Blackpool: Diversion using youth-led sports activities

Following the relaxation of lockdown restrictions in 2020, there was an increase in antisocial behaviour. The police were seeking criminal behaviour orders against five children.   With summer holidays approaching, the Youth Justice Service (YJS) wanted to put a rapid response in place to prevent further escalation and to address the community’s concerns.


The challenge

Following the relaxation of lockdown restrictions in 2020, there was an increase in antisocial behaviour - particularly general nuisance behaviour, noise, fighting, damage to cars and vandalism - in three wards.  Local councillors received a significant number of complaints from local residents; the police were seeking criminal behaviour orders against five children and were regularly using dispersal orders.   With summer holidays approaching, the Youth Justice Service (YJS) wanted to put a rapid response in place to prevent further escalation and to address the community’s concerns.

The approach

Working with the local Community Safety Team, the YJS undertook a review of activities for children and young people in the three target wards to establish any gaps in provision. Two wards had suitable activities and facilities, so effort was put into advertising these rather than developing new activities. In one of these areas a core group of young people who were involved in antisocial behaviour were identified and offered targeted individual support by the YJS. 

In the third ward the review identified a well-established Boys & Girls club with outdoor space, football nets and other equipment, that was not being used by children in the area. The Community Safety Team engaged with children and young people, flying a drone as a way to initiate conversation, asking about activities they would like to have. Young people asked for boxing. The Violence Reduction Unit funded a collaboration between the Leisure Service and the Boys & Girls club to deliver two sessions of boxing and fitness training each week; an early evening session for 8-13 year olds and later one for young people aged 14 and older. These were supported by outreach work from the Boys & Girls club, and scheduled on evenings when the club was not already open. The sessions are popular, with an average of 20 children attending each, and are well staffed by outreach workers and staff from the Leisure Service.

A local social housing provider who was impressed by the success of the boxing sessions has taken over funding of the boxing sessions and outreach work.

Implementation

The scheme has led to ongoing changes in practice. Police are engaging much more with the Youth Offending Team (YOT) and are confident in the YOT’s  interventions. For example, when a local shopping centre raised concerns about a group of children and young people, the police and early help team are developing a joint plan to offer support to specific individuals and their parents, to install a climbing frame and mobile boxing ring in the shopping centre.

The work of individual staff who have expertise, local knowledge and credibility with the children and families has been important. This takes place within a robust and co-ordinated response which includes all partner agencies (the police, housing association, schools and the leisure department). 

Consultation with children and young people, responding to what they wanted and where they wanted it has meant the scheme is well-suited to the children’s needs. Meetings are now being held to review activity provision more broadly. For example, families pointed out that Sundays were problematic because there were few affordable/free activities open. Planning has begun to open the leisure centre on Sundays opening, with a boxing ring.

The impact

No formal evaluation of the scheme has been undertaken, but local professionals report a positive impact, as demonstrated in the quotes below. Since the additional activities have been introduced, the police have applied for only one civil order and have not pursued any criminal behaviour orders against children or young people in the area. Previously, these were common. The most recent report from the Community Safety Manager (January 2022) showed that antisocial behaviour is at an ‘all-time low’; with a decrease of 23% in the two wards where targeted activities have been introduced.  

Parent, 2020

I bring my daughter here from the other side of town, she loves it...keeps her out of trouble

Female child, 2020

me and my friends can all join in with the games, it's tiring

Male child, 2020

I like the pads work best, I'm good at that, better than the others

Boys & Girls Club outreach worker, 2020

They’re all right to be fair, we’ve not had the police around as much as we use to, it’s dropped a lot…There use to be fires and there are no fires any more, its cause they are doing stuff, all enjoying it.. as you can see they’re here now and they’re teenagers, not causing trouble

Cllr Gillian Campbell, Labour Councillor for Park Ward, Cabinet Member for Inclusion, Youth & Transience, YJS Executive Board member, Blackpool Council

I think the success shown with this scheme is particularly important. Instead of giving the young people what adults think they need, they have been asked what they want - as the data suggests this has led to a much greater level of engagement, and a huge improvement in our ASB levels in these areas. It has certainly shown us the way forward in future youth engagement as an authority

Contact information:

Julie.Cummins@blackpool.gov.uk