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24 Jan 2023
Tanni Grey-Thompson joins fight for sector energy support
By Frances Marcellin
Tanni Grey-Thompson joins fight for sector energy support
Tanni Grey-Thompson said the energy crisis is putting significant pressure on the physical activity sector
Photo: UK Active
The damaging effect of the energy crisis due to government inaction and the impact on the health of the UK population saw Tanni Grey-Thompson lobbying the government in the House of Lords recently.

Grey-Thompson said the current state of the UK’s health and wellbeing was a “real barrier to levelling up” and that it should be of “grave concern” to the government.

“More than 20m people in the UK have a problem related to musculoskeletal conditions such as arthritis, chronic pain or knee replacements, keeping many out of work or on waiting lists, and my Lords this is just not good enough,” she said.

“There’s no doubt that the energy crisis is putting significant pressure on the physical activity sector and research from Deloitte and IHRSA, the Global Health and Fitness Association, which has been highlighted by UK Active, shows that by supporting the workforce to be active we can generate up to £17bn a year more for the economy.”

UK Active, along with Active Partnerships, CIMSPA, the Local Government Association, the Sport and Recreation Alliance, the Sport for Development Coalition, Swim England and the Youth Sport Trust also issued a joint statement highlighting the need for economic support as part of the Energy Bills Discount Scheme (EBDS).

The government recently scaled back its support for businesses battling the energy crisis, capping it at £5.5bn from 1 April 2023. The previous scheme from 1 Oct 2022-31 March 2023 was £16bn.

Despite pool closures already occurring, and with data showing three quarters (74 per cent) are predicted to close or reduce services by 31 March 2024 if the current situation continues, the sector has failed to be classified as an Energy and Trade Intensive Industry (ETII). This has caused confusion in the industry because establishments such as museums have been granted ETII status.

“The failure to identify bespoke support for the sector (and schools operating sports facilities) as part of the Energy Bills Discount Scheme will be the final straw for certain facilities and services – especially swimming provision – across the UK,” said the statement.

“Unless changed, communities will see the loss of essential local services, including swimming lessons for children, multi-sport offerings, mental health services, bespoke programmes for older citizens, ethnically diverse communities, disabled people and those on long-term health programmes, including cancer rehabilitation and support for those with musculoskeletal conditions and type 2 diabetes. This will impact millions of people, of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds.

“As more facilities close, this will create even more challenges for the NHS, which is already under unimaginable pressure, and impact economic productivity by hampering efforts to get people healthy for work.”

The government, which is repeatedly stating it will not move on this issue, has been advised by the lobby group to “act swiftly” with the following three measures.

Reclassify swimming pools as energy intensive as part of Energy Bills Discount Scheme so they have access to the higher level of discount on energy prices. Set out what tangible support it will provide to the wider sector – including gyms, leisure centres, sports facilities and clubs – to help navigate the energy crisis across 2023 so that service restrictions and facility closures can be minimised. Set out a “plan for the growth” for the sector by aligning the proposed new Sports Strategy with the Spring budget to unlock the potential of the sector to support the economic, health, educational and social wellbeing of the nation.

According to the group, failure to do this will lead to facility closures on a national level across 2023.

“These closures will damage further our national health, our NHS, and our economy,” concluded the statement. “The evidence we have provided to the government is unequivocal, so we implore it to work with the sector and local government to find urgent solutions to this grave situation.”

Last week, in his first speech as chair at UK Active – and with reference to the energy crisis and flailing health of the UK population, Mike Farrar said the physical activity sector must be “at the heart” of the NHS, the care system, the education system and the workplace.

Farrar – who brings 13 years of CEO experience in the NHS – outlined six ways the sector can improve the healthcare system:

  • making rehabilitation routinely part of the pathway for stroke, cancer, and musculoskeletal conditions;

  • offering musculoskeletal support services as an alternative to surgery in care pathways;

  • improving the effectiveness of drug therapies, including those offered alongside cancer treatments and motoneuron disease;

  • supporting eating disorder charities such as CAMHS to help children, young people and families;

  • scaling social prescribing, providing greater access for a wider range of health conditions; and

  • offering prehabilitation to everyone on a waiting list.

  • Farrar said that the leisure sector, if suitably resourced, could work “hand in glove” with the NHS to support the nation’s health and wellbeing and “increase the value of every pound spent”.

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