Youngsters build positive futures

POLICE have welcomed a scheme to give youngsters free dancing lessons and football coaching so there is more for them to do in a market town.

John Howard

POLICE have welcomed a scheme to give youngsters free dancing lessons and football coaching so there is more for them to do in a market town.

They said the Teenage Kicks Football and Street Dance Projects in Stowmarket were conceived after concerns about youngsters hanging around the streets and anti-social behaviour.

The activities, part of the national Positive Futures social inclusion scheme, are held on Thursday nights, with dance classes held at Stowmarket Middle School and football on the town's Recreation Ground.

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Youngsters aged between 10 and 19 are being trained by football coaches, and the dance sessions are for 13 to 19-year-olds, led by tutors.

Suffolk Constabulary's mid Suffolk neighbourhood inspector Sally Gallant said: “We identified that there was a lack of activities for teenagers and places for them to go.

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“It meant they had been hanging around the streets, which led to concerns about anti-social behaviour in some areas, and made the young people more vulnerable in terms of becoming involved in crime or indeed victims of crime.

“The young people themselves were asked what courses they would be interested in, and we hope that by providing the football and dance classes they've asked for we can give them a safe environment to meet and have fun in.

“It gives them something positive to do in the evenings which enhances their confidence, teamwork skills and gives them a goal to work for.”

Peter Fox, acting head of the Youth Offending Service, said: “Positive Futures has been operating in Suffolk for several years now. We helped get it started and are very glad we did so.

“There is clear evidence its innovative sports based programmes are very effective in reducing crime and anti-social behaviour in the areas it operates, and it has helped many young people find a positive outlet for their energies.

“Many of those it has worked with have been helped to move on to engaging in mainstream organised sports and leisure pursuits for the longer term, which says a lot about its coaches' abilities to motivate and enthuse young people.”

The projects, a joint initiative between Positive Futures, Crime Concern, Suffolk Youth Offending Service, Time 2 Change and Suffolk police, have been running since the middle of May, and have been very well attended.

It is hoped to extend the initiative after its initial 18 weeks, plans are in place to develop winter activities which would run through into 2009.

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