Dallaglio RugbyWorks is an intensive, long-term skills development programme based on rugby, through which we aim to get teenagers outside of mainstream education into sustained education, employment or training.

It’s human nature to feel an inherent desire to belong.

Whether it’s within a family, a school friendship group, colleagues or a sports team, people need personal connections to feel like they fit in.

Often, family provide us with our first experience of this, but there is a small proportion of society that don’t find theirs, be it through family, school or even after school activities. Some children grow up with parents that have walked out, some have experienced addiction issues or violence from a young age, and some will have parents that simply aren’t there because they have to work all hours to make ends meet. Some will have negative experiences at school. These young people are not only often left without role models, they are left without a sense of belonging.

It’s widely documented that a squeeze on Government funding has meant a decline in youth clubs, leaving young people with nowhere to go. Unfortunately, some of these young adults are left with no other choice but to look for an alternative, often attracted into less desirable groups or gangs.

It’s estimated there are 27,000 children in gangs, and it’s perhaps understandable why this option looks so appealing to these vulnerable youths. Gangs provide security, structure, a community and most importantly, it gives them a sense of identity. These young people find points of commonality with other gang members who have had similar experiences and they can go on to fill the gap they’ve been left.

It’s a vicious circle though. When part of a gang, members often look to adopt some of the behaviours displayed by more prevalent members of the group in order to gain further acceptance, spurring on potentially destructive behaviour. With no adult guidance, it can lead these young people down the wrong path.

But belonging is a necessity, so if we don’t provide young people with other positive communities when one is lacking in their lives, then what choice do we leave them?

Much has been talked about the importance of ‘third spaces’ which refers to the places where people spend time between home (‘first’ place) and school / work (‘second’ place). These spaces can play a large role in strengthening our sense of community, but for these young people, often the first and second spaces are missing from their lives. Programmes such as ours look to fill this gap before more sinister groups take hold.

Charlie Taylor, chair of the Youth Justice Board and one of Dallaglio RugbyWorks trustees, reminded us that we need to keep children involved with purposeful activities so that they stay on the straight and narrow. Unfortunately, children who find themselves in a PRU (Pupil Referral Unit) or AP (Alternative Provision) are more vulnerable and as a society, we need to find and provide more spaces for these young adults to find their sense of belonging.

At Dallaglio RugbyWorks, we provide these lost children who have been excluded from mainstream education with a long-term skills development programme based on rugby. We provide them with a new network and a safe space to learn about themselves so they can fulfil their true potential.

The sessions help develop their soft skills, we teach them how to manage their emotions and how to put negative feelings into more positive outlets. The programme also guides them onto a suitable career path, ensuring they are exposed to essential workplace experiences – career taster days, workshops and placements – that lets them aspire to more positive, productive futures.

The career taster days are a fundamental part of what we do. Even as adults, we all need to feel as though we belong somewhere, and this can extend into the workplace. Businesses play an important role in supporting these young people, given them another safe space.

Alongside the work we’re doing, we believe that businesses can provide this. These young people have a lot to offer, whilst they may not have come from the background recruiters have traditionally looked for, many are very emotionally intelligent, are natural problem solvers, have learnt how to be independent and can think on their feet.

A steady job and a team can feel like a safe space, a community and this was further emphasised by Sarah Merrilees from BidFood, a partner of Dallaglio RugbyWorks who has hosted a series of career taster days. She was surprised to see the same youths return multiples times: “For these young people, it’s a comfortable and safe space for them to engage with us and learn what their future could look like”.

These young people are looking for direction, a place where they can feel part of a network and can flourish. At Dallaglio RugbyWorks, we’re working to provide as many safe spaces as possible, from coaching sessions, career taster days to campaigning for schools to be kept open during the summer holidays so we can support the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children in our society.

Could you be part of the solution? Are you an employer that could provide these children with an opportunity to change the course of their future? If so, we’d love to hear from you.

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Dallaglio RugbyWorks is a registered charity: 1130353 (England & Wales) SC046140 (Scotland) / Company Registration No: 6803046
Registered Address: Barclays Bank Chambers, Stratford upon Avon CV37 6AH