FIRST Minister Alex Salmond has shown off his ball skills at the launch of a programme providing football skills and training for some of Scotland’s most vulnerable young people, which has been awarded £600,000 through a scheme taking back money from criminals.
Street Soccer Scotland will receive the money to fund weekly drop-in sessions, personal development, coaching courses and one-to-one support to help men and women aged 16 to 25 get back on track and access work training.
The funding announcement was made by First Minister Alex Salmond during a visit to Fernhill community centre in Rutherglen, South Lanarkshire, ahead of a public meeting of the Scottish cabinet there.
A total of £500,000 is coming from the Scottish Government’s Cashback for Communities scheme to enhance training opportunities in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee.
A further £100,000 of Commonwealth Games Legacy funding will be used to extend street soccer activities to Perth and Inverness.
The programme aims to help young people who have experienced mental health problems, addictions and homelessness by diverting them away from crime and anti-social behaviour while giving them skills to change their lives.
The CashBack programme takes the ill-gotten gains of crime, recovered through the Proceeds of Crime Act, and invests them into community projects.
Mr Salmond was joined for the announcement today by Sport Secretary Shona Robison, Scotland under-21 midfielder Kenny McLean and young people from Street Soccer Scotland.
The First Minister said: “I am delighted to announce that funds seized from some of the very worst of society will provide those who have struggled at the start of their lives with fantastic personal and sporting opportunities.
“The Cashback for Communities scheme, introduced by this Government in 2007, has already invested £1.3 million in South Lanarkshire in sporting, employability training and arts projects, and is part of a wider investment of over £74 million for projects and initiatives right across the country.
“The total package of funding I am announcing today will enable Street Soccer Scotland to help even more young people in even more areas of Scotland.
“To come along and hear about the huge benefit this money will have is incredibly encouraging and I am grateful to Kenny for also taking part and meeting some of the young people benefiting from the scheme, as well as possibly unearthing some future stars for the Scotland football squad!”
David Duke, founder and chief executive of Street Soccer Scotland, said: “We know that football, and sport in general, plays a big part in improving the physical and mental health and well-being of our young people.
“Involving them in positive activities that divert them away from at-risk and anti-social behaviour helps them develop the skills and abilities they need to change their lives and future potential for the better.
“The funding will also provide pathways into formal education and learning and into employment and volunteering for young people in the heart of our communities, creating a positive legacy for the future.”