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Blog: How can we support the ‘hidden group’ of young people to be active?

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Posted 28th January 2020

Debra Cummins, our Development Manager for Children and Young People, asks how the sector can come together to support the ‘hidden group’ of young people to be active.

Back in July, I registered to attend the ‘Right to be Active’ Project dissemination event at Leeds Beckett University.

To be honest, at that point I thought it looked interesting and didn’t really think any more of it. As last Wednesday’s event got nearer, I had to remind myself what I’d signed up to! Little did I know that this would be one of those sessions that really sparked my interest and reminded me of the importance that sport and physical activity plays within the lives of children and young people.

And, more importantly, it highlighted the role I can play in influencing the ‘hidden group’ that is care experienced young people.

The event was held to share some research around sport, physical activity and care experienced children and young people (CEYP) in England.

Around 78,000 young people in England are in the care system and 72% of these are in foster care. These young people are at risk of a range of adverse outcomes including systematic under achievement, poor health and weight issues, mental health issues and a higher measure of social exclusion.

As the day went on, discussions covered the rapid review that was conducted which looked at various policies and how few mentioned sport and physical activity specifically but encompassed this within ‘leisure, health or youth development’.

The belief is that CEYP should have access ‘equal to peers’, but the research presented that this is in is not the case in reality. The research found that only 40% of the CEYP and 38% adults surveyed felt that CEYP had access to sport and physical activity that was ‘equal to their peers’.

The barriers that CEYP face are similar to lot of other under-represented groups who are less active but there are some notable differences. These were brilliantly captured by the research team and presented in cartoon format. They helped sparked discussion and shared learning and really helped me to understand the stories that have been told by CEYP.

Three factors have been identified from this research that shape CEYP’s participation in sport and physical activity:

  • Activities
  • People
  • Place

Personally, I was more interested in the part about ‘missing spaces’ such as after school clubs and local sports clubs. A CEYP life can be less than stable, so being able to regularly attend after school clubs and local sports clubs can be a real challenge. While many of the barriers are similar for all young people, there are some extra ones that I’ve never really considered.

I was fortunate to be sat on a table that had a mix of professions from across both the care system and the sports system. Our discussion turned to the ‘constants’ that were part of this complex system. The Schools, Clubs and Foster Carers – they don’t move. They may have different CEYP with them at any time, so I am really interested in how we can work with these groups to help support CEYP to be active.

It sounds like there is some amazing work going on with initiatives for foster carers and their families to access to sporting opportunities, and maybe it isn’t a radical change that is needed, but just connecting some of the dots and reinforcing the relationships that are needed to support CEYP.

I pledged at the end of the session to meet with some local groups to see how I can support with the development of opportunities through the Satellite Club programme. I’m interested in how we support the workforce in all sectors to ensure that opportunities are inclusive and most importantly how do we help CEYP find out about opportunities and how can support them to attend. After all, as the research title suggests we all have the right to be active.

Click here for the slides from the event, or check out the #R2BA hashtag on Twitter.

Follow Debra on Twitter – @DebsCummins

Other Twitter profiles with links to the research include @DrRASAndford, @DrTomQ and @DrORHooper.


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