Sport Aberdeen’s SPACE project supports care experienced children and young people to improve their physical and mental wellbeing, and enhance key life skills through the power of sport and physical activity.
Established in 2020, the project strives to follow The Promise, Scotland’s guarantee to ensure all care experienced children and young people grow up loved, safe and respected.
Kim McRobbie, Active Schools & Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager, and Katrina Carr, Active Schools Coordinator, shine a light on the work of the SPACE project, how they support care experienced young people through sport and physical activity, and how they adhere to The Promise as a framework for the project.
“The SPACE project evolved from the Looked After project which began in 2016,” says Kim.
“After gathering feedback from young people and taking The Promise into account, where the importance of terminology is so key, we changed the name of the Looked After project in 2020 to SPACE – Supported Physical Activity for Care Experienced.
“SPACE has a real focus on care experienced young people and their wellbeing. The core value of SPACE is about a child-centred approach, providing bespoke, one-to-one support for each young person, allowing their voice to be heard throughout all areas of the project.”
Based on understanding that relative poverty adversely impacts on health and wellbeing, Sport Aberdeen provides free memberships to all care experienced children, young people and a member of their support network.
The membership provides access to a variety of activities including swimming, ice skating, golf, padel, tennis, tubing and more. Sport Aberdeen works collaboratively with Aberdeen City Council’s Virtual School, using the power of sport and physical activity to make a positive impact on the wellbeing of children.
Katrina explains the Virtual School further: “It is essentially a tool that assists all schools in the local authority area to support care experienced children and young people.”
Through the bespoke support provided, the children and young people have the freedom to choose the sports or activities they participate in as part of their sessions through SPACE.
“The sessions are completely led by the young person we are supporting,” says Katrina.
“For secondary school pupils, these sessions are built into their school timetable and tailored to the timings which suit them best. For example, if they struggle to attend school after lunchtime, we provide our activity session with them at this time. This extends their school day by an extra 45-50 minutes, which is a huge accomplishment for the young person.”
In addition to the practicalities of the sessions, Katrina expresses how important it is to build relationships with young people.
“Becoming a positive role model and developing an effective relationship with our young people is key. If they enjoy engaging in SPACE, this can give them just that little extra push to stay in school and continue their education, improving their attendance as well as their mental and emotional wellbeing.”
One of the key foundations of The Promise states that it is crucial to listen to the child or young person’s voice, allowing them to be involved when decisions are made regarding the project.
Kim explains that the project outcomes of SPACE are aligned with the needs of the young people, always putting them first and ensuring their voices are heard.
“Our project activators work with care experienced young people on a one-to-one basis, and the support provided is tailored to their individual needs.
“We lead by example, ensuring that even in meetings where the young person is not present, their voice is still heard.”
The SPACE project team are vocal about the impact that their work has on young people. The project is award-winning and has helped to change the lives of many young people who have participated.
Katrina says: “With the sessions being fully led by the children and young people, it’s really great to see them have the freedom to decide what they would like to do.
“Compared with a set timetable at school, young people have the independence to choose their sport or physical activity, as well as when they would like to do it within their day.”
“In our team, we tend to see parts of the young person that perhaps school or social work don’t see,” Kim adds.
“We are able to see the impact that the project has on a young person first-hand as a result of empowering them through having a voice.”
Katrina agrees, circling back to the relationship building with the young people: “We always take a child-centred approach which helps to develop trust with our young people.
“Some of our young people like horse-riding, whereas others like boxing or playing tennis or football. We also engage with our young people through community-based initiatives such as walks and talks and accessing local green spaces.
“SPACE is a life-changing project and it is always rewarding for us to recognise that our one-to-one support is making a real difference.”
“It’s a privilege to be part of a nation-wide commitment for our care experienced children and young people.”
When asked about how useful The Promise is for the SPACE project, Katrina explains: “When we look at the foundations, and review these against the SPACE project, it’s really helpful to have The Promise as something to strive for.
“It’s a privilege to be part of a nation-wide commitment for our care experienced children and young people. With SPACE, we are always looking to introduce new ways to support our young people, so I’d say The Promise is really influential in our project’s work.”
Kim says: “As a result of The Promise, we are able to provide valuable support for our care experienced young people.
“We use the framework for self-evaluation of our work, and this is beneficial.
“Looking ahead to the future of SPACE, we will continue to give young people a voice to shape the project as it is always evolving. Earlier this year, we hosted family fun days at a couple of Sport Aberdeen venues, and we hope to organise these again.
“The days provided an opportunity for care experienced children and their families to come along for an afternoon of fun and food and enjoy different activities including basketball and football.
“Our passion and desire to give care experienced young people the opportunities they deserve will continue, and we look forward to helping to change more lives.”
For further information about Sport Aberdeen’s SPACE project, visit the website at sportaberdeen.co.uk/active-schools/projects-and-events/space.
To find out more about The Promise in Aberdeen, visit ACVO’s dedicated webpage at acvo.org.uk/thepromise.