Loughborough colleagues contribute to key sport Commission

Last week marked the end of the Chiles Webster Batson Commission on Sport and Low-Income Neighbourhoods.

The Commission examined the importance of place-based, neighbourhood organisations that offer sport and physical activity as a means of improving lives with a focus on best practice in growing sports-based intervention in disadvantaged communities.

As part of the report, Loughborough University colleagues Dr Caron Walpole (Research Associate) and Dr Carolynne Mason (Senior Lecturer in Sport and Social Justice) provided evidence to its Community Safety roundtable and Dr Clare Holley contributed to The Holiday Gap roundtable.

The main findings were: 

  • Persistent inequality in access to sport and sporting facilities contributes to health inequality and that lack of access to sport is an inequality in and of itself as children and young people in disadvantaged communities have less access to the public health benefits that arise from taking part in sport including confidence building, development of social networks and skills and strengthening community cohesion.
  • Locally Trusted Organisations (LTOs) have a vital role to play in tackling this inequality. LTOs are rooted in the community, are inclusive and share a common aim to enhance the lives of local children and young people through capitalising on the assets that exist in the community. LTOs can be youth centres, community safety or health projects, or community halls and tend to be voluntary, community, and social enterprise sector (VCSE) organisations. LTOs have established relationships with local families and organisations and are trusted by local people to provide in the ways that young people want to access it.
  • Despite recognising that LTOs have a vital role to play accessing funding is an ongoing challenge for LTOs which inevitably impacts on their ability to deliver and to be sustainable in the long term.

Jane Ashworth, part of the Commission secretariat added:

“In addition to the contributions from LTOs across the country, the Commission benefited hugely from the involvement of academics who were able to provide the latest evidence around the role of sport in addressing pressing social issues. Loughborough’s expertise in sport and community safety and sport’s role in addressing food poverty were both important contributions to the review.”

During a celebration event at the House of Lords in London, Dr Mason commented:

“The inequality in access to sport for children and young people growing up in low-income neighbourhoods was the starting point for this commission in January 2020.

“This ongoing inequality has been further exacerbated by the pandemic and the impact of the cost of living crisis is likely to result in additional challenges for families and for the LTOs that support them. The commission has confirmed that for some young people the sport that LTOs offer provides a safe haven and a place to go and belong which connects them to adults they can trust.

“The challenge now is to ensure that LTOs access the resources they need to continue their work as part of attempts to tackle inequality and to promote vibrant and inclusive communities.”

More information about the commission can be found on the Chiles Webster Batson Commission on Sport and Low-Income Neighbourhoods website.