Onside project providing opportunities in new environments to help tackle issue of re-offending

Leeds Rhinos Foundation’s ‘Onside’ project has been providing young people with the opportunity to go out and develop their skills in new environments, as the charity continues to support communities by preparing offenders for release to tackle the issue of re-offending.

Onside was launched by Leeds Rhinos Foundation in 2016 and aims to make a difference by using interactive classroom activities and group discussions to help the young people to respect and understand others points of views. The time is usually split between the gym halls- for multi-sports sessions and problem-solving activities- and classroom-based sessions, which build confidence and personal qualities to prepare young people for re-integration into society.

Recently, staff from Leeds Rhinos Foundation and the P.E.I Department visited Herd Farm Activity Centre with a group of young people from HMPYOI Wetherby, as part of a move to introduce a Release on Temporary License (ROTL) into the 10-week Onside programme.

The day offered participants the opportunity to demonstrate the transferable skills they have learnt from the Onside project by taking part in a series of challenging outdoor activities, as well as developing their teamwork, leadership and communication skills through working collaboratively with their peers.

In addition, young people were also brought to Emerald Headingley Stadium by HMPYOI Wetherby P.E.I Staff to take part in Leeds Rhinos Foundation’s community matchday activity at the Rhinos’ home match with Hull KR.

Brett Delaney, former Leeds Rhinos player and Project Tutor, said: “These events have given us a fantastic opportunity to show the guys that there’s a different way to life and lets them put the skills they have learnt throughout the Onside project into action, out in a real-world setting.”

Andrew Albrighton, PEI at HMPYOI Wetherby, further commented: “We’ve seen the young people make huge progress during their time on the Onside project and it’s all about giving them the confidence and motivation to be able to express their personality and ideas in a positive way. That will hopefully have a lasting effect by reducing the risk of them re-offending.”

Having worked with more than 20 young people so far this year across three separate 10-week courses, delivery of Onside covers a range of targeted personal development areas, including communication skills, healthy and unhealthy relationships, stereotyping, aspirations and goal-setting.

Originally piloted at HMP Leeds, HMP Wealstun and also HMP Hatfield, Onside has since been adapted by staff to meet the needs of young people at institutions such as HMPYOI Wetherby, with topics such as peer pressure, gangs and knife crime, responsibility, motivation, respect and discipline also introduced into the delivery of the project.

Tom Plummer, PEI at HMPYOI Wetherby, added: “It’s fantastic to see a club and charity of such stature putting effort into young people that many others would have given up on. The working partnership between the PEI Department and Leeds Rhinos Foundation has been key to making it such a success.”

The project has received plenty of positive feedback from participants, including:

• “Being able to come out and improve my communicating and team-working skills has been really beneficial.”
• “I enjoyed the opportunity to go onto the pitch at Emerald Headingley and hold one of the big flags. It made me feel trusted and proud of my efforts.”
• “The best thing was feeling accepted in a different environment amongst new people.”

For more information on the Onside project, contact janet.sylvester@leedsrhinosfoundation.org.