An April 2022 evaluation report of the Fresh Start Through Sport (FSTS) pilot project highlighted its ability to break down barriers and bring people together, despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The project, funded by the NI Executive’s Tackling Paramilitarism, Criminality and Organised Crime Programme and delivered by the Department for Communities as part of Fresh Start in the Community, is a collaboration between the IFA, GAA, Ulster Rugby and Belfast Giants, aimed to engage at-risk youth through sport. When in-person activities were cancelled due to public health restrictions, partners quickly pivoted to online delivery.
While online sessions posed some limitations, they also fostered closer collaboration between sporting organisations. Participants gained knowledge, skills and positive experiences, with 100% saying the programme met expectations.
Key recommendations from this evaluation include: enhancing recruitment to engage a wider demographic; increased focus on qualifications, volunteering opportunities and signposting to community organisations; maintaining select online components while prioritising in-person physical activity; and formalising an evaluation working group between stakeholders.
Despite pandemic constraints, the FSTS pilot facilitated valuable experiences and demonstrated the potential of sport-based interventions. Participants and organisers remain positive about the programme’s future impact on at-risk youth.
To read the report, please click on the link below.