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Sports sector calls for “stronger measures” to reduce inequalities

There has been a fall in the number of Black and Asian adults classed as physically active (Image: Sport England)

The National Sector Partners Group (NSPG) has called for stronger measures to reduce inequalities in physical activity.

The call is a response to the latest Active Lives study from Sport England, which shows there remain “long-standing inequalities” based on gender, ethnicity and disability. Women, those from lower socio-economic groups and Black and Asian people are still less likely to be active than others.

Worryingly, there has been a fall in the number of Black and Asian adults who are classed as physically active.

This despite Sport England saying it has put “tackling inequalities at the heart” of its Uniting the Movement strategy, which it launched more than three years ago, in January 2021.

NSPG – a coalition of lead representative bodies from across the sport, recreation and physical activity sectors – also highlighted how the UK is currently 11th out of 15 comparable European nations for activity levels.

“Data from the Active Lives study clearly demonstrates that we must work harder and faster to generate transformative change in our nation’s health and wellbeing,” the NSPG said in a statement.

“These results show a growing gap in levels of activity among different income and deprivation demographics. This was identified as a clear focus of the government’s Get Active strategy announced last year.

“We are still seeing little or slow progress with tackling long standing inequalities based on gender, ethnicity and disability. Men are still more likely to be active than women (66% v 61%), activity is less common for adults with disabilities or long-term conditions (48% v 69% for those without) and there has been a drop in the proportion of Black and Asian adults active now compared to 2015.

“There is also a clear issue with activity among the working age population, with stagnant growth among those aged 35-54. As the country struggles with economic inactivity and low productivity, this clearly demonstrates the need for more robust action to create a more active workforce that is not only healthier, but more productive as a consequence.

“Government must now set out in detail how it will dramatically increase activity levels, or risk missing out on the ambitious targets set last year, and work at pace with our organisations to effect this change.”

Lisa Wainwright, CEO of the Sport and Recreation Alliance – one of the NSPG member organisations – said: “Though it is encouraging to see activity levels recovering to pre-pandemic levels, over a third of our population is still inactive.

“This is costing the nation’s pockets greatly and with inequalities widening, we cannot afford to continue at this pace – bold action to harness the potential of our sport and recreation sector.

“Alarmingly, Sport England numbers are showing a decline in the number of volunteers – who are the lifeblood of our sector.

“With people’s incomes being more and more squeezed and club volunteer’s time being taken over by more administrative duties (25% increase since 2019), our members are increasingly struggling to recruit and retain workforce and keep our community clubs thriving. This is particularly acute in more deprived communities where inequalities are starker.

“This is further evidenced today’s numbers confirming that there is either a stagnation or decline in activity levels for lower socio-economic groups, women, disabled people and Black and Asian adults.

“We need bolder action and more ambition for our country to tackle this, where our sector is fully unlocked to support the renewal of the nation and activity is at the heart of all policies and strategies.”

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