The Theory Behind the Practice – Part 3

On Saturday 22nd February 2014 Street Soccer Academy held an event, SET APART, at Kings Church Centre in Bolton, attended by supporters, partners and sponsors. The key note speech given at the event by SSA Chief Executive, Andrew Thorp gave insight into Street Soccer Academy’s principles & practice, developed from a track record of working with people facing severe and multiple needs.

Following receipt of some fantastic feedback from the event it has become apparent that a number of our partners appreciated Andrew’s personal insight into working with our beneficiaries and have enquired about the availability of the content of the talk as a training resource.  Below is Part 3 of 3 of a summary of the content of the training available, which is published in the hope that it helps other organisations/groups develop a better understanding of the complex nature of working with people with multiple needs. Please feel free to check back on our blog to read Parts 1 & 2.

Part 3 – “The Tension between Grace and Truth”

At Street Soccer Academy we believe it’s equally important to emphasise values of grace and truth when working with people who have multiple and complex needs.

Grace represents the compassionate approach we adopt. Seeking to meet immediate need, going the extra mile, reacting to situations that arise; represented by providing food parcels, clothing bundles or emergency night shelter provision, all thanks to our staff and volunteers offering a dedicated support network that is available 24 hours a day.

We equally emphasise truth, fact, and empowerment of the individual, the importance of taking personal responsibility. We don’t want to repeatedly ‘fire-fight’ the same situations occurring in people’s lives but to empower them to take control of their situations and circumstances.

When you aim to place emphasis on both grace and truth when supporting people with multiple and complex needs, a tension can occur and this must be carefully managed.

Examples of tensions that can arise:

Grace                                                                                   Truth

Tolerance                                                                            Enforcement of Rules

Demonstrating Compassion                                           Administering Justice

Support and Care Provision                                            Challenging and Empowering

Voluntary/Charitable care                                               Statutory Services

Tolerance V Enforcement of Rules

Upon a successful referral we receive people into our environment accepting them as they are from the outset, but at the same time make it very clear on arrival that there are clear boundaries within which they must conduct themselves. This is agreed to by the signing of a code of conduct. If the agreement is broken then sanctions of discipline are applied such as ‘time outs’ to cool down or suspensions from certain activity.

When someone is suspended from attending a regional centre it is made clear that they still qualify for our wrap-around care. It is only the actual activity that they are suspended from. This enables us to continue providing support to individuals whilst sticking consistently with the rules that have been outlined.

Demonstrating Compassion V Administering Justice

Street Soccer Academy is built upon and was bore out of a heart felt compassionate response to the needs of less fortunate and vulnerable people who find themselves on the margins of society. Operating with a heart of compassion can uniquely position you in the life of someone who you wish to help but without counter-balancing this attitude with the fact that actions have consequences, the learning is incomplete.

In our environment we seek to explore the impact that negative behavior has on others by considering other people’s feelings and lives and how it is important to make choices that can create better outcomes and experiences for everyone involved. Understanding that all actions have consequences, which can be negative or positive, is a core part of our education programme.

When someone behaves unacceptably and a sanction (such as a ‘time out’) is applied, they are provided with a conditional offer for re-entry.  They must put right what went wrong. If they spoke out of turn and offended someone they must apologise to that person before entering back into the activity. If they refuse to do so they do not rejoin the activity until this is done.

What I am emphasizing here is the importance of education over punishment. Clearly explaining and demonstrating that actions do have consequences and it is the responsibility of the ‘offender’ to right their wrongs, to take personal responsibility.

Support and Care Provision V Challenging and Empowering

We are keen to avoid ‘fire-fighting’ the same situation time and time again on behalf of an individual. We seek to empower the individual to begin to be able to meet their own need directly without other people’s intervention. As an organization, refusing to educate and empower can ‘disable’ individuals’ capability and desire to take control and further fuel their reliance on our service.

Providing ongoing food parcels to the same individuals, without education can be a sign of lack of empowerment. Ensuring that individuals have basic budgeting skills can go a long way in empowering individuals on benefits or low incomes to be in control of their food shopping and diet. People on benefits in this country are still within the top 10% richest people in the world so after educating them on how to effectively budget, if they still profess to need food parcels we often challenge the reason why. We will not allow a reliance on us to develop where we provide for their nutritional needs allowing them to spend their money on non-necessities such as alcohol or fast food. If not managed properly this arrangement can become too ‘convenient’ for the individual and disempowering.

Voluntary/Charitable Care V Statutory Services

Even though many charitable and third sector organisations have been impacted by the economic climate over the past few years, there remain many voluntary/charitable organisations whose primary aim is to help support the disadvantaged and marginalised.

From a charitable organisation’s perspective, complimentary partnerships must be developed with statutory services in the field of welfare provision, where each other’s aims and objectives are fully understood.  When effectively positioned, voluntary and charitable organisations can demonstrate their value and worth to statutory organisations by ultimately helping them to achieve their targets by offering a mutually beneficial arrangement.

An example of this is our relationship with DWP. Many of our participants have obligations and requirements with JC+ as they seek work. The ‘Work Programme’ requires individuals to attend training programmes in order to aid them in their search for employment.  Our ‘vulnerable’ participants rely on regular access to our personal development programmes hosted at our regional centres, which in many cases sustains them with basic provision. Allowing participants to continue accessing our ‘regional centres’ whilst on the Work Programme offers a mutually beneficial arrangement that benefits all parties involved.

smsfitOne of the features at the SET APART event highlighted one of SSA’s developing programmes, streetfit. The sustainable health and wellbeing programme will extend the reach of Street Soccer Academy to the whole family unit. You can read about this exciting venture by clicking the link street fit logo.


Author Street Soccer Academy

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