Sport England has identified 12 places it will work with on a bold new approach to build healthier, more active communities across England.
Around £100 million of National Lottery funding will be invested in the pilot scheme over four years, to create innovative partnerships that make it easier for people in these communities to access sport and physical activity.
By focusing intensely in 12 areas, Sport England wants to identify better ways to address these stubborn inequalities and break down the barriers that stop people getting active, such as poor transport, safety, cost and confidence. And it wants to encourage wider, collaborative partnerships which look at how all parts of a community can better work together to help the most inactive.
From the transport links and street lighting to the quality of parks and open spaces, to how sport and activity is promoted by GPs. Partnerships will encompass organisations beyond the sport sector such as voluntary groups, social enterprises, faith organisations and parenting groups.
Jennie Price, Sport England Chief Executive, said: “On our assessment visits to choose the pilot places I was vividly reminded that the barriers to getting active might have little to do with the activity itself, yet this is where we often start.
“I talked to one older lady who was very keen to start swimming again, but to do so she needed someone to sit with her husband who had dementia, a bus that stopped on the right side of a busy junction for the leisure centre, and a session with people like her in the pool rather than lots of children for example.
“Working with all of the partners in a local area means for the first time we can think about that broader range of issues and work right across the local system to address them.”
The 12 pilot areas are Birmingham and Solihull, Bradford, Calderdale, Doncaster, Essex, Great Exeter, Greater Manchester, Hackney, Pennine Lancashire, Redcar & Cleveland and Middlesbrough, Southall, and Withernsea.
Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Chair of the LGA’s Culture, Tourism and Sport Board, said: “Councils are helping people get out and about and become more physically active on a daily basis, but we need support to look at what works best and has the biggest impact. These pilots offer a fresh approach to how Sport England can work with local authorities and their partners on the ground to reach out to the quarter of the population who struggle to be active.
“There is huge ambition within local government to break down the barriers for those in their communities who cannot take part in sport or physical exercise. Sport England’s extension of these pilots from 10 to 12 will bring these benefits to more people and a greater chance to find out what really does and doesn’t work. Sport England’s strategy pledged to spend £130 million on these pilots so we will be seeking assurances that the £30 million not announced today will also be allocated to local areas as originally set out.
“Previous approaches to investment in sports participation has not produced the results hoped for and this new funding for 12 pilot areas is an opportunity to fundamentally rethink how we engage people in getting active, with potential to expand this to all council areas. If successful, this will provide a major long-term cost saving for the country, preventing the need for treatment further down the line which places significant extra pressure on the NHS and social care.”
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