Concerns that vulnerable young people are “increasingly disconnecting from positive influences” due to the Covid-19 pandemic are being partly addressed in London after the innovative ‘Open Doors’ scheme was provided with more funding.
The programme, which is run by ukactive and Sported, gives young people access to school sports facilities and healthy snacks and lunch during holiday time, and is to be extended until March 2021 thanks to a new £160,000 grant from the Greater London Authority (GLA) following successful pilots over the past year.
Open Doors is now underway for October half-term, using the Government’s Covid-secure guidance, and will run during the school holidays until next March. It comes at a crucial time, with the pandemic widening the inequalities gap experienced by many children and young people.
The model focuses on providing the most vulnerable children and young people with safe and accessible spaces, unlocking school sports facilities as trusted environments where they are able to engage in sports and physical activity, mentoring and education, facilitated by positive role models, mentors and coaches. The young people who attend will also be provided with healthy snacks and lunch.
By creating hubs for activity and youth engagement, Open Doors works to reduce youth violence and crime by making positive community connections, while also improving physical and mental health.
Tom Burstow, Deputy CEO at Sported, said: “Sported’s network of 350 community sports groups across London typically provide a trusted, safe environment for many vulnerable young people however, their ability to operate has been severely impacted since the arrival of Covid-19.
“The number one concern of the community group leaders has been the physical and mental wellbeing of their participants who are increasingly disconnecting from positive influences and engaging in risky behaviours.
“Against this backdrop, we are delighted to be working in partnership with the GLA and ukactive on the Open Doors programme which will provide a number of community sports groups the opportunity to operate safely within school facilities, allowing them to reach and engage young people positively through a range of holiday-time activities.”
The expansion of Open Doors means a number of school sites across London will remain open during the holidays to the children and young people that need it most, at a time when they are most at risk of youth violence and crime.
Hilary Lissenden, Head of Community Sport at the Greater London Authority, said: “We know that young people are more at-risk to anti-social behaviour and crime during after-school and holiday periods and sport can be an important way to engage young people in positive activities.
“Our investment will benefit young people most affected by the pandemic and needing re-engagement in their education, contributing to the Mayor’s wider package of work on violence reduction.
“We’re looking forward to working with ukactive and Sported to further test the Open Doors model and the unlocking of school facilities as safe community hubs for young people.”