Hitz has gone from strength-to-strength since its creation, run in partnership with the Rugby Football Union, the Metropolitan Police, Active Communities Network, the Mayor's Office, the Rugby Football Foundation, Comic Relief and rugby charity Wooden Spoon - recently seeing its 1000th young person complete the programme.
And former England and London Wasps full-back Lewsey was on hand to help garner more support on Wednesday as he highlighted the scheme more than a dozen MPs and officials in the Boothroyd Room at Portcullis House at an event created with the backing of the All Party Rugby Union Group. In attendance were Sir Tony Cunningham (Workington), Mark Pawsey (Rugby), Mary Macleod (Hounslow), Stephen Mosley (Chester, pictured), Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Limehouse), Simon Hughes (Southwark), Andrew Bridgen (North West Leicestershire), Dr Philip Lee (Bracknell) and Clive Efford (Eltham and Plumstead), the Shadow Sports Minister.
Along with discussing the good work the scheme does, Lewsey also handed out specially-commissioned Hitz rugby jerseys to the MPs present, produced by Gilbert, the official ball and rugby clothing partner of Premiership Rugby, and he was more than happy to help.
"You can be in any walk of life, be it politics, business, it doesn't matter, you can't inspire people the way sport does and this programme is fantastic at doing just that," said Lewsey.
"And there are some amazing statistics to come out of this scheme, whereby none of the kids who are involved in it were involved in any of the London riots.
"If you rewind the clock and relive your teenage years, you have a lot of time to kill, you are bored, particularly if you live in the middle of the city and you end up just filling your time.
"And sport provides that focus for people. It certainly did for me, I was a bit wayward and then all of a sudden I was given a path and really set my line to it and as fortunate enough to go on and really achieve some things.
"So schemes like this are fantastic not just for the participatory aspect but also the fact that they actually provide a bit of a legacy as the Hitz programme has gone on and helped people secure jobs, summer internships, places at college, and that is where the real difference is made."
Hitz targets young people at risk of anti-social behaviour and exclusion from school, introduces them to rugby to help build confidence and respect, whilst inspiring players of the future and identifying opportunities for apprenticeships, as well as workshops, training and education programmes for young people. It has been run in the London Boroughs by Harlequins, London Irish and Saracens and is about to move on to the next level with new programmes in Bath, Worcester, Sale and Newcastle.
"Our vision at Premiership Rugby is to see a Hitz programme attached to every Aviva Premiership club so is stretches the length and breadth of England," said Wayne Morris the Head of Community at Premiership Rugby."But to do that we need funding. Already we have seen Hitz's exemplary credentials backed by a number of organisations and we hope this will continue as the programme grows."
One man who knows just how important the Hitz programme can be is Mr Fitzpatrick, who is the MP for Poplar and Limehouse. As honorary president of Millwall Rugby Club he has seen first hand the work the scheme does and believes it being spread across the country can only be a good thing.
"We had the privilege of having Josh Lewsey come down and participate in a session with the kids a couple of years ago," he said.
"And it was fantastic and I just wanted to come and say thanks because anything that stimulates kids in the community educates them and keeps them fit and healthy is fantastic - it really is a win-win."
A young person in long-term unemployment is estimated to cost the state around £100,000, rising to £300,000 for those that fall into crime. With Hitz targeted precisely at reducing the number of 11-19 year-olds who fall into that bracket by encouraging them to remain in education, undertake apprenticeship schemes or enter paid employment, the scheme has attracted many admirers.
"Rugby is our hook to provide social change as well as focus on health and wellbeing," Morris added. "Hitz tackles drug and alcohol misuse and the problem that gangs can create. It's about supporting young people to aid social change. We try to provide opportunities for those who have less opportunity than others."
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