18 SES 10 A, Marginalised Young People in Physical Education and Youth Sport
Internationally, there has been growing interest in the experiences of care experienced youth, with literature has highlighting the more significant needs and vulnerabilities of this population (Mannay et al., 2017). Further to this, the number of young people being removed from their families and placed in the care of the state is increasing globally. Within Europe, this perhaps reflects the increased movement of people across/between countries in recent months, with many unaccompanied migrants now entering care systems (EU Committee, 2016). In England, specifically, as of March 2019, there were around 78,150 children and young people in the care of local authorities, with around 72% living in foster-care and 12% in secure residential settings (DfE, 2019). While there are many similarities between the experiences of this population of young people globally, the terminology used to identify them differs (e.g. looked-after children, children in care, children looked-after). For the purpose of this paper, we adopt the term ‘care-experienced’ or ‘care experienced young people’ (CEYP) to better encapsulate the experience of being in care and the impact it can have on young people’s present and future lives (see Quarmby, Sandford & Elliott, 2018).
CEYP are routinely identified as one of the most disadvantaged groups within society and are viewed as being at risk of a range of adverse social, educational and health outcomes (Department of Education, 2017). Within the UK and beyond, concerns abound regarding the systemic underachievement of this group and efforts have been directed at narrowing the ‘outcomes gap’ by promoting involvement in activities that support physical, social and psychological development. Given the acknowledged potential for sport/physical activity (PA) (and related activities) to act as a vehicle for facilitating young people’s positive development (e.g. Holt, 2016) it is perhaps unsurprising to see calls for such activities to feature more prominently in the lives of CEYP. However, concerns have been expressed about the piecemeal nature of sport/PA opportunities for CEYP at a local level and their capacity to access these. Relatively few studies have considered the specific role of sport/PA within the day-to-day lives of CEYP and it is argued that more work needs to be done to access and articulate CEYP’s own lived experiences in this respect (Sandford, Quarmby, Hooper and Duncombe, 2019). Such a situation led Quarmby (2014) to assert that CEYP were something of a ‘hidden group’ in relation to sport/PA research, policy and practice and argued for more concerted work in this area. It was as a result of this situation that the project outlined within this paper was conceived. The project itself was a methodologically innovative study of CEYP in England (aged 8 – 25 years), which explored their perspectives on/experiences of sport and physical activity (PA). By drawing on the voices of young people, carers and local authority staff it was intended to provide a more holistic perspective on the factors that shape the sport/PA experiences of care experienced youth. Having sought in recent work to privilege the voices of CEYP (Sandford et al., 2019), within this paper we seek to provide a slightly different perspective; focusing on the data generated by those adults who work with/for this youth population and some of the complexities identified therein. As with the broader study, a theoretical framework informed by elements of the social-ecological model (McLeroy et al., 1988) and the conceptual tools of Bourdieu (Bourdieu, 1985) is proposed to help understand the complex social landscapes of care experienced youth and the structures/processes that influence individuals’ practices – including those related to sport/PA – within the broad field of the care system.
The project outlined here was a British Academy funded study concerned with examining the sport/PA experiences of CEYP in England and was undertaken over a period of 34 months (January 2016 – October 2018). A multi-method approach was employed, generating data through: a rapid review of policy documents; online surveys (for local authority staff and young people); interviews (with local authority staff and carers); narrative interviews (with care leavers); and semi-structured focus groups (with care experienced youth). As noted above, this paper focuses primarily on the data generated with adults. As such, it draws primarily upon the responses to the online survey and individual interviews, although the review of policy is also referenced as a means of providing valuable background context. The online survey for adult stakeholders was intended for anyone working with/for care experienced youth and, informed by the findings from the policy review, it sought to explore (among other things): what policies underpinned practice relating to the provision of sport/PA opportunities; the perceived importance of sport/PA for CEYP; and the potential facilitators and challenges associated with access to sport/PA opportunities. The survey was disseminated via Twitter, through various care organisations and by mobilising existing networks with local authority staff. A total of 19 responses were received. Following the analysis of the survey data, semi-structured interviews were conducted with key adults working with/for CEYP in local authority contexts (n = 4). With regard to analysis, the quantitative data from the surveys (i.e. resulting from closed questions) were collated and used to generate descriptive statistics (e.g. the frequency of a response given or the percentage of the cohort with a particular view). Qualitative data (i.e. the review of policy texts, open-ended survey responses and interview discussions) were then collated and analysed thematically, using a constructivist grounded theory approach (see Charmaz, 2014). In this respect, the raw data were first read and re-read by each of the authors independently, with codes being assigned to identify areas of interest and commonality across the data sets. Following this, the authors met to compare their analyses and identify and develop core themes. Throughout the analysis of data, a theoretical framework informed by the conceptual tools of Bourdieu (Bourdieu, 1985, 1986) facilitated an understanding of the lived experiences of care experienced youth and those who work/with for them within this complex landscape.
There was much agreement among adult stakeholders that sport/PA could play a valuable role in the lives of care experienced youth and facilitate their acquisition of relevant capital. Indeed, there were several notable benefits highlighted including physical and mental health/well-being, social connections and opportunities for skill acquisition. However, while 85% of adult respondents considered sport/ PA to be important for CEYP, only 38% felt that CEYP had access to these activities that was comparable to their non-cared for peers. In relation to this, a number of challenges were identified by the adult stakeholders, including low self-confidence, difficulties with travel/finance and the availability (and sustainability) of relevant support structures. However, it was evident within the study that there was some confusion over ‘whose responsibility’ it was to provide such support. The rapid review of policy documents revealed only brief references to sport/PA; yet where they are mentioned, they were identified as positive activities that could help to promote a sense of wellbeing (DfES, 2007; DoH, 2009; DfE/DoH 2015). Moreover, while some documents (e.g. DfES, 2007; DCSF/DoH, 2009) clearly state that carers are primarily responsible for ensuring that CEYP can access sport/PA, others (e.g. DfE/DoH 2015) were less specific with regard to responsibility. It is interesting, therefore, that 92.3% of respondents to the adult survey felt that it was the responsibility of schools to provide sport/PA opportunities for CEYP and notable that many of these individuals worked outside of the education field. In exploring such findings within this paper, we argue that it is important to recognise the joint responsibility of different stakeholders in supporting CEYP’s access to and participation in sport/PA and consider how findings from this project might usefully inform future practice in this area.
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