Scheme inspires looked-after children through football

Published on 22 September 2015

AN INNOVATIVE scheme that is tapping in to the appeal of football to help children in care prepare for adult life is now under way.

Your City, Your Choice’ has been developed by Leicester City Council, Leicester City FC Community Trust, the Barclays Premier League and the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA).

The programme will give over 100 young people in care the opportunity to acquire essential life-skills through a tailor-made education programme, while participating in a wide range of sporting activities. 

“Children in care need all our support to make the transition to independent living, and I hope that this scheme will help give them the tools they need to succeed,” said Cllr Sarah Russell, assistant city mayor for children and young people.

“The education programme will cover practical issues such as finding a job, managing money, finding somewhere to live, and staying fit and healthy – and it will be tailor-made to suit young people at two key stages of their lives: at 14 and at 16.

“I hope that by combining practical learning with the opportunity to take part in some fantastic sporting activity, this scheme will engage our looked-after children and help them prepare for their adult lives with confidence and optimism.”

The young people on the programme spend two evenings a week learning life skills at one of the children’s services’ contact centres and new sporting skills at Aylestone Park FC.

One of the first students on the course, 17-year-old Michael, said: “The workshops have really helped me.

“They have given me new confidence, so when I leave care I will have the skills to live independently. We have learnt how to cook, how to wash clothes, how to pay bills and who to speak to when you need help.

“I’ve also really enjoyed the football sessions. It has been great to meet new people and make new friends. I have become fitter and healthier and improved my skills.”

A new Looked-After Children football team – open to those living in children’s homes or in foster care – will also be formed as part of the scheme.

Mick King, community director at the LCFC Trust, said: “This project reflects the strength and commitment of the partnership between Leicester City FC, Leicester City Council and the Premier League.

“Drawing on the power of football, we aim to assist some of the city’s most disadvantaged young people to work towards achieving an independent lifestyle.”

Participants on the course have been selected by staff from the city council’s looked-after children service. The young people – living with foster families or in children’s homes – will all have had a difficult start in life, with unsettled backgrounds and a disrupted education potentially impacting on their futures.

Nick Perchard, acting head of communities at the Premier League, said: “The Premier League is proud to support this programme, which will work with some of the most at risk young people in Leicester.

“This programme will utilise the expertise of Leicester City FC’s Community Trust and Leicester City Council to help make Leicester City FC a hub of the local community. 

”I hope that, through this scheme, football will be the key that unlocks a new world of opportunities for some of most disadvantaged young people in our society.”

John Hudson of the PFA said: “We continue to encourage innovative projects through our PL/PFA Community Fund.

“Leicester City FC’s community trust and the city council have produced a programme that will make a huge difference on a local level. Equalities and opportunities for all has always been a strong strand of the association’s work and this area of support for young people is greatly under resourced.”

Your City, Your Choice – funded by Leicester City Council and Leicester City FC and supported by the Barclays Premier League and Professional Footballers’ Association – will run for three years. 

The first group of 12 students will mark the completion of their course with a special celebration event next week. The second cohort is due to start the course in October.

Anyone interested in becoming a foster carer can find out more at www.leicester.gov.uk/fostering or by calling 0116 454 4500.