HC Deb 26 July 1999 vol 336 cc79-80W
Mr. Fearn

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what action his Department is taking to increase the proportion of(a) pensioners, (b) people with disabilities and (c) people from ethnic minorities who participate in sport. [91311]

Mr. Banks

The Government fund Sport England to develop programmes in all these areas. On(a), Sport England believes in lifelong participation in sport, and its Active Communities programme has seen substantial investment in initiatives with particular appeal to older participants, such as capital Lottery funding for walking, keep-fit/yoga, swimming, cycling, golf and bowls. For example, 290 awards have been made to bowls projects, grants of £26 million supporting project costs of £42.5 million. Through the monitoring of completed Lottery projects, Sport England reports that participation among senior citizens at these facilities has doubled.

Sport England also monitors the age structure of the population and its Facilities Planning Model (a mathematical model aimed at assessing the needs for sport and recreational facilities) is used, on a local community and national level, to determine facilities required for each age group, including older people. Through its advice to local authorities Sport England encourages the needs and concerns of older people to be incorporated in Local Sports Strategies and Best Value practices.

Other work in this area includes support for GP referral schemes, working with the health sector to encourage physical activity to maintain good health.

On (b), Sport England has adopted the approach that, wherever possible, support should be channelled through mainstream sport rather than separate disability organisations. This decision was based on consultation and feedback from all parts of sport for people with disabilities.

Sport England has overseen the formation of the National Federation of Disability Sport, which brings together all the key disability sports organisations. With the election of a management board and appointment of key staff at both a national and regional level, it is able to ensure that people with disabilities can receive proper sporting opportunities.

As well as its own Disability Advisory Group, Sport England also has a service team of staff with the appropriate skills to co-ordinate and audit the disability work that Sport England is doing across the range of all its service areas, including Lottery programmes. Baselines of sporting provision for people with disabilities in England have been established and research carried out to find out their exact needs.

On (c), Sport England has made special efforts to tackle the problems that exist in this area, including setting up its own advisory Group and working with the Commission for Racial Equality jointly to appoint two staff to work on anti-racism initiatives with the governing bodies of sport.

Six sports were initially identified as priority areas for work: cricket, basketball, rugby league, rugby union, athletics and swimming. The starting point for each sport is the formulation of a racial equity statement.

Sport England has also given financial support to help develop action plans for sports which seek the elimination of racism.

Sport England has contracted the Office for National Statistics to conduct a survey to measure accurately levels of participation by members of the ethnic minorities. By establishing the sporting needs of the Black, Asian and other ethnic minorities support can be much more effectively tailored.

Sport England has also organised and run generic equity workshops for the governing bodies of sport. This is a structured programme and part of the Running Sport range of education and training support.

In addition, following the publication of the Football Task Force's report "Eliminating Racism from Football", I asked the football authorities to consider how they could implement the recommendations.

This has been a good start, but I want to ensure that racism is tackled by all sports. To that end I have written to the Governing bodies of cricket, tennis, athletics, rugby union and league asking them how the problems can be addressed within their sports. I hope to meet with those Governing Bodies, the Commission for Racial Equality and the Local Government Association to discuss how we can go about removing racism from sport in the very near future.