- Because they work positively and proactively with young people. And young people tend to get a bad press so it is great to see this reversed!
- Because they encourage young people to get actively involved with their community, to engage through sport – and when they do, they see rewards for their positive action.
Because the rewards are all sports or healthy – living based, offering new opportunities, skills, and confidence building among youngsters who may not otherwise have those life chances.
So, I was thrilled to be invited along to the Holsworthy & Rural CATS group.
They were trying a Street Paddler taster session down at Bude Canal with instructors/group leaders from Outdoor Adventure, based at Widemouth. This is a diversionary scheme targeted at young people aged 13-19, at risk of offending or exclusion. Through canoeing, the youngsters thereby use their energies in a productive way to ideally keep them out of the youth justice system and instead doing something constructive. That strikes me as a simple, yet amazingly effective concept, something which CATS has engaged in since its inception in 2005, and which it is incredibly good at. Even the Prime Minister noted it in his recent Big Society Award to CATS UK.
So, 18 youngsters were invited to the taster session, with 16 managing to attend; great turnout. Of these, 12 will be selected for an 8 week programme starting in September. They will be able to work towards British Canoe Union coaching awards. Great for the young people who decide they want to go into outdoor education as a career or simply for enjoyment. Funded by Big Lottery monies, CATS are working with local Bude provider, Outdoor Adventure, for this scheme.
It was good to see 2 Holsworthy PCSOs at the event, too, taking the opportunity to get to know the youngsters better. They said: “it is good to attend this taster session to see what the young people do and who is involved. It helps us to engage and build relationships with the young people in a different setting”. Certainly, according to Ruth Bealing, Secretary of Holsworthy & Rural CATS: “it shows young people they can have a positive relationship with adults in authority such as PCSOs, sports leaders and teachers”. A member of the Holsworthy community college learning support staff, Ads, also took to the water with the youngsters.
Ruth has been involved with CATS since it began in 2005 at Budehaven, where she taught Citizenship. She explained that, for youngsters in and around Holsworthy, transport and rural isolation is a very real issue, so schemes like these are an incredible opportunity for the young people concerned.
Now, the September Street Paddler sessions are going to be a little different from the norm. Because of the rural transport issue, the youngsters will be bussed in from Holsworthy, but Holsworthy Youth Centre/Devon Youth Service has stepped in to assist in the time between school finishing and the Street Paddler session starting. These young people will spend their waiting time learning to cook their own food at the Youth Club, so they learn yet another new skill, go to the training well fed, and are not twiddling their thumbs waiting. An inspired touch, for they can also gain another qualification based around this. Another example of the expanding CATS scheme leading to very real opportunities for young people in the locality.