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Sport4Life offer lifeline to Birmingham’s disillusioned youth

  • An astonishing 37% of children in Birmingham live in poverty – 100,000 in total. 
  • 40% of the city’s population live in the top 10% most deprived areas of the UK. 
  • Children growing up in deprived circumstances are far less likely to achieve five GCSEs at A-C (only 33% do so in Birmingham) 
  • Birmingham has the highest youth unemployment of the UK’s core cities (8.9% – double the UK average) 

It’s statistics like these that starkly outline the importance of Sport4Life’s work. Using sport as an engagement tool, their programmes develop the confidence, life skills and employability of at-risk young people, many of whom have been through the criminal justice system. 

Sport4Life was founded in 2006 by Tom Clarke-Forrest, combining his passions for sport, young people and his home city of Birmingham. Initially it consisted of participatory activities designed to simply divert young people away from anti-social behaviour. In 2010 the strategy widened to achieving the ‘hard outcome’ of employability. 


photo4As we know, sport is the ultimate engagement tool and free weekly sport sessions give the organisation a platform to recruit young people on to their programmes. Staff also give presentations at local job fairs, and referrals are made by schools, colleges, job centres, other charities, housing associations and youth offending teams. 

Jack Skinner, Sport4Life’s Business Development Manager, tells us: “We engage young people in three main constituencies – Ladywood, Hall Green and Hodge Hill – who are far from the job market, living in severe deprivation and in many cases have been involved in anti-social behaviour, gangs and crime. 

“Some are long-term unemployed and many have mental health problems such as anxiety and depression. They are generally disillusioned with the job market and simply don’t know how to do a CV or cover letter and go through the application process. 

“Our staff get to understand each young person through one-to-one mentoring. Sport is also a crucial element as it has a huge effect on self-esteem and confidence. The ultimate goal is to get them job-ready or facilitate pathways into education and training.” 



TEENS – this 10-week programme for 12-16-year-olds is a proactive intervention for young people highlighted as at-risk of becoming NEET (not in education, employment or training). It focuses on life skills development through sport, plus training, coaching and leadership qualifications, underpinned by one-to-one mentoring support. 

NEETS – this programme supports 16-29-year-olds who are already NEET, developing their employability and life skills, and helping get them into sustained, education, training or employment. This includes qualifications, structured sport sessions, formal mock interviews and workshops. 

Both programmes use sport to boost motivation, self-esteem, communication, behaviour and teamwork, while classroom activity leads to accredited qualifications and enhanced skillsets that boost young people’s prospects of future employment.  

image002 (1)The new Team Up Toolkit! 

Sport4Life have been heavily involved in creating an EU-wide toolkit which provides a framework for delivering successful sports-themed employability programmes to young people. 

Working with the charity streetfootballworld and eight partners in the ‘sport for employment’ sector, the project has been two and a half years in the making. 

The toolkit provides useful practical advice and guidance and is aimed at organisations who (a) deliver sports programmes but want to include employability activities, or (b) deliver employability programmes, but want to include football/sport as a tool. 


In 2016/17, 929 young people (83% BAME; 765 males, 164 females) engaged with Sport4Life, with 400 completing programmes. Of those, 141 completed the TEENs programme, 167 the NEETs programme and 92 meaningfully engaged in sports sessions and mentoring. 

Overall, those 400 young people achieved a combined 787 outcomes – 351 transformed at least one life skill, 262 gained at least one accredited qualification and, most importantly, 174 progressed from NEET to EET, with 67 achieving a sustained job outcome. 

Aside from the statistics, the most telling evidence of Sport4Life’s success comes from the voice of the young people themselves: 

DSC_0704Caitlin Kelly – “Sport4Life has had a massive impact on my life. I can never forget all the help they have given me.” 

Caitlin joined Sport4Life’s NEET programme after dropping out of college, suffering from mental health problems after a close relative’s death and associating with peers who were committing crime. 

Her Sport4Life mentors helped her set a plan to achieve her ambition of becoming a sports coach, helping her gain accredited qualifications in Sports Leadership and Life and Living Skills, linking her with a local business to do mock interviews and enabling her to lead a local social action event. She found a traineeship opportunity with Aspire and went on to secure a traineeship. 


fredericoFrederico Lucas – “I’m really glad I joined Sport4Life. They supported me a lot with my confidence, communication, and in getting my first qualification. I owe them a lot for getting me to where I am.”  

Frederico joined the TEENS programme aged 14 after joining in with their local free sports sessions in the deprived area of Soho, Birmingham. He developed life skills, attended personal development workshops and gained his Sports Leaders qualification. 

After completing the TEENS programme, Sport4Life kept in contact through football sessions, one-to-one mentoring and further leadership qualifications. “Even though the programme was over, the mentors took an interest in how I was getting on and helped me when I needed it,” he reflects. Frederico is now at college studying sport and regular volunteers at his local church. 


K6aQGNMD_400x400For more information on Sport4Life visit their website here.