A new sport is being used in Salford in a bid to turn young people away from knife crime and anti-social behaviour.
City West Housing Trust, part of the ForViva Group, has teamed up with Salford Community Leisure and other partners to hold Parkour – also known as free running – sessions to encourage young people to stay off the streets and out of trouble.
The ‘Knife Free’ initiative is being supported by £17,700 of funding from the Home Office anti-knife crime community fund and is already working with around 200 young people aged 8 to 16 across Salford.
Parkour has a proven track record for enabling young people to turn their backs on crime. According to figures from the Metropolitan Police, when sports projects including Parkour were run in the Borough of Westminster school holidays, crimes committed by young people fell by close to 70%.
The project has been launched against a backdrop of rising knife crime across Greater Manchester and the UK.
“We are committed to creating vibrant communities where people feel safe,” said Matt Jones, City West Housing’s managing director. “As part of the research for this project, we identified 100 young people aged 13 to 16 in Salford who are already involved or at risk of being involved in knife crime, gangs and anti-social behaviour.
“Our goal is to empower young people to build a better future for themselves. We are really proud to be working with Salford Community Leisure and partners on this important project which will not only provide diversionary activities and training opportunities, but really bring home to hundreds of young people the consequences of knife crime.”
Cheryl Keenan, assistant sport and leisure manager at Salford Community Leisure, added: “It was really important we gave young people a voice in this project. We spoke to them about the kind of activities they would like to take part in, and they were enthusiastic about Parkour.
“It is an activity that is proven to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour. It also promotes fitness, confidence and breaks down cultural barriers and gender stereotyping.
“This first stage of the project is already a great success and we are looking forward to delivering hard hitting workshops from March that will see ex-offenders and victims explain the reality of knife crime to even more young people.”
Sessions are free, run with the help of young volunteers, and are available to all young people living in Salford.
One of the young people making the most of the sessions said: “When you’re here you get to physically do stuff instead of playing out with your mates, probably trying to cause trouble with them, so it’s a good environment to be in.”
Another youngster said: “If this wasn’t happening, I’d probably be roaming the streets or on my phone in my bedroom.”
From March this year the second phase of the project will see workshops run by ex-offenders, prison officers and victims of knife crime to bring home the realities of this type of violence to 100 young people.
As part of the scheme, training will be delivered to employees and volunteers involved in the seven ongoing youth projects in Salford where Parkour is held, to ensure they can continue to educate and engage with young people around knife crime in the future.
Working with Big Lottery funded Salford Youth Alliance, ‘Knife Free’ will link young people to volunteering, placement, mentoring and training opportunities.
Young people will also have the chance to attend training to assist coaching staff in youth sessions beyond the life of the project.
For more information about Knife Free, visit its website.
Young people talk about the scheme
Main image courtesy of City West Housing Trust: Young people enjoying Parkour sessions in Salford