Howzat for a way to keep NEETs off the street?

Hundreds of young adults living in inner city communities affected by youth crime and anti-social behaviour will be given free cricket sessions, all year round, thanks to a Lottery grant of just under £1million.

The funding through Sport England, the government agency to promote sport, will provide weekly community cricket to around 11,000 16 to 24 year olds in deprived areas of Birmingham, Bristol, Hull, Liverpool, London and Manchester over the next three years.

The initiative is part of the Cricket Foundation’s national StreetChance scheme, supported by Barclays Spaces for Sports</a>; the urban solution to Chance to Shine. It aims to stop teenagers dropping out of sport after the age of 16, and to keep them off the streets and away from crime and anti-social behaviour.

It will also provide opportunities for young adults not in education, employment or training (NEETs) to develop and gain work experience and qualifications towards employment, as well as encouraging friendly relations between them and the local police.

The community sessions for 16 to 24 year olds will involve a fast-paced version of the game which uses a tapeball, a tennis ball wrapped in electrical tape, where innings lasts for 20 balls and games for 20 minutes. They will feature weekly coaching and matches, along with an outreach hour at every session which provides a vital opportunity for coaches to build a rapport with young adults, deliver educational opportunities and discuss local issues. The games take place often in hard courts and community centres in urban areas, rather than on leafy traditional grass pitches.<

Six-a-side street cricket competitions will run throughout the summer and a StreetChance Inner-City League will run for six months from October. League matches will take place at the weekend and all community participants will be invited to join for free, in exchange for volunteering on StreetChance youth programmes in their area. In addition, StreetChance will provide four bursaries each year to teams that have shown a good commitment and attitude throughout the year and who wish to compete in the popular amateur cricket league, Last Man Stands.

The introduction of new projects will be phased with 12 projects in 2012 and a further 16 projects from 2013. This year will see new projects launched in Birmingham (Aston, Nechells, Sparkhill, Saltley), London (Hackney, Haringey, Islington, Tower Hamlets) and Manchester (Cheetham Hill, Longsight, Moss Side, Old Trafford). From April 2013, additional projects will be introduced in four areas of Bristol, Hull, Liverpool and London.

By engaging with local police across all the projects, StreetChance is helping to break down barriers between police and young people. Meanwhile, scores of young people have gained experience by working on the project and undertaking coaching, umpiring and sports journalism courses; all funded by StreetChance. For young people aged 16 to 24, opportunities for work experience and coaching apprenticeships can give those lacking strong academic qualifications the chance to succeed as paid coaches, often working on StreetChance.

Chair of Sport England, Richard Lewis, said, “We’re delighted that our Lottery funding will open up opportunities for young adults who aren’t in work or education. StreetChance demonstrates the power of sport to change the lives of young people.

Chief Executive of Cricket Foundation, Wasim Khan added, “Making cricket accessible and driving participation in deprived, inner-city areas has always been at the heart of what StreetChance works to achieve. We’re delighted that, through lottery funding provided by Sport England, we can now extend the age group to include young adults.”

StreetChance is a partnership between the Cricket Foundation and Barclays Spaces for Sports which has already engaged 20,000 young people, aged eight to 18, since it launched in 2008. It works with County Cricket Boards, Metropolitan Police Service, County Constabularies and other local partners to deliver the coaching and competition programme in areas lacking existing clubs, facilities and general opportunities to play cricket.

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