Baroness Grey-Thompson is on the new House of Lords Committee on a National Plan for Sport and Recreation and she wants AW readers to help provide input into their current inquiry

Athletics, like many sports, is facing a difficult time at the moment. The postponement of the Olympic and Paralympic Games last year has thrown many elite athletes’ schedules and training programmes completely off track. I know from my own experience the importance for athletes to build up over months and years to major events that are the pinnacle of their sporting careers. However it is further down the ladder that real and potentially lasting damage is being done to participation in sport.

The last 12 months have probably been the most challenging for grassroots sports clubs and coaches of modern times. Right now, as we are in the middle of the third national lockdown in 12 months, and children and adults are once again stopped from taking part in organised sports and physical recreation, it might seem like a depressing time for a new House of Lords Committee to look at the future of sport and recreation in England. However, times of challenge can also be times of change. The truth is physical activity for many people of all ages was far too low even before Covid-19, so we want to understand how we can turn that around.

“Times of challenge can also be times of change. The truth is physical activity for many people of all ages was far too low even before Covid-19, so we want to understand how we can turn that around”

There is no doubt that getting the nation more active is vital for mental as well as physical health and produces a huge range of benefits for individuals and communities. It is estimated that during the first lockdown, adults classed as inactive (achieving less than 30 minutes of physical activity each week) rose sharply to 30%. With disadvantaged communities seeing the biggest drop in activity levels. That trend needs to change and we want to know how athletics coaches can be supported to play a role in delivering that change.

Tanni Grey-Thompson. By Roger Harris Photography via House of Lords

The new House of Lords Committee on a National Plan for Sport and Recreation, which I sit on, is currently asking for anyone with an interest in sport and a passion for getting more people active to tell us how that can be done.

We know that it’s the coaches on the ground as well as the myriad of administrators, referees, welfare officers and other volunteers who make grassroots sport possible and provide the opportunities for people to be active. We really need to hear from those people directly about the challenges they face and how government, elite sports organisations, governing bodies and others can do more to help you.

We don’t just want to hear from the usual suspects and big organisations. It’s important to us to hear first-hand from those delivering sport and recreation opportunities in local communities.

We are asking everyone to submit their thoughts on these issues us by Friday January 29. You can find more details of how to do so on our website.

We will read all submissions and some of those submitting evidence may  be asked to join the Committee for an oral evidence session so we can explore the issues raised further. Our inquiry will run until the autumn when we will publish a report making recommendations to Government.

House of Lords Committee reports have a great track record of influencing Government policy and delivering significant change, so by submitting evidence you can play a key role in making sport and recreation work better right across the country. This is something I am sure all readers of AW are passionate about achieving.

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