Sunderland’s ‘highly impressive’ Foundation of Light wins praise in high places

Sunderland’s Beacon and Foundation of Light have been praised by a high-profile Government committee.

Tuesday, 14th May 2019, 6:00 am
The Beacon of Light
The Beacon of Light

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport committee, which includes Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott, visited the city as part of investigations for its report ‘Changing Lives: the social impact of participation in culture and sport,’ released today.

“We visited the Beacon of Light, a recently-opened sports, health, education and community space run by Sunderland AFC’s Foundation of Light,” says the report.

Damian Collins MP.

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“As well as sports courts, the Beacon’s facilities include a school for 13–16-year olds who are disengaged from mainstream education, a health and wellbeing zone to offer health services to visiting families, and a business centre to teach employability skills.

“The Beacon of Light estimate that they will generate £73million worth of social impact over the next twenty years.

“More broadly, the Foundation of Light delivers 49 different community programmes across South Shields and County Durham, encompassing employment, health, education and sport.

“We were highly impressed with the Foundation of Light and its devoted staff.

School Games at the Beacon of Light

“We saw for ourselves the opportunity for joy and new experiences that it was bringing for children and parents alike.”

Members also visited the city’s Music and Arts Quarter and heard from Rebecca Ball, director of Sunderland’s City of Culture 2021 bid.

Recommendations in today’s report include:

*Funding for community initiatives and organisations to help young people at risk of become involved in or victims of criminal activity;

Former SAFC players taking part in the first walking football session to be held at The Beacon of Light.

*A Government review to evaluate martial arts and boxing in prisons in breaking the cycle of crime;

*Ofsted inspections to assess the amount of cultural education offered in school and access to participation at primary and secondary level;

*The DCMS to set up and lead a cross-government group on the social impact of sport and culture, prioritising health, education, criminal justice and regeneration.

Committee Chair Damian Collins MP said: “Culture and sport play a major role in how we see our nation.

Inside the Beacon of Light

“What we’ve focused on in our inquiry is the transformative power of culture and sport not just to enrich the value of our lives but to address a range of long-standing social problems.

“We cannot break the debilitating cycle of gang violence and knife crime just by arresting those who commit offences.

“Government statistics clearly show that custodial sentences in and of themselves do not necessarily rehabilitate young offenders.

“In schools we have seen that sport and culture can improve educational attainment as well as the wellbeing of the students.

“Social activities like group singing and walking football can improve the mental and physical health of those who take part.

“Creative arts organisations are taking the lead in regenerating communities, and major sports clubs are using the power of their appeal to change life chances for young people.

“Yet despite this and the many incredible case studies we have seen as part of this inquiry, there is a lack of a credible agenda to harness the power of culture and sport across government.

“More needs to be done to co-ordinate and invest in community initiatives, share evidence of success and encourage others to emulate examples of best practice.

“We should see more schools extending their cultural and sporting provision where it can be shown that it improves results across the board.

“More provision should be made to use culture and sport to divert young people away from the pathway of offending.

“More prisons should encourage partnerships with sports clubs to help rehabilitate young offenders. More Creative partnerships should be developed across the country to support the regeneration of communities.

“Social prescribing should become a mainstream part of helping people recover from long term health conditions.

“I would also like to record the Committee’s recognition of the value of the work done by volunteers that give so many people the opportunity to take part in programmes across the country.”