1,000 Young Voices: Enhancing Sport in Wales with New Insights

Written by: Claire Lane

StreetGames recently published our 1,000 Young Voices report, a major new survey of 1,000 young people commissioned to better understand the key issues and the similarities and differences amongst young people from lower-income households and the challenges that they face when it comes to accessing sport and physical activity.

We know all too well that young people growing up in low-income households and in under-served communities often experience inequalities of opportunity & participation. The underlying causes and issues of these broader inequalities are complex – some of the resulting barriers are ‘material’ (e.g. cost, transport, access to facilities) whilst others are deeply psychological. Some issues have been made worse by the pandemic and the current cost of living crisis.

The knowledge obtained through this new research has real value in understanding the current landscape when it comes to participation in sport and offers valuable insight into how to better engage different segments of the population going forward. And while 72% said that they enjoy taking part in sport and 75% want to do more, currently only a quarter of those surveyed specifically said they spend their time playing sport. It’s clear that access to sport still lags behind appetite.

Some of this is understandably down to the ongoing cost of living crisis. Over a third of participants feel the Cost of Living crisis has negatively affected how much they take part in sport and physical activity. This figure is especially high amongst those with caring responsibilities with half saying they do less, whilst also being significantly higher than average for those who are Neurodivergent and/or have a Physical Disability. But the research also went deeper in seeking out the different motivations and barriers that young people have when it comes to getting involved, from lack of confidence in taking part, to those who attend more for the social side than the sport itself. Key to increasing participation across the board is providing an offer that ensures that whatever your main drive for coming along, there is something available to suit.

As StreetGames’ National Director for Wales, I’m heartened by the work the Welsh Government has been doing in recent years to put health and wellbeing front and centre in their policies and approach. We are all working towards making the Vision for Sport in Wales a reality, where we have transformed Wales into an active nation where everyone can have a lifelong enjoyment of sport, and as a National Partner to Sport Wales we’re committed to working collaboratively to make this happen.  Core to this is helping to deliver on the seven well-being goals that form the central mission of the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act. That Act, the first of its kind in the UK, gives a legally binding common purpose – the seven well-being goals – for national government, local government, local health boards and other specified public bodies. It details the ways in which specified public bodies must work, and work together to improve the well-being of Wales. Our own work strongly correlates with three of these wellbeing goals:

  • Healthier Wales,
  • More Equal Wales,
  • A Wales of cohesive communities

Each of these goals could also benefit from the new insight provided by the 1,000 Young Voices report, in particular its research on the seven segments of young people that capture the motivators, barriers, and associated emotions that young people experience in relation to sport. From those who lack confidence around getting involved, to those whose sport as a valuable way to destress, we all have different reasons for wanting to get involved in sport and it’s important to develop an offer that appeals to as many different motivators as possible. By harnessing this 1,000 voices insight we can continue to build on our Doorstep Sport offer to ensure everyone can be active in a way that provides enjoyment.

The recently published annual report for 2022/23 from The Children’s Commissioner for Wales contains recommendations to tackle child poverty that speak directly to the findings from the 1,000 young voices insight. The Commissioner is recommending to Welsh Government that there is increased investment in play, sports & leisure facilities, and youth support, as well as free bus travel for all children. Our insight shows that over 20% state that they have no way of getting to activity sessions, and three quarters want to do more.

At our recent Network Events in both North and South Wales, there was a real buzz in the room when sharing the insight, and discussing the seven segments. Many of our Locally Trusted Organisations (LTOs) across Wales are doing fantastic work to provide a varied and vibrant Doorstep Sport offer that caters for many different young people, but they also recognised that they need support from the wider sector to diversify the offer further. When asked what StreetGames should do to activate the insight, and particularly the 7 segments, the overwhelming response was to support NGBs to understand it and work with LTOs to create new ways for young people to participate locally.

We have a fantastic track record of working with NGBs in Wales and have a rich history of co-creating products and interventions with a wide range of sports. This new insight will help us to go further to challenge and positively disrupt the mainstream sport sector, and provide opportunities to create meaningful change to tackle the stubborn inequalities that young people living in low-income, underserved communities face, when it comes to accessing sport and physical activity opportunities.

If you want to know more about the work we do in Wales, or are an NGB that wants to collaborate then please get in touch at wales@streetgames.org

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