year, the money funded venues, staffing and equipment and we held a tournament and invited Kicks teams from the south east of England to join us. This year’s funding supports the growth of the programme into new areas and enables us to do outreach work. It is fantastic.
“We create a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. We don’t want young people to feel they are coming to school, but at the same time we instil strong values during our sessions and are very clear with them. We want young people to get the right information and to get key messages while they are with us.
“The important thing for us is talking to young people before they get involved in trouble. It’s prevention work.”
The club works with partners such as Hope Not Hate and Only Cowards Carry to get positive messages across to youngsters through enrichment workshops once they have their attention and respect through a love of football. Topics covered include discrimination, knife crime, drugs and alcohol.
Teenager Dylan Jacobs was among the first to sign up for the Kicks programme in Colchester. The programme has used his passion for football to develop his social skills, both inside and outside of school.
He said: “Before the Kicks sessions, all I did was play on my X-Box in the evenings. Since joining, I have noticed it has boosted my confidence in talking to people. It has helped me to get out more often, doing exercise and eating healthier. My mum has noticed I have been more enthusiastic, too.”
With his newfound confidence, Dylan joined the police cadets with hopes of joining the force in future.
Mr Tayler said: “There is a clear correlation between Dylan attending our sessions and his improved levels of confidence, his health and self-esteem. That is fantastic.
“It is not always about having an impact on someone’s sporting ability, but if we can guide them into making good decisions which ultimately improve their health and social wellbeing, we are giving something back to not only that person, but also their communities.”
The cash boost will enable the club – which holds one session per area, per week – to look to incorporate other sports and launch in new areas in the future.
For more information and to find out how to apply for a Community Safety Development Fund Grant visit https://www.essex.pfcc.police.uk/giving-you-a-voice/commissioning-services/
The closing date for applications is Wednesday, January 31st, 2018.
If your enquiry relates to operational policing or a crime please contact Essex Police here