Foundation tackling youth crime through RFL’s new early-intervention programme- Inspiring Futures

Leeds Rhinos Foundation is striving to bring about positive change to the lives of young people across Leeds through its new ‘Inspiring Futures’ programme, a joint-initiative launched by the Rugby League Football (RFL) which aims to reduce youth crime and violence.

Last year, the RFL were awarded £660,000 from the Youth Endowment Fund to launch and evaluate Inspiring Futures, with delivery finally getting underway in Leeds during last half term. The programme will help to prevent at-risk young people from getting caught up in violent crime through work in the classroom, local community and with their families.

The innovative programme, delivered by the charitable organisations of eight Super League clubs, is a largely skills-based programme driven by the power of sport and will engage young people aged 11-14 who have been identified as being vulnerable or likely to engage in Anti-Social Behaviour and/or crime in an early-intervention programme.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic there have been many set-backs to the delivery commencing, with delays as a result of the restrictions and lockdowns schools have faced. However, having worked very closely with schools, pastoral teams and community groups to adapt and overcome these setbacks, Leeds Rhinos Foundation has continued its provision throughout and has already delivered the mentoring element of the Inspiring Futures programme in Roundhay High School, Carr Manor Community School, Bishop Young Academy, Leeds East Academy and Co-Op Academy Leeds.

Dane Weatherill, Projects Officer at Leeds Rhinos Foundation, said: “We have seen amazing results which prove that participants have benefitted tremendously from the schemes launched through the Youth Endowment funding.

“The young people have come out of the programme with better physical and mental health, are more engaged in their education and are less likely to be involved in anti-social behaviour.”

‘Inspiring Futures’ is made up of three strands- Educate, Aspire and Connect. The programme is a largely skills-based programme driven by the power of sport and will engage young people aged 11-14 along with a focus on personal development, building on knowledge, confidence, and self-management skills.

‘EDUCATE’ – There are two parts to this strand, with Leeds Rhinos Foundation delivering an assembly programme to young people in years 7, 8, and 9 in identified secondary schools across the city. The assemblies will promote self-esteem, communication, teamwork, and wellbeing and will incorporate key messages from professional Rugby League athletes who have faced adversity in their lives.

A mentoring programme is also delivered to young people who the school’s pastoral and leadership teams have identified would benefit from attending the programme. This is delivered weekly in each school for a period of 12-weeks, and there is an opportunity during this for individuals to gain a Young Leaders Award Qualification.

ASPIRE’ – Due to COVID-19, the original delivery model for this strand has had to be adapted according to government guidelines. Leeds Rhinos Foundation will provide opportunities for physical, social and emotional development. Through the Aspire element, young people will be empowered- through participation & leadership opportunities- to create changes within their lives and communities.

‘CONNECT’- The creation of strong family relationships is recognised as a key factor in supporting the emotional development of young people. Working in partnership, ‘Connect’ will support the family unit to develop additional resilience and strategies to overcome challenges and support in positive changes.

Janet Sylvester, Education Officer for Leeds Rhinos Foundation, said:Sessions have involved various teambuilding and wellbeing exercises, with young people taking on various challenges in an effort to help improve their communication and teamworking skills and work towards building up their confidence and resilience.

“The outcomes are showing how an effective intervention programme which extends beyond the traditional methods of classroom teaching methods and that mentoring and physical activities can make a big difference to our young people, especially in such uncertain times.”

The Youth Endowment Fund will evaluate the impact of the RFL’s Inspiring Futures programme and share the learning to support further early intervention projects across England and Wales.

Thomas Brindle, Head of Growth at the Rugby Football League, adds: “Rugby League Foundations are a force for good in communities often facing multiple disadvantages and challenges. This partnership brings together seven teams’ charitable foundations in an ambitious two-year programme to change the lives of some of the most vulnerable young people across the North of England.

“We’re thrilled the Youth Endowment Fund will fully evaluate this programme, so we can add to our learning and understanding around the impact Rugby League makes to individuals and communities.”

The Youth Endowment Fund supports and evaluates promising early interventions working with 10- to 14-year-olds in England and Wales to prevent youth offending. It was established with an endowment of £200m over ten years from the Home Office and a total of 23 early-intervention projects have now been awarded funding, totalling £17.1m and reaching over 36,000 children.

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