All communities across Essex, Southend and Thurrock can use the power of physical activity and sport to build resilience, connection and wellbeing. Active Essex is playing a huge role in enabling communities to strive, whilst understanding what each local area needs and the strengths within it. Most of us live our lives locally, and our activity habits are shaped by the places we live.
Strong communities are so important for Essex as they create a sense of belonging and purpose, which dramatically improves overall health and wellbeing. The pandemic showed everyone in Essex the incredible acts of generosity, neighbourliness, and community spirit which sustain us in bad times and in good times.
Through the strengthening community’s priority, work has been undertaken to level the playing field and break down barriers to enable more people to be active, especially within the most disadvantaged communities.
The stats below indicate the scale of the issue at the launch of the sectors Fit for the Future strategy in this particular sphere, and highlights the important need to address.
Current state of play:
*Essex Active Lives Statistics in 2019-2020 on Socio-Economic classification
Active Essex has significantly developed place-based locality working over the past few years through the hub model in support of the levelling up agenda. With strong networks in local communities, it has enabled them to understand local cultures, strengths, challenges, and opportunities.
Communities are best placed to understand their own cultures, their own needs and how they can help each other. Active Essex are using citizen-led approaches, by putting communities at the heart of decision making to tackle the root causes of the inequalities that currently exist.
An initiative adopted by the Essex Local Delivery Pilot is Asset Based Community Development (ABCD), which demonstrates that local assets (people and physical assets) are key to ensure sustainable community development, focusing on what is strong.
Working with the most inactive communities, Active Essex continue to develop physical activity opportunities and are delivering behavioural change campaigns to reduce inequalities for the county’s most marginalised groups.
Active Essex’s work in tackling inequalities can be showcased through:
- The Essex Local Delivery Pilot – tackling population levels of physical inactivity in our most
- deprived and isolated communities
- Behaviour change initiatives and campaigns – inspiring residents to create healthy, long lasting habits
- Tackling inequalities fund (now called the Together Fund) – supporting ethnically diverse communities, disabled people, people with long term health conditions and lower socio economic groups most affected by the pandemic, to become more active.
Campaigns such as This Girl Can Essex, Essex All Together and Find Your Active, are supporting participation for women, disabled people, over 65s, deconditioned adults and people with long-term health conditions. A key learning in the past year has been a shift away from social movements, and instead adopting social marketing and behaviour change campaigns. An integral part of their success has been through extensive market testing to understand what communities require and the use of ambassadors has helped drive messaging locally. More people than initially hoped, have been engaged due to relatable content, inclusivity, and the collaborative nature of being community led.
Ambassadors within local communities have played an important role in championing physical activity and inspiring residents 'like them' to get involved in positive movement. They help provide anecdotes and lived experience of the many ways individuals can get active and help motivate them to follow a similar journey. Active Essex have grown their reach through the Find Your Active campaign and supported ambassadors to develop their skills and training, as well as help them to deliver led walks, community support groups and further their career.
The Essex Local Delivery Pilot has adopted community-orientated systemic change to unlock truly ground-breaking initiatives in tackling physical inactivity. A community-based project that has flourished is the cycling initiative, Essex Pedal Power; giving eligible residents in Clacton and Jaywick Sands the opportunity to receive a free bicycle. This is a great example of the Active Essex LDP, influencing system change to level up cycling in disadvantaged communities, through Essex County Council’s sustainable transport policy. The pilots success is currently leading to this programme being replicated in other areas across the county.
Inequalities widened further during the Covid-19 pandemic, and this was particularly concerning as the sector had seen the gap in activity levels begin to reduce for some under-represented groups. It has therefore been one of Active Essex's aims to work collaboratively with partners and organisations to support those most inactive, helping build more resilient, inclusive communities. Sport England’s tackling inequalities fund (TIF) has created the opportunity to support more seldom heard communities facing inequalities in activity levels and health across Essex, Southend, and Thurrock.
Videos have been produced to showcase the range of groups supported in the county through the tackling inequalities fund such as; Ghana Union in Harlow, Refugee Action in Colchester, Essex Cultural Diversity Project, Chelmsford Hindu Society and Efua Sey.
