Youngsters pictured from chest down playing football on an outdoor pitch

The effectiveness of sport as a tool to tackle youth crime has been analysed by Welsh academics and their findings will now be used to help inform police leaders.

Experts at the Welsh Institute of Physical Activity, Health and Sport (WIPAHS), examined four programmes which supported almost 4,000 young people across Wales to see how they could be optimised to help reduce young people’s involvement in crime. Among their findings was the need for forces to share best practices and improve communication about lessons they have learned by offering physical activities.

WIPAHS is a pan-Wales network which sees all eight Welsh universities working with Sport Wales and Welsh Government. It brings together academia, those facilitating physical activity and sport, policy makers and the public to help create a healthier society.

WIPAHS has just released its third annual report which details the projects and themes its experts have been involved with over the past 12 months.

One of the key programmes was an evaluation of Active Education Beyond the School Day initiative which sees schools provide access to sport and physical activities outside school hours.  The researchers discovered how the policy had built successful relationships between schools and their communities as well as increased engagement in sport and physical activity.

Much of the research featured in the report came about following a series of WIPAHS roadshows attended by practitioners and academics across Wales. The events were so successful the team is already planning more for this year.

Other projects in the report include:

  • The 60+ Active Leisure Scheme which aims to encourage activities for older users at local authority leisure centres;
  • Nordic walking for younger people with taster sessions offered in secondary schools by a training instructor; and,
  • An evaluation of Actif North Wales, partnership of 18 organisations seeking to address key health inequalities and physical activity challenges in the region.

Established in 2019, WIPAHS is made up of representatives from Swansea, Cardiff, Bangor, Aberystwyth, Cardiff Metropolitan and Wrexham Glyndwr universities, the University of South Wales, University of Wales Trinity Saint David, and Sport Wales.

WIPAHS Co-Director Professor Melitta McNarry, of Swansea University’s Sport and Exercise Science department said: ”It’s been a great year for WIPAHS with many interesting projects that have impacted practice and policy across Wales. Indeed, this has resulted in the expansion of our theme leads to include a public affairs and policy lead which we hope will help us continue to achieve our aims of translating research into real-world impact.

“The collaboration of all higher education institutes across Wales is invaluable and we thank all our collaborators for their hard work over the past year.”

Co-Chair of the Institute’s Strategic Management Board Owen Hathaway, from Sport Wales, added: “We know that to ensure we invest our funding and broader resources in the most impactful way, that must be based on evidence, and WIPAHS continues to offer the critical challenge and constructive research needed to guide that.

“The annual report is a fantastic showcase of the quality and breadth of its work, with a pan-Wales focus and I am very much looking forward to how that goes from strength to strength over the next 12 months.”

Co-Director Professor Kelly Mackintosh added: “It is all very well doing research, but the important thing is to translate that research into practice. So having people ‘on the ground’ who are responsible and at the heart of promoting physical activity across Wales seeking advice or evaluations from us is not only crucial, but a pleasure.”

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