A new initiative between Active Communities and Who Cares? Scotland has been launched to break down barriers to participation in sport for care experienced young people in Renfrewshire.
Care2B Active gives care experienced people aged 10 to 18 years old more opportunities to participate in physical activity and bring them together with non-care young people to enjoy sport.
It is one of 17 projects to benefit from the Changing Lives Through Sport and Physical Activity programme, which is jointly funded by sportscotland, The Robertson Trust, Spirit of 2012 and Scottish Government with the aim of changing lives and creating a more inclusive and healthier nation.
This week marks Care Experienced Week and Care2B Active is keen to help overcome the various barriers young care experienced people can face to take part in sport.
Who Cares? Scotland Youth Engagement Support Officer Kareen Stewart is care experienced herself and explained: “Sport is not something that is always easy to access for some who is care experienced. Whether you are looked after at home, adopted, fostered, in a residential unit or in formal or informal kinship care, there are lots of things that make it difficult to participate in physical activity.
“For many, not being able to afford sessions and kit or travel to the groups can be a problem, and it can be difficult to get time away from panels and other meetings to take part in these activities. We find that many young people don’t know about the services available or that the system makes it difficult to get a consent form signed by the all the correct people in order to participate. For someone who is care experienced, it’s not as easy as just taking a form home to be signed and then asking for a lift.
“Sadly, there is also still a stigma around being care experienced and we see young people not being made to feel welcome in a group by other families, which can be damaging and isolating for someone in care who wants to take part in sport. Many young people are made to feel that it’s their fault that they are in care and this is something I experienced growing up.”
To help tackle these challenges, Care2B Active opened free weekly football sessions at Ferguslie Park in Paisley, which welcome boys and girls along to play alongside their non-care peers.
Active Communities Youth Development Worker Tina Hodge explained the positive impact these sessions are having on the young people. She said: “Taking part in a club like this gives young people a purpose. They can learn to focus on something positive through sport and escape from what can be a chaotic upbringing.
“The sense of belonging you get from taking part in a regular group is invaluable to someone who has experience of care – you become part of a different kind of family.
"Many of our members wouldn’t have access to facilities or groups like these otherwise. Our group meets on a Friday night, encouraging people to spend this time taking part in sport. The sessions have already created a safe space for people from different care backgrounds to come together, giving them new opportunities and the ability to make better choices and new friends.
“One member used to come and watch on the side lines as she didn’t think she would like football. She now comes every week and plays against boys here and at school – football has become a positive driving force and passion in her life.”
As well as weekly football sessions, Care2B Active runs a Wellbeing Hub in Johnstone which looks at both physical and mental wellbeing, combining physical activity with guided meditation, self care and coping mechanism workshops, as well as creating a space for discussion so participants can explore their care identity.
The initiative has also recently launched a third project in Foxbar offering come-and-try sessions across multiple sports, driven by the young people.
Tina said: “Our new multi-sports taster sessions let young people try activities they have always wanted, but never had the opportunity to. The young people identify different sports and we arrange a new session every two weeks. We’re looking at activities like netball, ‘clubbercise’ and more. This lets the group see the huge range of activities there are to choose from and find out what they like.
“Our projects also encourage healthy eating as we supply fruit and water. For some, it is the first time they have tried a particular piece of fruit and it’s great to see people trying new healthy options and choosing these over the vending machine.”
For Kareen, it’s important the young people have an example to follow and someone to look up to during the sessions. She said: “The relationships young people have with Tina and I are significant, and we want everyone who comes along to know that we are there for them. I am care experienced and share my experiences with the young people, as I recognise and empathise with the problems they face. It’s important they have visible role models delivering these activities.”
Care2B Active also creates volunteer opportunities for anyone interested in helping run the sessions and gives participants the chance to gain a Community Achievement Award – an SQA National 5 level qualification offered in partnership with Glasgow Kelvin College.
The Changing Lives Through Sport and Physical Activity fund also gives members the chance to attend live national sporting events and summer outdoor excursions which involve a host of outdoor activities from gorge walking and canoeing to cycling and walking.
Tina said: “Being able to offer our participants the chance to get a qualification, go to a stadium or participate in a new sport for the first time, all have a significant role to play in building young care experienced people’s confidence and opening doors for the future. Four young people have already earned a Community Achievement Award and gone onto college as a result. To see these sessions benefit care experienced people in so many ways shows exactly why they are so crucial.”
Find out more
- Discover the 17 projects funded by the Changing Lives Through Sport and Physical Activity fund
- Learn about getting involved in football