Physical activity project for young women launched at HMP Cornton Vale

10 March 2014

 prisoners try roller skating web.jpg

Youth Scotland launched a new physical activity project for female prisoners at HMP Cornton Vale on Friday 8 March. Breaking Barriers aims to increase physical activity, raise levels of educational attainment and improve the mental health of the young women in prison, all of which will have a direct impact on offender outcomes. The project looks to improve the young women's self-esteem and confidence, improve behaviours which lead to offending and provide sustained or improved physical and mental wellbeing.

The new project has grown out of work that was previously delivered in the prison by Youth Scotland's Girls on the Move project. Since 2010 the partnership between HMP Cornton Vale and Youth Scotland has grown in strength with over 100 women gaining a qualification through partnership work.

Breaking Barriers has been developed due to funding from the Gannochy Trust and has four main strands:

  • Participation involves events organised by the prisoners and Youth Scotland to engage high number of females in a range of physical activities, focusing on the feel-good, fun factor of being physically active. Activities will include dance, basketball, yoga, zumba, aerobics, pilates, table tennis and gym programmes.
  • Leadership involves young women gaining a range of nationally recognised qualifications and awards including Sports Leaders UK, Youth Achievement Awards, SQA awards, mentoring training, first aid and a range of sport-specific qualifications.
  • Health and wellbeing will link in with other key organisations delivering in the prison and in the community to promote all aspects of physical and mental wellbeing.
  • Training focuses on the sustainability of Breaking Barriers by providing relevant training for staff to ensure that the programme becomes embedded in the prison programme. 

To celebrate the launch of the project around 60 young women tried roller skating, demonstrating how physical activity can be positive and busting the idea that exercise is a chore.

One of the project participants at HMP Cornton Vale said: "The skating was a great mood lifter. We were buzzing with excitement before we came into the gym, loved it and felt great afterwards."

Rebecca Simpson, Youth Active Manager at Youth Scotland said: "It is great to see so many females being active and realising that physical activity can be fun and help you move outside your comfort zones. I am delighted with the funding from the Gannochy Trust and the partnership with HMP Cornton Vale, as it means we can really develop the work that has already been delivered and allow more young women to benefit from physical activity."

Allister Purdie, Governor of HMP & YOI Cornton Vale, said: "People in custody often struggle with mental and physical health problems, and the positive impact that regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle have on those issues cannot be underestimated.

"I'm delighted that our successful relationship with Youth Scotland, and the delivery of activities that promote physical activity to the women in our care, is being supported by the Gannochy Trust. I look forward to these services and the number of women engaging in them continuing to grow and develop within Cornton Vale."