On a cold Friday night in January, Deputy Police & Crime Commissioner (DPCC) Russell Holland went to Foundation Park in Swindon to see how £25,000 of funding was being spent and what he saw, definitely warmed his heart.
Around 150 eight-eighteen year olds were taking part in a series of free football sessions that were being run by the Swindon Town Community Foundation.
Joint funded by the Premier League and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) with both organisations putting in £25,000 each, the PL Kicks programme delivers community activities, workshops and football sessions. It's designed to inspire young people to develop positive, supportive relationships with one another and the authorities with the aim of reducing any risk of youths being exploited or caught up in crime and improving community safety.
In between dodging any flying balls and evading wild tackles, DPCC Holland was impressed by the enthusiasm of the participants and the coaches. PCSOs from Wiltshire Police have visited the some of the sessions and DPCC Holland thinks it's a fantastic way of building relationships:
"This is something that we could never do on our own so having Swindon Town Football reaching out to local young people is great.
"I’ve seen how the positive influence an initiative such as the Premier League Kicks is having on the youth here, and the wider community. I am fully aware of the influence that sport and exercise have on the health and wellbeing of individuals and communities in general.
"The half term sessions are vital to give structure at a time where some young people may be tempted to engage in either criminal activity or anti-social behaviour and the weekday sessions are having a great effect on building confidence and trust within hard to reach communities.
"I feel that by working in partnership, we’re able to create something quite special."
Without the funding, it's unlikely a scheme like this would be able to go ahead and Andy Tye, a Community Development Officer from the STFC Community Foundation, said:
"At the forefront of our delivery plan, we're hoping that many of our participants not only engage in more sport and physical activity, but also sustain that for a long period of time.
"With the opportunity to host workshops, we hope that we can educate our young people on contemporary themes within the local community and in addition to that as well, we hope that they can take part in some social action projects and understand the importance of what social action can do for local communities"