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'Changing Lives' report partly motivated by much of the excellent work in Folkestone and Hythe says MP Damian Collins

Contributed by editor on May 15, 2019 - 06:05 AM


Constituency matters... a weekly column by the Member of Parliament for Folkestone and Hythe, Damian Collins 15 May 2019



Changing Lives

This week the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee, which I chair in the House of Commons, has published a new report called ‘Changing Lives’, which focuses on the transformative power of culture and sport not just to enrich our lives, but to address a range of long-standing social problems.

When we started the inquiry, it was motivated in part by much of the excellent work that I have seen taking place in our area.

Over the last few years we’ve seen community programmes run by football clubs like Charlton Athletic and Gillingham, which have helped to re-engage young people with education.

The Sydney De Haan centre at Canterbury Christ Church university has conducted research into the power of music to improve mental and physical health. As a trustee of the Shepway Sports Trust I’ve seen many successful projects which have encouraged increased participation, and in recent years been impressed with schemes designed for older residents, particularly sports like walking football.

 


Sport and culture can also play and important role in challenging serious problems that affect the whole of society. The truth is that we cannot break the debilitating cycle of gang violence and knife crime only by arresting those who commit offences.

 Government statistics clearly show that custodial sentences in and of themselves do not necessarily rehabilitate young offenders. We need to look at identifying young people who are in danger of becoming involved in gang activity, or already have been in a small way, and diverting them from the dangerous path they are on.

In schools our inquiry has shown sport and culture can improve educational attainment as well as the wellbeing of the students. I remember a few years ago being told by the headteacher of Churchill Primary in Hawkinge, that he believed the increased levels of sport in the school were leading to improved academic standards from the students.

In the committee report we also cite the example of Feversham primary near Bradford in Yorkshire, where they have made music a central part of the curriculum and this has helped to improve results across the board.

In Folkestone we have also seen the important role creative organisations are playing in regenerating communities.

Yet despite this and the many incredible case studies we have seen as part of our inquiry, there is a lack of a credible agenda to harness the power of culture and sport across government. More needs to be done to co-ordinate and invest in community initiatives, share evidence of success and encourage others to emulate examples of best practice.

We should see more schools extending their cultural and sporting provision where it can be shown that it improves results. More should be done to use culture and sport to divert young people away from the pathway of offending.

More prisons should encourage partnerships with sports clubs to help rehabilitate young offenders. More creative partnerships should be developed across the country to support the regeneration of communities. Social prescribing should become a mainstream part of helping people recover from long term health conditions.

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