Offering Young people an alternative to crime through Sports and Education

Our Mission

“Our objective is to create social, sporting and work experiences that will install confidence and motivation for children providing them with opportunities and pathways towards a positive future.”

Changing Lives is an early intervention and prevention project aimed at raising children’s awareness about the dangers of gangs and gang activity to prevent children getting involved in criminal activity.


Chris Vince

— Councillor for Harlow Council

“Having been over to see sessions run by Changing Lives. I feel very strongly that this service is not only vital for those young people who attend but also for our town. We have seen an increase in anti-social behaviour and gang related activity and those who are involved getting younger and younger. As well as providing young people with the opportunity to find alternatives such as sport and dance, and the associated life skills. Changing Lives also doesn't shy away from the dangers involved with carrying knives and drugs. Seeing a light bulb moment when it was explained to him by a visitor speaker that if you handle a knife which is then used in a crime you could be implicated in that crime due to finger print evidence- shows the power of such an activity. Changing lives will do just that and give young people the opportunity to build team work and relationship skills which will be vital in there lives. With cuts to Essex Youth Services the project needs our support.”

The Changing Lives Project was set up in June 2018 by a partnership formed between David Simmons (Flick Trick Sports) and Ben Doyle (SK Sports). They both worked across Harlow for schools and have seen the lack of positive activity and participation in sport of young people, combined with the increased risk across the town of crime, gangs, and anti-social behaviour.  We came together and developed the project to tackle these issues.

The project has already helped over 1000 children to date. The project collaborated with Harlow Council, Essex Police, NHS and Link Asset Services has been a huge success. The aim of the project is to get young people who are vulnerable in getting into gangs or gang crime behaviour into new sports and offer them opportunities, learning pathways and to teach the key values. We do this through free sports taster sessions combined with an hour of mentoring and behavioural insight from Essex Police and the NHS.  The sports have been  varied and from local sporting groups such as Kazen Kai Martial Arts, Harlow Rugby Club, SK Sports and Flick Trick Sports delivering fun and engaging activities.

There has been a dramatic rise in Anti-social behaviour in Harlow (30% rise)  and the fact that the Harlow Gangs Advisory Group (GAG) and Early Help and Start Well subgroups have identified growing concern about children as young as 10 being exploited for the purposes of gang activity and involvement in running County Lines. In addition it is clear that there is a lack of early intervention and prevention provision to raise children awareness about the dangers of gangs and gang activity to prevent children getting involved in criminal activity. This project therefore meets an identified local need.  

In Harlow the proportion of adults who are overweight or obese (66.1%) is in the mid range of districts but is slightly higher than the national average (64.6%). At 36.2% Harlow has the highest proportion of children aged 10-11 in the county (the Essex average is 30.7%) and the figure is also higher than the national average of 33.3% in 2014/15. Compared to the county average Harlow has a lower rate of physical activity levels in terms of organised sport participation (31.7% compared to 35.4% of adults) and as part of a club membership (19.6% against 22.9%). Residents should do more to improve their levels of physical activity in order to benefit their health, to achieve a lower risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke and coronary heart disease and this may mean creating more opportunities for people to do so.

‘Essex Local Authority Portraits A product of the Essex Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA)’

Currently London gangs are exploiting young children into carrying drugs, knives and money. There has been a 30% rise in anti-social behaviour and this project will hopefully bring these statistics. They are travelling down and recruiting young children to widen their network. Anti-social behaviour has risen in Harlow and potentially could rise to the same levels of London. The project is to help those young people that are vulnerable and are at risk. We are receiving referrals from Schools, local authorities, social services and Essex police of children that are at risk and that will be attending. The most vulnerable will be picked up by a local mini bus.