Local communities in Essex are set to benefit from a major new funding stream from Sport England aimed at increasing participation in sport and physical activity.
Essex, one of the UK’s largest and most diverse counties beat off competition from over 100 other bids to become one of only 12 places in the country to be part of this game changing initiative. Around £100million of National Lottery funding will be invested in the 12 Local Delivery Pilot schemes over four years, to create innovative partnerships that make it easier for people in these communities to access sport and physical activity.
Currently 22% of the population across the county is classified as inactive, at a cost of £58 million per year to the NHS in Essex. To create real impact requires whole system change – that is the need for strong vision and leadership at the highest level and the collaboration of all stakeholders at all levels. The pilot will not follow a ‘one size fits all approach’ but instead investigate the individual needs and requirements of local communities in Basildon, Colchester and Tendring especially those with older people, those with a disability and lower socio-economic groups.
The Essex bid was submitted by The Essex Health and Wellbeing Board, Active Essex as well as Basildon Borough Council, Colchester Borough Council, Tendring District Council, the University of Essex and other partners.
During the three-stage bid process, Essex hosted a delegation from Sport England who met local people and projects in Basildon, Colchester and Tendring to understand the different barriers to participation in sport and physical activity including coastal deprivation, planning issues from new town developments and rapid urban growth.
Commenting on Essex’s success, Cllr John Spence, Chair of the Essex Health and Wellbeing Board and the County Council’s Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Social Care, said: “Sports England’s funding will allow Essex to tackle inactivity head on. Nearly one quarter of adults in Essex are inactive – doing less than 30 minutes of physical activity per week. Inertia puts people at risk of poor health and well-being in so many ways - it should be a worry to us all.
“Now the hard work begins; if we are to see step change in the amount of physical activity and sport Essex people are undertaking, we will need to work in strong partnership with key players across the County to make it happen.”
Mike Gogarty, Director of Public Health added: “We are absolutely delighted to be selected by Sport England to be part of this once-in-a-lifetime pilot. We have an incredible opportunity to tackle the issues of inactivity head-on and for Essex to become a beacon for best practice.”
Commenting on the announcement, Jennie Price, Sport England Chief Executive said: “We are delighted that Essex will be working with us on this ground-breaking investment. We want to get to the heart of the issues that stop people being as active as they might like to be, and work alongside every part of the community and the groups and institutions in Essex that support them.”
In order to meet the targets of reducing inactivity, Essex has committed to a new whole system change, meaning that close working between central and local councils and grass roots organisations will be at the heart of the approach. This will ensure that the programmes developed within the pilot meet the needs of each local community and create a lasting legacy of increased participation in physical activity and sport.
Azeem Akhtar, Chair of Active Essex, the County Sports Partnership commented on the importance of the pilot: “Twenty years ago, smoking was the national crisis, today it is inactivity. By engaging directly with local communities to increase the levels of activity, we can set a foundation for healthy lifestyles now and in the future.”
The three councils involved commented on the opportunities for their communities:
Cllr Gavin Callaghan, Basildon Council’s Chairman of the Policy and Resources Committee, said “Basildon’s involvement in the Sport England pilot will provide us with an exciting opportunity to tackle some of the issues around low levels of activity and share our findings with other communities in Essex and nationwide.”
Cllr Paul Smith, Leader of Colchester Borough Council, said “I’m thrilled Sport England wants to work with us to help overcome the barriers preventing some of our most vulnerable and marginalised residents from enjoying a healthier and more fulfilling life. Getting more people to embrace healthy active lifestyles doesn't just help to improve their mental and physical wellbeing, it is also an excellent way to bring communities together.”
Neil Stock OBE, Leader of Tendring District Council, said: “This is a real life changing opportunity for some of our residents who will benefit from this pilot in so many ways. We are extremely excited about this significant boost and see it as a once in a generation initiative. It has the potential to bring about real and tangible improvement to people’s lives and wellbeing, overcoming some of the barriers that are faced by coastal communities.”