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House of Lords committee to scrutinise UK government's record on increasing participation in physical activity

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The House of Lords' National Plan for Sport and Recreation committee has invited sporting organisations and members of the public in the UK, to provide their views on how to tackle the barriers which prevent people from taking part in sport and physical activity, as part of an inquiry into the government's performance in relation to participation.

As part of its work, the committee held a session today (9 December 2020), to which it invited three industry leaders – ukactive CEO Huw Edwards, Sports Think Tank director Andy Reed OBE and Lisa Wainwright, CEO of the Sports and Recreation Alliance – to give evidence during a session chaired by Lord Willis of Knaresborough.

One of the committee's main aims is to examine the success of the UK Government’s 2015 strategy on sport, Sporting Future: A New Strategy for an Active Nation.

In particular, the committee is scrutinising whether the strategy's five outcome priorities (physical health, mental health, individual development, social and community development and economic development) were the right ones and how successful the government has been in delivering on them.

The committee is also exploring whether the government's methods used to collect data are successfully capturing an accurate picture of how people participate in sport and physical activity – and how these methods could be improved.

“In 2015 the Government launched its Sporting Future strategy, which followed a long period where we saw significant investment in sport, after the introduction of National Lottery funding and the 2012 Olympics," Lord Willis said.

"However, we have also seen stagnant physical activity rates and changes in the way people keep active.

"The time has come to ask whether the Government has the right priorities for helping more people to live active lives.

“Our inquiry will only be as strong as the evidence we get and I would encourage anyone with an interest in these issues to give us their views.

"We would love to hear from people delivering sports and recreation at the grassroots to understand what help they need to get more people active," said Lord Willis.

In addressing the committee, Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive said: "There has been successes linked to the strategy, particularly around how sport and physical activity is valued.

"I think Sporting Future's follow up strategy from Sport England, Towards an Active Nation, has delivered and generated greater collaboration between the national governing bodies of sport (NGBs) and also from the fitness and leisure sector," he said.

"Before the pandemic, there were also green shoots of success around the nation's overall activity levels.

"That said, the impact of COVID-19 has had a transformative effect on all sectors. What I think is needed now is a brand new vision and strategy not just from Sport England and UK Sport, but from the government as well, which considers how we reset some of the challenges we now face."

During the session, Andy Reed added that the strategy has had an impact, but that whole system change will take time.

"Sporting Future has begun making an impact, but I think we need to put it into perspective," Reed said.

"We're looking at a nation that has designed physical activity out of its system over a 30- to 40-year period.

"What Sporting Future has done is change the emphasis from counting participation in sport – mainly through the Active People Survey – and shifted the focus to the wider measure of activity, which I think we can all agree is the right one.

"While shifting everything takes time, it's clear that organisations have now recognised that their role has to change.

"They will no longer simply deliver programmes on behalf of Sport England – now they are part of a whole system change, creating an ecosystem at a local level which builds physical activity back into people's lives."

• To watch the session in full,

click here for Parliament TV.

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The House of Lords' 'National Plan for Sport and Recreation committee' has invited sporting organisations and members of the public in the UK, to provide their views on how to tackle the barriers which prevent people from taking part in sport and physical activity, as part of an inquiry into the government's performance in relation to participation.
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