THE BLOG

The New Sport Strategy, the Most Inclusive Ever

19/05/2016 15:03 | Updated 19 May 2016

Today, a new chapter for grassroots sport begins. A bold and fresh approach to address not just how we introduce people to sport, but how we best use the power of sport to deliver wider social benefits.

Sport has the power to benefit all members of society. Yet, as the new Sport England strategy rightly points out, those who do the least activity stand to benefit the most. And, for the first time investment will be steered towards mobilising inactive people.

This is good news if you're one of the millions of youngsters from a disadvantaged community at risk of becoming or remaining inactive. An active lifestyle is more commonly adopted by the more affluent. Nearly three-quarters (70%) of adults in the most affluent groups of society meet the Chief Medical Officer's recommended target of 150 minutes of heartbeat-raising activity a week. If you're one of the most disadvantaged adults, this drops to 51%.

Sport for good creates the opportunity for disadvantaged young people not only to play sport but also to reap the multiple benefits of being active in a positive social setting - such as, creating positive friendships, building self-confidence, a sense of belonging and self-efficacy.

We know how delivering sport in the right style, at the right time, for the right price, in the right place and by the right people, can all change people's lives for the better. Take Ashleigh for example, a young lass from North Tyneside. She had an incredibly difficult childhood - after losing her mum at a young age and being expelled from school, she found herself homeless aged just 16.

This all changed when Ashleigh started taking part in sport sessions, and after two years she became a volunteer mentor at the local project. Taking part in sporting activities boosted her confidence and really made her come out of her shell. She's become an impressive role model for the young girls in the club and is now applying for jobs as a local youth and support worker in North Tyneside.

There are many young people like Ashleigh who could benefit from the power of sport.

Critics who say the strategy has gone too far miss the point. This is not about ripping up what we have now and starting again. No one wants to see the established sports clubs struggle and investment will need to be given to the governing bodies of sports to hold what we already have.

However, a rebalance of how public money is spent is over due and inactive people in disadvantaged areas will not only be an effective way to reach inactive people en masse but will achieve the other ambitions set out in today's announcement.

The new approach to volunteering is a significant and welcome change. In the past, volunteering was valued as cost-effective way to mobilise others. Now the focus is on seeking out the benefits that can be gained from volunteering. It's great to see that the value of volunteering to the individual and to the wider society has been realised.

We are particularly proud of our 3,000 StreetGames' Young Volunteers. The vast majority (85%) of these 14-25 year olds live in the most disadvantaged 25% of the country. By volunteering with a community sport project in their neighbourhood, they have the opportunity to develop their leadership and communication skills whilst also learning to coach fun sport sessions for typically under-active people. The experience widens their horizons as they do interesting activities with their group. Last year, 400 of our volunteers took ran the activities programme at the StreetGames' summer camp and took part in residential learning experiences where they gained a sports leadership award but also overcame their fears by pushing themselves to try new things outdoor activities.

This change in direction matters to all of us. Through the National Lottery, Sport England invests around £500 million in sport every four years, which has a huge impact on the way we all play sport.

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