Met-Track expansion on the horizon
With constant reminders of the ever present threat of terrorism these days, the value of schemes that prevent more young people falling victim to radicalisation cannot be over-stated. This is the main thread behind Met-Track's aspiration to expand its target age group from September 2016.
The time is fast approaching when the project will be told whether it has successfully secured a further four years of funding. If the outcome is positive, then the historic 10-17 target age bracket will expand to 7 to 21.
"The main rationale behind this," explained Project Director and Founder, John Powell MBE, "was to embrace both a preventative strategy toward offending and anti-social behaviour, but also to draw in those young Londoners entering further or higher education in environments that have been recognised as potential breeding grounds for extremist recruitment.
"We have high hopes of significantly increasing the value of the project in this exciting new phase," he continued. "Working with the Metropolitan Police Service, having our coaches briefed by their gangs unit as well as staff linked to the 'Prevent' (counter-terrorist) programme will be key to fulfilling our strategy moving forward.
"Young people crave excitement and are always seeking different ways to satisfy a huge thirst for status and recognition. Sport provides so much in so many ways, and leads to any number of positive pathways for young people who probably haven't given sport a second thought in the past."
If the BIG Lottery Fund, who have supported Met-Track since 2013, do agree to continue their support for a further four years, the project will still have to part-match that funding from other sources, but it will be a huge boost to one of the most successful youth diversion programmes in the country, and possibly prevent its closure at the end of the year unless further sponsorship is forthcoming.