Saints Foundation is the official charity of Southampton Football Club – it is the club’s way of giving back to the community. The charity works on a range of projects to transform lives in and around Southampton. Using the passion and power of the club, Saints Foundation aims to support people to become more involved, healthier and more empowered members of the community.
Eight years ago, Saints Foundation and Society of St James (SSJ), a Southampton-based homelessness charity, which provides a range of supported living services in Southampton, Portsmouth and across the rest of Hampshire, set up Saints4Sport to help people with substance misuse issues.
A different intervention
Dean Latona, Psychosocial Service Manager at Society of St James, has been a part of the Saints4Sport scheme since its inception.
He said, ‘Saints4Sport was originally embedded within SSJ’s Drugs Intervention Programme (DIP), which was a service for people with substance misuse issues who were part of the criminal justice system. These clients were historically some of the hardest-to-engage people that SSJ worked with.
‘After initially running some weekly football and fishing sessions, it became apparent that sport could be used as a tool for engagement and a catalyst for change. Many service users that were not engaging in Substance Misuse Treatment were now regularly turning up to Saints4Sport; without knowing it, they were receiving interventions that were beneficial to many of their issues.
‘Clients were often spending hours at a time attending Saints4Sport. By being at these sessions at the very least they were not using substances and not committing crime. But the actual benefit to the individual was much bigger than that; SSJ soon discovered people’s mental health, self-esteem, confidence and sense of belonging was also improving, alongside their substance misuse.’
The project grew and, today, Saints4Sport supports more than 500 adults each year across a multitude of activities to provide positive structure and routine through sports-based activities. Alongside this, it provides participants with accreditations and pathways to employment as they try to find their place in society.
Committing to outcomes
Over time, the project has delivered 774 qualifications and engaged more than 2,000 people to better the city’s community. Currently, the project offers 14 sporting sessions a week, alongside a comprehensive education and employment programme.
Saints4Sport has also opened avenues into employment for its participants, something SSJ’s Polly Whitaker, who is the charity’s Employment and Activity Co-ordinator, feels is of great value to all involved.
She said, ‘Saints4Sport has over the last six months set up partnerships with local businesses to provide pathways to employment. This has been through work experience, employment opportunities and volunteering. This local support gives our service users the opportunity to regain their confidence, learn new skills and gain valuable experience.’
For those who are in prison and feel unable to live within society, Saints4Sport offers a sport and resettlement programme. Delivered weekly at HMP Winchester, this scheme is for those wanting to better themselves before reintegrating back into the local community. To do this, the Saints4Sport team delivers an intervention that combines sport and bespoke workshops to help prepare prisoners who are due to be released.
The Saints4Sport project’s success is based on utilising the skill sets of both partnership organisations. On one side, you have SSJ’s knowledge and experiences of supporting people with complex issues such as substance misuse, homelessness and mental health, and on the other side you have Saints Foundation’s track record and understanding of using sport as a vehicle for positive change.
The initiative was recognised at the 2018 Markel 3rd Sector Care Awards where Saints4Sport received the award for Collaboration (Integration), reflecting the strength of the partnership and its outstanding provision. Being recognised alongside some of the industry leaders in the third sector has provided the partnership valuable time to reflect and redouble our efforts to help people transform their lives.
Lisa Latona heads up Saints4Sport and works tirelessly to help improve lives within the city, alongside SSJ’s Sports Co-ordinator Scott Jones, who co-delivers the programme. They both understand that winning the Markel 3rd Sector Care Award is a testament to teamwork.
Lisa said, ‘The Saints4Sport partnership feels truly honoured to be recognised for its commitment to positive change through sport within our local community. The team work hard to improve the lives of those hardest to engage and to receive the Collaboration Award is a true testament to the partnership work between Saints Foundation and Society of St James.’
Greg Baker is Head of Saints Foundation, overseeing projects that work with more than 19,000 people in Southampton each year.
Speaking about Saints4Sport, he said, ‘I am really proud of the work that both Saints Foundation’s staff members and Society of St James have done to improve the lives of people in Southampton.
‘It has been a long partnership, but one that every member of staff has put their upmost effort in to over the years. The results speak for themselves. Our staff have helped those who needed assistance the most to change their lives through sport, education and engaging activities.
‘The teamwork between the two charities cannot be underestimated, it would not be the project it is without each party and we at Saints Foundation are grateful for the support we have gained from SSJ.
‘We want to continue this incredible partnership, and, with the help of both our community and funders, we will keep transforming lives in and around Southampton, helping those that need it most.’ CMM
The Markel 3rd Sector Care Awards is run specifically for the voluntary care and support sector. See 2018’s winners and find out more about this year’s event. Sponsorship opportunities are available.
With thanks to our supporters: National Care Forum, Learning Disability England, The Care Provider Alliance, Association of Mental Health Providers and VODG.
The Collaboration (Integration) Award was sponsored by Markel.