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Families’ and children’s experience of sport and informal activity in Olympic areas of the East End

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Sport England is interested to know how families with children experience the following aspects of neighbourhood life: involvement in sport; access to facilities; activities for young people; and the engagement of young people in poor areas in the Olympic development. Sport England wanted evidence from our research tracking the experiences of one hundred families in the Hackney and Newham areas, close to the Olympic development. This study aims to uncover how bringing up children is affected by area conditions. The announcement of London’s successful Olympic bid appears to have provoked great interest in many of East London’s local communities. These events coincided with our entering the seventh round of our longitudinal study of families in deprived areas of Hackney and Newham. The families had expressed a high level of concern for young people as they matured beyond the bounds of the immediate family, but found very little to do within the areas they lived in. At the same time they had far too limited resources to be able to travel outside the areas to do constructive activities, as well as having related concerns over time constraints and travelling to unfamiliar locations. As a result, many young people in these areas simply hang around on the streets, either directly causing problems, or more likely creating a threatening environment for adults and local children. There is a high level of economic inactivity, truancy, and lack of access to jobs. The fear for the future of young people in these areas and their circumstances is acute. Local conditions, experiences and attitudes strongly shape and constrain young people’s active engagement in sport. The chair of Sport England asked us to help Sport England by adding questions specifically about the Olympics and about youth participation in sport to our last round of interviews. We also offered to re-examine questions that we had already asked (including data from interviews with one hundred families living in the north of England in a parallel study) relating to outdoor activity, local facilities, and the more general informal provision for children and young people that helped them to socialise.

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