Minister for Sport Joe FitzPatrick has visited a Renfrewshire initiative to find out how it is getting more care experienced young people taking part in sport.

Active Communities and Who Cares? Scotland launched Care2B Active last year with the aim of giving care experienced people aged 10 to 18 more opportunity to participate in a range of physical activities along with non-care experienced people.

It is one of 17 projects to benefit from the Changing Lives Through Sport and Physical Activity programme, which is jointly funded by sportscotland, The Robertson Trust, Spirit of 2012 and Scottish Government with the aim of changing lives and creating a more inclusive and healthier nation.

Speaking after today’s visit Minister for Sport, Joe FitzPatrick, said: “Sport has the power to change lives and we know that being physically active is one of the best things that we can do for our physical and mental health.

“All young people in Scotland should be able to grow up with the same opportunities and initiatives such as free football sessions, the Wellbeing Hub and multi-sport taster sessions from Care2B Active are vital in breaking down barriers to participation in sport for care experienced young people.

“Being active can also bring about positive changes beyond participation and impact positively on the health, wellbeing, skills and learning of care experienced young people and on the health of communities by ensuring a more inclusive nation.”

Who Cares? Scotland Youth Engagement Support Officer, Kareen Stewart, is care experienced herself and explained: “Sport is not something that is always easy to access for someone who is care experienced. Whether you are looked after at home, adopted, fostered, in a residential unit or in formal or informal kinship care, there are lots of things that make it difficult to participate in physical activity.

“For many, not being able to afford sessions and kit or travel to the groups can be a problem, and it can be difficult to get time away from panels and other meetings to take part in these activities. We find that many young people don’t know about the services available or that the system makes it difficult to get a consent form signed by the all the correct people in order to participate.”

To help tackle these challenges, Care2B Active opened free weekly football sessions at Ferguslie Park in Paisley, which welcome boys and girls along to play alongside their non-care peers. Active Communities Youth Development Worker Tina Hodge explained the positive impact these sessions are having on the young people. She said: “Taking part in a club like this gives young people a purpose. They can learn to focus on something positive through sport and escape from what can be a chaotic upbringing.

“The sense of belonging you get from taking part in a regular group is invaluable to someone who has experience of care – you become part of a different kind of family. One member used to come and watch on the side lines as she didn’t think she would like football. She now comes every week and plays against boys here and at school – football has become a positive driving force and passion in her life.”

As well as weekly football sessions, Care2B Active runs a Wellbeing Hub in Johnstone which looks at both physical and mental wellbeing, combining physical activity with guided meditation, self care and coping mechanism workshops, as well as creating a space for discussion so participants can explore their care identity.

The initiative has also launched a third project in Foxbar offering come-and-try sessions across multiple sports, driven by the young people.

Care2B Active also creates volunteer opportunities for anyone interested in helping run the sessions and gives participants the chance to gain a Community Achievement Award – an SQA National 5 level qualification offered in partnership with Glasgow Kelvin College.

Alex Johnston, Spirit of 2012, Head of Programme and Impact said: “Care2B Active puts young people in the lead and breaks down barriers. It uses sport and physical activity to achieve positive change. We’re delighted to be working in partnership with Active Communities and Who Cares? Scotland to create happier people and happier places.”

Chief Executive of sportscotland, Stewart Harris, said: “We see time and again that sport has the power to change lives and being physically active is one of the best things we can do for our physical and mental health.

“At sportscotland young people are at the heart of what we do, we believe that young people should have a voice in sport, this project is an excellent example of that. The work Active Communities and Who Cares? Scotland are doing is making a meaningful difference to young people in Renfrewshire and we are pleased to be able to support that.”

Photo: Left to right – Joe Fitspatrick, Karren Stewart, Gary Murdoch and Tina Hodge