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Alliance opens door for Leeds Rhinos Foundation project in HMPYOI Wetherby

The Alliance of Sport has opened the door for Leeds Rhinos Foundation to deliver a sport and education programme with children and young people inside HMPYOI Wetherby. 

Discussions between our Chief Operations Officer, Justin Coleman, HMPYOI management, PE staff, our strategic partners Novus and Leeds Rhinos Foundation’s Education Project Officer, Dane Weatherill, have been ongoing for several months – and delivery is set to start imminently. 

The Sport England-funded project is part of the Levelling the Playing Field programme, and will see Leeds Rhinos Foundation deliver a mixture of classroom-based content and sport and physical activity with young people in the facility’s Keppel Unit. 

The first focus of the project’s classroom element will be on mental health, with further activity covering topics such as violence, knife crime, drugs and alcohol. One-hour workshops are mixed with an hour’s physical activity on the YOI’s sports facilities. 

The mental health sessions help the young people look at feelings, anger triggers and take accountability for the factors that led them to offend. “The sessions are very interactive,” says Dane. “We put together a plan and can signpost them to further help they need.” 

The project is intended to give young people a safe space to talk about issues affecting them. 

Dane explains: “The lads prefer to offload to a ‘neutral’ person. They know we’re not here to judge them and the power of the Rhinos badge helps us build a rapport with each individual. 

“Staff really appreciate that we provide an alternative outlet for the young people to be active and talk openly. 

“We want to make them understand that the behaviour that led to them being inside can be changed – and that even though they may have grown up in an environment where that behaviour is the norm, it doesn’t have to be. We want to make them realise that things can be different. 

“The ultimate aim of the project is to foster a positive mindset which will contribute to them not reoffending. 

“In the short-term, it’s about accountability for what they’ve done and in the long term we don’t want them coming back.” 

Justin added: “Along with our strategic partner Novus, we’re delighted to have facilitated Leeds Rhinos Foundation’s project with young people inside HMPYOI Wetherby. Helping to forge these positive partnerships is a core part of how the Alliance achieves its impact across the sector. 

“The project sees Leeds Rhinos Foundation become a specialist partner on the Levelling the Playing Field project we co-manage with the Youth Justice Board. We are delighted to welcome them as part of the family.”