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THE OBSERVATORY for Sport in Scotland and Street Soccer Scotland have finalised a ground-breaking research project that will focus on the work of the sport charity to change the lives of people from backgrounds of poverty and trauma in and around Dundee.

Research links a growing percentage of the Scottish population disengaged from physical activity to social deprivation and inequality. The OSS is investigating and evidencing the reasons behind declines, and working with partners to understand sustainable solutions using sport to help affect sustainable lifestyle change.

This research project will by led by the OSS and a group of its research associates and research assistants, but also involve Edinburgh Napier University staff and students, and will focus on the Lochee area of Dundee, which statistics show to be the ‘drug death capital of Europe’, with a drug-related death rate three-and-a-half times that of England and Wales. Dundee’s crime rate is the highest of any Scottish region and the city has the second highest child poverty rate in Scotland, with a third of children in Lochee qualifying for free school meals – almost double the national average – and very low literacy and numeracy skills.

OSS CEO David Ferguson and Street Soccer Scotland player Issy enjoy a cup of tea in the new Dundee facility.

Street Soccer Scotland have taken on the management of a community facility, the Lynch Centre, which will be the focus of its work, with wider engagement of the community in researching, evaluating and shaping its development to enable and empower change across the local community.

David Duke, founder and CEO of Street Soccer Scotland, said: “Since 2009 we have been using football to empower people who have been excluded and isolated. We’ve brought people together, changed lives, and created positive change for the future. At Street Soccer, everyone has a safe place to belong, to be supported and not to face judgement.

“We have created a strong network all across Scotland, into London and beyond, and we have a very exciting project now about to be launched in Dundee.

“We have supported hundreds of people, focusing on positive relationships, confidence, self-worth, mental and physical health. Our work has enabled people to see that they have a positive future full of opportunities, and we have helped people believe they deserve that future. In our 2020 Census, 100% of players felt their life had improved since joining us, and the stories we hear daily of people making positive changes in their lives is why we do what we do.

“We want to make the most of every opportunity and make the most of every impact. A 2018 SROI evaluation showed that for evert £1 invested in Street Soccer there is a wider social return of £9.50, and our Prisons Programme can demonstrate a saving of over £600,000 through supporting people to reduce reoffending.

“But we want to make sure we’ve having a much of a positive impact as we can, and making sure we’re reaching the people who need our support. Working with research partners the Observatory for Sport in Scotland and Edinburgh Napier University, we will identify where the real impact is, where we can do more, and how we can spread our model across Scotland for wider positive change.

“‘Players always come first’ is our highest value, and this project will put our players at the heart of this research, allowing them to tell their stories, and help us work out how to support people in similar situations even better. We hope the research will magnify the voice of our players, who are often under-represented and un-heard, empowering them to help shape the solutions to social issues.”