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25 Jan 2021 | 10:10

The Sport for Development Coalition has launched a new initiative entitled ‘Adapt, Support, Respond’ which will shine a spotlight on how organisations across the network have adapted their services to continue supporting individuals and communities in need during lockdown, as well as how they are getting ready to play their part in the nation’s recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The initiative will showcase and share the response of sport for development to the third lockdown, and the pandemic in general, by some of the 160-plus charities and organisations within the Coalition, who have all signed up to the Coalition Charter and are intentionally using sport and physical activity to generate positive social outcomes such as individual physical and mental wellbeing, reducing unemployment and anti-social behaviour, and increasing community cohesion.  

Ollie Dudfield, Executive Director of the Sport for Development Coalition, said: “'Adapt, Support, Respond' will collate learning and evidence from across the sector on how the network is adapting in order to maximise its contribution to community resilience and wellbeing over the coming months. The need for all areas of the community to support resilience and wellbeing over the coming months will be critical as the wider social and economic impacts of the pandemic intensify.” 

SFDC launches 'Adapt, Support, Respond'

Personal wellbeing scores are at some of the lowest levels recorded since the beginning of the pandemic which comes on the back of the half of the 16 to 25-year-olds surveyed for the 2021 Youth Index reporting their mental health had worsened since the start of the pandemic. Meanwhile the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR)  has forecast that real GDP would fall by over 11% in 2020 with unemployment to reach 7.5%. 

The initiative will also serve to support organisations within the Coalition – having adapted during lockdown and the pandemic, and supported the recovery –  in preparing to respond to the post-Covid environment, becoming investment-ready and demonstrating to policy-makers and funders their capability to adapt and respond to the new realities and heightened social challenges brought on by the pandemic. 

It will also draw on evidence from previous lockdowns, and adaptations by organisations. For example in October 2020, StreetGames found that 66% of local organisations that it worked with, and were in receipt of Sport England ‘Satellite Club’ funding, had returned to delivering since lockdown restrictions began - despite it not being how they originally planned, or would like to deliver. Despite the difficulties being faced, most of these organisation still felt that their activities had helped more young people to be more active (69%); helped young people feel more positive towards sport/exercise (69%), and helped young people to build more regular activity habits (64%). 

Prior to the pandemic the social and economic value of community sport and physical activity was valued at £85billion, with every £1 spent on sport and physical activity generating nearly £4 in return across health and wellbeing, stronger communities and the economy. Researchers have estimated that if declining sport and physical activity participation levels are not reversed the lost social and economic value due to the pandemic is likely to be in the region of £6billion¹.

Read some of the first blogs published as part of the initiative: 

  • TACKLING ADVERSE EXPERIENCES: Boxing Futures uses sport and informal learning to support vulnerable young people. Founder and CEO Anthony York reports that the charity is currently operating at 15-20% during lockdown, but still supporting some of the most vulnerable young people in the local community, including some who are in care. He says: “Most looked-after young people come with a set of issues which can be complex, and being able to provide support for them at a time like this – as well as providing some respite for the foster carers – is seen as vital to reduce the risk of that placement breaking down.” In his blog for the Coalition Anthony explains: “It’s been very tough, but we remain optimistic and we will not let our heads drop.” Read more. 
  • IMPROVING WELLBEING: In this article Hannah Corne, Executive Director for Mini Mermaid Running Club UK, talks about the club’s work with children – particularly girls aged seven to 11 – and schools during lockdown, for example through a 5km challenge. “We hope that our organisation can make a significant contribution to the recovery from the pandemic,” she says. “We took the time over the summer to speak with schools and organisations in the sector and, across the board, we heard how vital our programmes will be as part of the ‘recovery curriculum’. Read more. 
  • INCREASING EMPLOYABILITY: “Young people always fare worse in a downturn, and the impact of this reverberates through the years,” says the CEO of Sport 4 Life UK, Tom Clarke-Forrest. The West Midlands-based charity is providing support for schools, key workers and young people through lockdown thanks to its online mentoring scheme, and has even managed to experience some growth during the pandemic as it responds to the demand for its services, and secured funding made available in response to the crisis. “The longer-term landscape is less clear, and there is likely to be an increased competition for funds,” says Tom. Read his blog. 

To hear the Coalition talk about Sport for Development’s role in the pandemic, and recovery from it, on BBC Radio 5 Live, click here. The national broadcaster also dedicated a Sunday breakfast show to the work of Coalition supporters, with School of Hard Knocks, Peace Players and Street League being interviewed live on air. Listen to the full programme here. 

To add your blog, contact [email protected] or if you have impact data that you would like to share, please contact [email protected]

1. Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee. Oral evidence: Sport in our communities, HC 869 on Tuesday 1st December 2020, Clarification of Responses.