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Sport holds key to rehabilitating young offenders according to new project

Sport and physical activity play an important role in supporting the rehabilitation of young offenders, according to a new project led by the University of Gloucestershire.

The university has been working closely with Active Games 4 Change (AG4C), a scheme which uses sport to promote the physical, mental health and well-being of young offenders.

The scheme sits alongside the Re-engaging Young Offenders in Education and Learning (RENYO) project, which the university has been running in collaboration with a number of UK youth custody institutions.

The organisers claim their model could offer an alternative to the current approach of placing a young person in a children’s home, which costs £200,000 per person and results in a 60% chance of them reoffending on release.

The project is being funded by Erasmus+ which is a European Union initiative supporting education, training, youth and sport across the continent.

According to Erasmus+ as many as 90% of young offenders leave school early, having dropped out of education prior to being incarcerated. By re-engaging them while in custody, the organisers hope to offer a unique opportunity for resettlement into the community and education once they are released.

Dr Adeela Shafi at the University of Gloucestershire, who has been leading on the project, said:

Psychologists are designing and delivering fun, active and engaging games that develop individuals’ coping mechanisms, including anger management, teamwork, and becoming more aware of the outcomes of their potential actions.

The team will be making their findings available to correctional facilities across Europe, which they hope will result in more of them taking them up. Dr Shafi added:

In addition, all of the materials we have created will be made freely available, with educators and learners working in custodial settings expected to be particularly interested.

Over 50 educators have benefitted from the comprehensive training programme we have developed for those working in secure settings and across the partnership, and more than 100 young people will have benefitted from this work by the end of the project.

The project, which is funded to run until the end of 2021, involves organisations from other countries too, including Spain, Germany and Italy.

Image by the University of Gloucestershire