Nationwide debate has recently re-focused on the position of young people in society and the opportunities afforded to them at a time of widespread government spending cuts, with critics questioning whether the third sector will be able to fill the gap left by council-led youth services.
Tuesday 23rd August saw youth charities The Lord's Taverners and Cricket for Change stage the inaugural finals of their Street20 cricket initiative which is aiming to transform the lives of 7,500 youngsters living in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the UK.
'The Lord’s Taverners Cricket for Change Programme' uses a super-short form of cricket (‘Street20’) to engage youngsters on the streets of some of the UK’s most deprived communities. The finals are the pinnacle of a much bigger Lord’s Taverners Cricket for Change programme, working with local community groups to provide a year-round programme of youth work including civic responsibility, social inclusion and education. The programme is already operating in 30 communities and counties across the UK, with the aim of being in 150 by 2013.
While Scotland Yard has reported a 30% increase of victims aged between 13-24 injured by knife crime between 2008/09 and 2010/11, more than £100m has been lost from local authority services for young people, making the work of initiatives like The Lord’s Taverners Cricket for Change Programme more important than ever. A recent poll by YouGov in April this year reflected popular belief that sport can change lives for the better. 38% of respondents said the Government’s main priority for sport funding should be maximising sport’s contribution to cutting crime and improving education.
The Street20 final’s day took place at the City Academy in Bristol on Tuesday 23 August, with the team from Sussex (Portslade) ultimately taking victory against youngsters from Birmingham, Newcastle, Essex, and Bristol who took part in a unique, fast and engaging form of cricket. Officers from Avon & Somerset, Essex and Northumbria Police, entered a Street20 team to play against the youngsters throughout the day, hosting a series of educational workshops to address issues such as stop and search, knife crime and drug abuse.
Inspector Paul Cox, Head of Youth Strategy for Avon & Somerset Police, said: "Programmes like this teach young people a lot of disciplines early on, such as respect for other people and teamwork, the sort of skills that are really important later in life."
Matthew Patten, Chief Executive of The Lord’s Taverners, said: "The Cricket for Change Programme is about unlocking the social benefits sport can deliver, helping some of our most marginalised young people develop as individuals and transform their lives and the communities they live in."