Community Sports: Impact on Young People - Motion to Take Note

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords am 3:31 pm ar 16 Mai 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Baroness Sater Baroness Sater Ceidwadwyr 3:31, 16 Mai 2024

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Wood, for securing this important and broad-ranging debate. I congratulate him on covering so much of the sporting sector in 15 minutes. I draw noble Lords’ attention to my interests in sport and health as laid out on the register.

The Sport England Active Lives survey 2023 paints an encouraging picture of participation in community sport but, sadly, also shows continued disparities. Children and young people of black, Asian and other ethnicities, as well as those from less affluent families, are still less likely to play sport or engage in physical education or activity. Girls are less likely than boys to be active, with the Women in Sport charity recently reporting that the gender activity gap is wider today than it has been since reporting began. Women and girls aged 16 to 24 are three times more likely to be affected by mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.

Sport England estimates that only 47% of children meet the Chief Medical Officer’s guidelines of at least 60 minutes of sport and physical activity per day. The Association for Physical Education is adamant that every child should receive, weekly, two hours of physical education and two hours of physical activity in school, and a chance of two hours of physical activity in the community. This will help develop the positive attitudes associated with continuing healthy, active lives in the community when they leave school. To make our children healthier and fitter for life, we must also put physical development at the heart of early years education and prioritise every child’s play with 60 minutes of physical activity daily.

How can we do more? The excellent physical education and sport premium must become a permanent feature of our future education budgets, with improved monitoring and greater accountability to enable teachers to plan their physical education and sport provision properly. It has more than proved its value since 2013.

The rise in obesity rates in children and young people is often spoken of in both your Lordships’ House and other places, but few practical solutions have been suggested. The roles of physical education, sport and physical activity are, by themselves, not a silver bullet, but they are practical tools to help reduce this trend. They merit more specific, in-depth consideration and collaboration across government departments.

These activities help address further societal problems, including helping at-risk children entering the criminal justice system and those already in it, for whom I am a keen advocate. These children face significant mental and physical health challenges and endure marked health inequalities. Their needs are multiple, persistent and severe, often shaped by their family and social environments.

The taskforce on physical activity and sport in the criminal justice system, which I chair, funded by NHS England and driven by the Alliance of Sport in Criminal Justice, launched the Get Well, Stay Well agreement in 2022, which helps improve, through sport, the well-being of those in and more likely to enter the justice and welfare system. We know that community sport and physical activities are positive interventions that help rehabilitate children and young people—from early intervention and diversion to sustained participation—and Get Well, Stay Well is now working with nine government departments to remove barriers to physical activity and increase health promotion.

The College of Policing research on sports programmes designed to prevent crime and reduce reoffending confirms that these programmes do just that, as well as discouraging criminal behaviour and related attitudes, and improving psychological outcomes such as self-esteem and emotional well-being. To deliver these important programmes, we need a vibrant and sustainable community sporting sector.

However, enabling sport and physical activity to solve this range of societal challenges—from obesity to criminal justice—in financially constrained times requires increasing delivery within existing community contexts and infrastructure in a cost-neutral manner. Crucial to this effort are facilities, including sports and leisure centres, swimming pools, playing fields and parks, and the opening of more school facilities to their local communities, not to mention the thousands of sports clubs all over the country.

I had the privilege of chairing StreetGames, which the noble Lord, Lord Wood, mentioned earlier, which delivers the doorstep sports programme, bypassing many traditional barriers to activity. It is a robust example of the community delivery we need so badly, reaching those young people who Sport England’s Active Lives report tells us we have been missing.

In conclusion, I would like my noble friend the Minister to comment on the fact that we must keep investing more in all our community sports and leisure centres, swimming pools, sports clubs and playing fields, and open up more school facilities to enable greater community access to both free and low-cost participation. We must ensure that schools provide more physical education activities every week, enabled by a permanent physical education and sport premium. Finally, we must ensure that we genuinely promote the value of sport and physical activity, as Sport England’s 10-year vision, Uniting the Movement, recommends, and support initiatives like the Mental Health Foundation’s Moving more is good for our mental health, published this Mental Health Awareness Week.

Physical education, community sport and physical activity benefit individuals’ emotional well-being, physical health and life skills, but their value to UK society is even greater. A happier, more active society is more successful, more equal and more economically productive—I am sure that my noble friend the Minister and everyone here today can agree on that.