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Government publishes national plan for sport, health and wellbeing

Government publishes national plan for sport, health and wellbeing

Today the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) published Get Active: A Strategy for the future of sport and physical activity, which sets out the Government’s national plan for sport and physical activity. 

The Government will work with former athletes, health professionals, Active Partnerships and other experts to help an additional 3.5 million adults and children get physically active by 2030. To do this, the strategy outlines three core priorities:  

  1. Being unapologetically ambitious in making the nation more active; 
  2. Making sport and physical activity more inclusive and welcoming for all so that everyone can have confidence that there is a place for them in sport; and 
  3. Moving towards a more sustainable sector that is more financially resilient and robust.  

London Sport welcomes the Government’s intent, as it clearly sets out its direction for grassroots sport and physical activity, whilst reinforcing its strong link to mental health and wellbeing. We are pleased with the Government’s collaborative engagement with key organisations and sector groups, including the Active Partnerships Network, as it built up its strategy. This engagement has enabled a joined-up approach and has aligned sector and Government priorities, also reflected by a focus on targeting investment using a place-based approach. However, London Sport believes that the Government’s current commitments do not go far enough. New levels of investment are needed to tackle the significant issues facing grassroots sport and physical activity – differing from those facing elite sport – such as the inactivity crisis and its related health inequalities.

Currently, physical inactivity is responsible for one in six premature deaths in the UK and is estimated to cost the NHS in the UK nearly £1bn annually1. 4 in 10 adults are not meeting the recommended levels of activity, amounting to over 17m adults in England, and for children, only half are meeting the recommended activity levels, with 1 in 12 children are doing no activity at all. This is especially felt in the most deprived areas, with children being three times more likely to be inactive compared to those in the least deprived areas, and adults to be twice as likely. In addition, it was reported last week that a further 4,000 hours of PE have been lost from the curriculum in state-funded secondary schools in the last academic year.  

The Government calls on organisations that deliver sport and physical activity to go even further on the challenge of building a healthier and more active nation, but the right level of resource is needed to ensure this happens. Challenges to the sector have only been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and more recently the ongoing cost-of-living crisis. Our research shows that the current cost-of-living crisis is negatively affecting the physical activity levels of more than a third (38%) of Londoners, with the largest impact being felt by ethnic minority communities in London (57%), as well as young people and individuals with disabilities or long-term health conditions also being disproportionately impacted. We are also seeing huge numbers of people changing their active behaviours (66% in London, 46% nationally), with 1 in 5 switching to free activities, adding to the pressure felt by community facilities with rising energy costs.  

We know that being active can improve mental and physical health, potentially saving the NHS billions, reduce loneliness, and even help children perform better at school. Taken together, the benefits of physical activity can be used as a valuable tool to support the Prime Minister’s priorities, namely his fourth Mission: to alleviate the stress on the NHS, as well as supporting mental health services, education, and the community.  

London Sport CEO Emily Robinson said:  

“We are pleased to see the Government’s new strategy outlining ambitious new targets for increased activity levels and a renewed focus on working in the places with the greatest need.   

Active Partnerships like London Sport who are close to their local communities and understand what is needed to help people get moving are ideally placed to help deliver on these commitments. 

However, the new strategy fails to bring forward any new Government investment to tackle the challenges our sector is currently facing – brought on by the pandemic, energy crisis and the increased cost of living. Without additional support, there is a strong risk of activity levels continuing to decrease, facilities closing down, and wider long-term impacts on communities across the capital.  

We therefore call on the Government to commit additional investment to ensure that the ambitions set out in this strategy can be met. By realising the immense potential of an active nation, we could generate billions of pounds of savings for the NHS, but also improve the wellbeing of thousands of communities across the country.” 

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