*Statistics accumulated from Sport England and Active Essex Impact Tool
It is central to the Active Essex ethos that physical activity and sport should be open and accessible to everybody. They strongly value diversity and strive to ensure that opportunities are available to all but do recognise that there are inequalities in participation opportunities which affect specific sections of local communities.
Active Essex is committed to being an anti-racist organisation and has been proactively working to tackle the racial inequalities that prevent or discourage people from leading active lives and enjoying the benefits of sport and physical activity, whether as participants, volunteers or by working in the sector. Active Essex were early adopters of the Race Equality Code and work in this area continues.
Essex ActivAte is the name for the Holiday Activity and Food programme across Essex, run by Active Essex on behalf of Essex County Council and Thurrock Council, funded through the Department for Education. During 2021 additional funding was also provided by Essex County Council to extend the offer to low income working families who also require support during the school holidays. This programme took place during the Easter, Summer and Winter holidays. Essex County Council also funded Active Essex to deliver clubs during the half term.
Every Essex ActivAte programme provides FREE access to holiday activity and food clubs, delivering a range of fun physical and enrichment activities, providing a healthy lunch, nutritional education, mentoring and support for the whole family. The clubs are aimed at engaging and supporting young people who are eligible for benefits based free school meals and other young people who are identified as needing this additional support.
*Essex ActivAte parent/carer feedback form 21-22
Although all clubs were inclusive, with a dedicated wellbeing and inclusion ambassador, Active Essex recognised the need to also provide SEND specialist and Mental Wellbeing hubs. With this learning, they were able go on to provide 4,000 SEND specialist spaces across the county.
To continue supporting young people and families at home, the ActivAte team provided a fun-filled online/at home offer every school holiday, including a total of 8 different activity packs, over 100 online sessions and support from 6 dedicated family support organisations.
*statistics provided by Department of Education and Essex ActivAte analysis
Sport and Youth Crime prevention
Active Essex are working with partners including: the Essex Violence and Vulnerability board, Essex Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner team and Youth Offending Services. Together they highlight the effective role that sport and physical activity has on engaging and supporting young people who are at risk, or involved in the criminal justice system. Youth crime and violence can be prevented through the use of physical activity interventions.
In the latter part of the 21/22 year, the Active Essex Foundation, Active Essex’s charity arm, successfully secured grants from the National Lottery Community Fund and the Essex Local Delivery Pilot totalling £500,000 to establish the Foundation as the lead organisation in Essex for sport, youth crime and prevention. This funding will ensure work can undergo to develop, support, upscale and showcase a network of locally trusted organisations who use sport as a key intervention for this target group. This will also build the evidence base around the positive impact that sport can have.
For the first time in the Foundations history, 2 members of staff have joined the team to ensure greater impact can be had on the lives of Essex residents and in ensuring further funding can be applied for.
Active Essex continue to build collaborative relationships with a range of partners in the Criminal Justice System, including The Essex Violence and Vulnerability Board, the Police, Fire and Crime Commission, Youth offending Services and Essex Police. In October 2021 we worked with Essex Police to deliver the Essex Kick off @ 3 event, to break down current barriers and build more trusting relationships between young people and Essex Police.
Developing and sustaining place-based physical activity programmes through advocacy, funding and resources including those provided by the Essex Local Delivery Pilot and Active Essex Foundation, has started to take place. By bringing networks together through Share and Learn events, has helped highlight best practice and promote partnership working.
Umbrella organisations such as CVS teams, Essex Association of Local Councils, Essex Council for Voluntary Youth Clubs, Active Networks and Essex Cultural Diversity Project, have been recognised as pivotal players in the Active Essex ecosystem, supporting other community and voluntary organisations. Through these collaborative partnerships, the co-design of new projects and securing of grants is improving activity levels.
Place-based working and understanding local ecosystems is allowing Active Essex to continue to support community organisations who are developing local community hubs, such as the Motivated Minds Happy Hub, Inclusion Ventures, ATF and Changing Lives. These have become brilliant community resources who are all using sport to break down barriers and engage and upskill local people. As well as this, through the likes of the Tackling Inequalities Fund (now called the Together Fund) Active Essex have been able to strengthen their work with faith groups to embed physical activity into faith centres.