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Strategic Priority

Sport and Physical Activity

Sport & Physical Activity Sector

Throughout the pandemic, the government prioritised the importance of physical activity, permitting basic exercise at all times. Active Essex wants to capitalise on this momentum and ensure the county’s sport and physical activity sector can thrive. Collectively we need to be capable of supporting the counties economic recovery, reconnecting our communities and ultimately changing people’s lives.

The Essex sport and physical activity sector is broad and dynamic, yet Covid-19 has and continues to severely test the resilience of community sports clubs and organisations. The pandemic clearly raised the importance and profile of physical activity, and the Active Essex strategy builds on the positive spotlight that the pandemic has shone on this, acknowledging the challenges our sector currently faces.

Current state of play:

jobs in Essex working in community sport and physical activity
£500 million
contributed to the Essex economy from sport and physical activity

Sector Support

Active Essex have been working to help recover, grow and sustain our clubs, organisations and deliverers. Our initial response tackled immediate problems for our sector to get up and running.

  • Keeping in touch & guidance: a newly branded and more frequent sport and physical activity monthly newsletter and updated guidance on the website.
  • Funding support: through Return to Play, Find Your Active small grants, Tackling Inequalities Fund and wider Essex recovery funds.
  • Marketing & Comms support: new Find Your Active activity finder, new partner Notice Board on our Website, promotion through blogs and case studies.

More recently, we have looked to support our sector build resilience and sustainability, providing bespoke capacity building support to organisations. Main areas include;

  • Expert advice on legal structures
  • Good governance
  • Creating robust business plans
  • Fundraising strategies.

Further to the success of this work we supported the creation of the Essex Leisure Operators Forum. A platform for local authority leisure providers and their contractors to share successes, challenges, and new ways of working.

The support has been very useful, helping our understanding about the structure of the club and what we need to become aware of. This has helped with applying for grants and therefore on a longer-term basis our sustainability. The changes we have been able to/will make with this information has been invaluable.
Ability Using Sport

People, Culture, Skills

As a sector we strive to provide positive, inclusive experiences so everyone can enjoy an active lifestyle and be free from harm. We must work harder to ensure our organisations are setting the same standards for our workforce.

Over the past year we have been working closely with our employer, education and skills partners to better understand the current landscape and collectively look at how we get to a better future. As part of the East Region Sector Skills Pilot with CIMSPA we have undertaken an OTNA with over 100 employers or Sole traders and accessed a Labour Market Report through Emsi. On the back of this work, we launched the Essex Sport & Physical Activity Skills Advisory Panel made up of industry leaders and skills specialists, to act as a sounding board and drive change.

We have also started to address some of the immediate issues, such as skills gaps, recruitment challenges and career pathways knowledge. These areas include;

  • - Kickstart – ran a sector specific webinar with Essex County Council Skills team.
  • - Apprenticeships – We continue to work with Coach Core
  • - Traineeships: introduce partners these and linked with CSL offer
  • - Training and CPD; Essex Health Series, Holiday Activity and Food deliverer programme
  • - LIT; Young Leaders programme with FE students
  • - Careers Support; focus groups, college talks & Careers Magazine

Moving forwards our People, Culture and Skills plan will launch in April 2022 which will sit alongside ‘Fit for the Future’. A robust Action Plan will show how we shift the focus from filling vacant roles and training individuals in response to immediate labour market need to a longer-term ambition of people -centre cultures.

Our People, Culture and Skills work is also reflected internally, we have an improvement plan for the organisation and our Stretch Groups drive this plan. These groups are made up of the Active Essex team and current cover;

  • - Ways of Working; Hybrid Model Approach, Meeting Structures, sharing of learning
  • - Team & culture; People Development, Our Culture, Wellbeing
  • - Impact; information gathering tools, reporting and delivery
  • - Comms & Marketing; Strategy, engagement plan, campaigns and events

An area of work established through the Team and Culture Stretch Group is our People Plan. This outlines our commitment to People Development and is essential to enable Active Essex to achieve its goals. We support staff by understanding their learning and development needs, supporting aspirations, nurturing individual talents, ensuring equality of opportunity and enhancing organisational capability. We are in the process of reviewing our People Plan which will look at our current recruitment and onboarding processes.

I would say the biggest strength of the organisation, is our high staff retention; this proves that staff are looked after, valued, and continue to evolve in their roles.
Staff Satisfaction Survey

Embedding Physical Activity into the wider System

Covid-19 has had a huge impact on our NHS, and we want the Sport & Physical activity sector to be recognised as a key partner in prevention and recovery. We’ve been working with colleagues in Clinical Commissioning Groups, and Primary Care Networks to establish clearer more supported pathways for individuals.

Across Mid and South Essex, we now have a Cancer Pre/Rehab Exercise Referral route from the Cancer Services into our local leisure facilities. Across the footprint each Leisure Operator has at least one Level 4 Cancer trained specialist to lead the classes and a central, single point access set up for Cancer Nurses to refer into.

Embedding physical activity as an integral element within our wider system partners service and workforce has been another focus area. We have delivered bespoke physical activity training for partners such as the Essex Child and Family Wellbeing Service, Leaving and Aftercare teams and Mental Health Services, supporting practitioners to embed physical activity within their work.

Covid-19 has exacerbated the disparity in access to sport and physical activity opportunities and we must support our sector to return holding this firmly in mind. We will continue to speak with local partners and their voices will feed into our imminent launch of the People, Culture & Skills plan setting out a collaborative approach for a better future across the county.
Simon King, Sport & Physical Activity Lead
Simon King