Stars hail 'Life Changing' Street Elite programme for helping young London women find their voice and a job.
The latest group of young Londoners to benefit from a pioneering programme called Street Elite will graduate this month at three sports festivals taking place in Tower Hamlets, Ealing and Southwark.
The most recent government statistics shows knife crime in England and Wales has risen 14% over the last year. Fatal stabbings are on the rise in London in particular, while London councils have had to cut more than a third of their youth services and at least £22m since 2011.
In response, a training for work programme called Street Elite is using sport and mentoring to help these youngsters find their voice and find their feet in the employment market.
This year's programme has also had a strong focus on supporting young women - particularly from London's Muslim community. Research by the University of Bath and the Women's Youth Trust shows there are significantly more young women who are not in education, employment or training in the UK than men (432,000 vs. 376,000). Strikingly, 66% of these women are economically inactive, mostly due to caring duties, family expectations or illness.
Attia Mabud from Tower Hamlets, said: "As a young Muslim woman, you often feel judged when going to new places or meeting new people, but Street Elite has helped me to become more confident and happy in myself. I've been able to work out and be with a group of women in a safe and positive space. I am really looking forward to my work experience with Berkeley. It's a new adventure for me - the next stage of my life."
Street Elite involves nine months of intensive coaching and mentoring for young people aged 18-25. Sport is used to teach the participants about communication, team work and conflict resolution. It is specifically designed to help young adults move away from crime, gangs and isolation and get professional work experience.
Since it was launched in 2012, 402 young adults have graduated from Street Elite with almost 80% going on to further education, training or employment.
Arsenal and England footballer, Rachel Yankey OBE, who has helped coach this year's female group, said:
"It was great to spend time with the girls from the Street Elite programme this year, talking about hopes and fears, and ways that sport can change your life. Street Elite is an amazing programme and we should be very proud of these young women."
"As a business, we can directly help young people across London get off the streets and find their feet in the world of work. The graduates of Street Elite go on to become real assets to their communities and to companies like us. They have real talent and promising careers ahead of them. Right now, we have 15 working for the Berkeley Group."
Rob Perrins, Chief Executive of the Berkeley Group