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Huw Edwards: 'We need a cultural shift across government'

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Huw Edwards, acting CEO of ukactive, has called for a "cultural shift" across government, in order for it to recognise the crucial role that the physical activity sector can play in improving the nation's health.

Edwards, giving the opening speech at today's Active Uprising conference in Manchester, said the sector's partnership with government needs to go "beyond" its current state and for all government departments to acknowledge the sector's as an important partner – rather than just an "afterthought".

"Our sector’s partnership with government and its institutions has to go beyond a signed Memorandum of Understanding, investment and a set of agreed objectives.

"This requires a cultural shift across government and its agencies to show how it values our sector and wants to work with us.

"It has the opportunity to draw much better on our expertise and experience to address some of the major challenges we face, and see us as an instinctive solution, rather than an afterthought.

"Although progress has been made, regrettably in Whitehall there are still too many of the same people discussing the same issues, leading to the same outcomes and sadly the same lack of change.

"Progress is being made in pockets, as demonstrated by our recent engagement with government on reviving our ailing high streets, with an agreement from the sports minister to meet with CEOs from our sector very soon.

"But this must be the norm rather than the exception. This is about changing the conversation so that Government and its agencies turn to us for solutions, for engagement, for answers."

"They must have that trust that we will deliver when called upon."

Edwards also pointed out how efforts to get the population more active are working – further proof that the sector can play a crucial role in easing the burden on the NHS.

"Our sector continues to grow and dominate the physical activity landscape," Edwards said.

"The latest figures show our sector is now estimated to be worth in excess of £5bn and the total number of gym memberships in the UK has broken the 10 million mark.

"Furthermore, the latest Active Lives Survey from Sport England shows that last year more than half a million more people were active through gym sessions and fitness classes than in 2017.

"Our own, latest Moving Communities report shows continued growth in female participation, with women now representing 54 per cent of all memberships in public leisure facilities."

The Active Uprising event is taking place in Manchester today.

The event will this year feature five strands: Challenging the Mindset, ukactive Kids, ActiveLab, Sweat, and Empowering the Workforce.

Consisting of keynote talks, workshops and parallel sessions, the event aims to set the agenda for the next five years of sector growth, with a focus on knowledge sharing that empowers every organisation to achieve its ambitions.

A new addition for this year, Challenging the Mindset will address some of the biggest challenges the sector faces today, such as facility development and widening participation, in order to foster a truly active community.

Elsewhere, the ActiveLab strand will again showcase some of the hottest new tech start-ups in physical activity; while ukactive Kids will explore family-focused engagement and coaching communities.

The boutique fitness market will be explored in the Sweat strand, while Empowering the Workforce will explore how organisations can unlock the potential of their frontline staff.

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Huw Edwards, acting CEO of ukactive, has called for a "cultural shift" across government, in order for it to recognise the crucial role that the physical activity sector can play in improving the nation's health.
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