One year of Street Soccer Foundation – how football helps disadvantaged young people in Kent

This week marked the start of the Street Soccer Foundation’s first programme of 2018 in Kent. The organisation works with vulnerable young people aged 18-24 and has proven to be a success.

It has been a year since they became official partners with Gillingham FC. Since launching their initiative to support disadvantaged young people, the Foundation has decided to broaden its profile of participants to include both the homeless and unemployed.

Keith Mabbutt, founder of the Street Soccer Foundation, is confident their work is a success.

“We’ve got a programme that is making an impact socially,” he said.

“It’s a professionally run programme — our team is made up of those with social entrepreneurialism. That mixture combined, the enterprise and employability angle, has really helped the content and delivery for the youngsters who are on board. ”

The organisaiton can boast a 100% success rate since their first programme — every participant has secured either a job, education, or training.

Coach Simon Hodge believes the football coaching is a way to prepare players mentally for work.

“Teamwork involves working with others, and how that looks on a football pitch may not be too dissimilar to how it works in an organisation. You still need to have that common goal and that common aim,” he said.

Although football is the common theme throughout, the scheme’s real aim is to give participants the skills needed to get them employed. And that’s where the classroom sessions come in — participants learn employability skills like CV writing or interview preparation.

22-year old Michael King, one of the early graduates last year, had been homeless for six months after being forced out of his mother’s home. For him, the scheme has really proved beneficial.  In the last few months he has found his own accommodation and has started working at Barnet Football Club.

He said he remembers the employability work shops fondly, particularly the help help for interview techniques. “I used that in my interview and it worked quite nicely for me,” he said.

“With CVs, I had a really good CV, but it was nice to kind of know what each bit is for. I didn’t truly understand it before.”

Street Soccer hopes to bring people from diverse backgrounds together. In the case of graduate-turned-ambassador Chris Kemp, who encourages new participants to take advantage of this free course, his troubled background highlights the programme’s inclusiveness.

“I was severely bullied at school,” he explained.

“There were some days when it got really bad — I got set alight in the changing rooms, and another time I had a knife up to my throat. But when I found out about Street Soccer Foundation, I thought it is for me because no one’s judgemental.”

With the latest programme now underway, and Street Soccer continuing their work with young people in need of help, it’s the transformations to the likes of Michael and Chris which fill the 15 new participants with hope.