Right to be Active: Exploring care experienced young people’s experiences of sport and physical activity

Year: 2019

Author: Sandford, Rachel, Quarmby, Thomas, Hooper, Oliver, Duncombe, Rebecca

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The Right to be Active (R2BA) project was an innovative study of care experienced young people (CEYP) in England which explored their perspectives on/experiences of sport and physical activity (PA). It was conceived in response to research suggesting that, despite such activities being of potential benefit to CEYP, this vulnerable/marginalised group may not have access that is comparable to their non-CEYP peers (Quarmby et al., 2018). The project was undertaken over a period of 36 months and comprised four phases. During phase one, a review of relevant policy documents (i.e. those related to the health/education of CEYP) was undertaken to identify how access to sport/PA was situated within them. In phase two, national online surveys were distributed to both CEYP (n=48) and adult stakeholders (n=13) to provide contextual information about CEYP’s perspectives on, experiences of and access to sport/PA. In phase three, semi-structured interviews were conducted with adult stakeholders (n=4) and activity-based focus groups were conducted with CEYP (n=63 in 6 different regional contexts) to further explore/elaborate on the survey data. In addition, narrative interviews were conducted with care leavers (n=4) to explore their reflective perspectives/experiences. Finally, in phase four, repeat focus groups were conducted with CEYP (n=40 in 4 contexts) to refine the interpretations of the focus group/narrative data.

Following an outline of the broader study, this paper will focus on data generated with/by CEYP, which highlight that the complex social landscapes they navigate can be influential in shaping access to and experiences of sport/PA. The CEYP survey identified that while 83% of respondents considered sport/PA to be important, only 40% felt they had the same chances to participate as their non-CEYP peers. Moreover, whilst CEYP could recognise clear benefits from participating in sport/PA they also identified notable challenges. The data generated through the focus groups enabled further elaboration on these findings and highlighted three key factors that shape CEYP’s participation in sport/PA: people (carers, social workers, teachers), places (homes, schools, leisure centres) and activities (structured/unstructured, recreational/competitive, traditional/alternative). These factors influence both the perceived benefits and challenges of CEYP’s sport/PA experiences, all being mediated by the care contexts within which they reside. The findings emphasise the need to focus on CEYP’s voices in order to better understand the complex, highly individualised nature of their sport/PA experiences.