Persistent Inequalities require tough choices ahead
Posted: Thu, 20 Apr 2023 17:54
Activity levels for adults in England increased last year and have bounced back to where they were before the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
The figures, which we've published today, show that the overall number of people playing sport and getting active has recovered, after participation fell as a result of the restrictions designed to slow the spread of the virus.
However, this masks some long-term trends and, despite a significant recovery over the last year, there are now nearly half a million fewer active young people (aged 16-34) than six years ago.
Activity levels fell across all places during the pandemic. However, Covid-19's impact on activity levels was greatest in the most deprived places (IMD 1-3).
Today's report shows that the scale of recovery also differs by deprivation level.
The least deprived places (IMD 8-10) have seen a full return to pre-pandemic activity levels, while mid-deprived places (IMD 4-7) have seen a partial recovery but remain 0.8% down. These places' activity levels are still above where they were in November 2015-16 (up 1.0%) when we started the survey.
However, the most deprived places (IMD 1-3) have fared far worse, with activity levels remaining below both pre-pandemic (down 3.1%) and November 2015-16 levels (down 2.6%).
To be frank the sector keeps saying the same thing. And putting out the same press releases saying we need to do more.
And there are changes taking place with more place-based working but they are not fast enough or on a scale to shift the dial enough.
At the Think Tank we are a critical friend to the sector and the funding bodies. It is hard to criticise people we know are trying hard and have good intentions to do better. But the real issue remains. With the limited resources made available to fund 'sport and physical activity' not enough is being spent on tackling inequalities. That should be the intervention from government and the lottery. Jumping in where there is market failure and the outcomes justify the investment. Tackling inequalities in provision and opportunity fits this criteria. Doing more of the same with softer edges does not.
We exist not just to promote producer interests but to create space to tackle these difficult decisions and choices that will lead to genuine change in these appalling inequalities. The government will get most from its investment in sport and physical activity by getting the most inactive active. We know it's hard but that must be at the heart of government policy in this area. And it will be risky. But the risk of doing more of the same is just too great.