Presentation to MPs

by David Gourlay, Hall Aitken Director

In a number of projects over recent years Hall Aitken has seen at first hand and supported the difference that the Big Lottery Fund has made to peoples' lives.

In this summary I will show how effective it has been and can be in achieving positive outcomes.

I will touch on the direct but also the wider benefits participation generates for people and communities.

There has been over £500m spent on these projects.

On this day in history in 1954 Roger Bannister broke the 4 minute mile. Therefore it is worth considering how we can inspire, change peoples' attitudes and build activity levels in physical activity.

I will highlight how our learning can answer the posed questions (previously distributed to MPs by BIG).

The DCSF-funded £280m myplace programme is administered by BIG. It aims to deliver facilities across England driven by the active participation of young people. 62 projects up to £5m each have been approved. Already we have now seen the importance of:

  • Ensuring that Business Plans are supported by rigorous scrutiny to confirm long-term viability;
  • Meeting excessive demands for ongoing funding help; and
  • Insisting that projects fit within a strategy for change for youth facilities.

The CSI programme funds almost 300 projects across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Overall it has engaged over 80,000 people and over 80% of them were previously inactive.

In Wales the Way of Life programme is piloting 3 models that aim to promote a linked approach to healthy eating and exercise working with children under 12 and their families. Grants of up to £500,000 were available.

The Parks for People programme is funded by BIG and administered by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). So far, 25 projects have received £55m as of 1 April 2009. There are five programme outcomes. The funds are reinvigorating dilapidated and tired public parks and importantly they are increasing and extending the range of people who will use the parks. For many people, particularly older people, this is a key resource to help them exercise and remain healthy.

The NW Healthy Living programme received £7m of funding to form the Wellbeing Portfolio. By August 2012 the portfolio aims to have made measurable improvements to the Wellbeing of 49,500 beneficiaries in the North West.

One project The Soup and Salad project aims to showcase healthier multi-cultural food in a community café. And one participant, Heda, said, "Eating healthy now has made me realise how important it is. My mood has improved and I’ve lost weight naturally. I won't go back to my old eating habits cos I can eat more now."

Finally I would like to highlight some learning from the Active England programme: Active England was a pilot to learn what works in widening participation in physical activity. The Big Lottery Fund contributed 70% of the funds for this programme while Sport England contributed the balance. 241 projects were funded across nine regions. Projects fit within Regional Plans.

KPIs were identified, these included participants and throughput but also some more specialised ones such as Health referrals and young people at risk. We supported projects to set up monitoring systems to collect these.

We provided ValueMapping. This helps projects enter their data in a web-enabled system that aggregates data. Funders can then see, in real time, how a programme is making progress towards outcomes. (We are piloting this system with the City Government in Mannheim in association with German local Government organisation KGST which has 1600 members.)

The Active England programme has attracted 1.8 million individuals. Throughput stands at 6.8 million and there have been an additional 27,000 active members recruited to sports clubs and organisations. Active England projects have used 6,000 coaches and 5,500 volunteers. Active England has secured significant partnership funding, levering an extra £132.5 million to support sport and physical activity projects across the country.

In answer to some of the questions posed in advance of the presentations, the learning from this group of programmes tells us that there are wider benefits to participation. Soft outcomes are being achieved (participants are more confident, motivated and have a higher sense of self esteem). Street League, an Active England programme, includes an education and Development programme. Sport is used to reach difficult target groups (such as reducing youth offending (Thanet Sport 4NRG is an example of this).

We can sustain the legacy by:

  • Limiting drift away from sustainability by focusing on this from Day 1;
  • Encouraging enterprise that may need some up front investment to sell services perhaps within a social business (such as WOW in the North East) ;
  • Investing in fund-raisers (The Bolton Lads and Girls Club - for every £1 they spend they bring in £10) ;
  • Recruiting more volunteers (such as Active Meadowlands in Coventry) .

Is innovation the way forward? Certainly if the current system worked then after billions of pounds of spend then the percentage of people participating would be rising instead of remaining fairly static.

Radical innovation is however rarely present, projects tend to deliver the same kind of thing. Funders must be prepared to take more risks and encourage real local decision-making and ownership. Flat decision-making structures are required. And as people are the most important part of a project then the right manager with the right skills at the right time is needed. (A sporting entrepreneur development programme could work).

There is not enough money around to meet participation targets by building centres. And these bring in fewer participants per £10K than smaller revenue projects. And centres will not bring in the target groups sought (that is women, disabled, BME, young people and people from areas of disadvantage). The outdoors must be utilised and existing organisations must be built upon; organisations with links in the communities such as mosques, churches, The Scout Association. We have seen that these smaller, outreach revenue projects are more effective per £10K in bringing in people.

Telling people what is good for them won’t work but understanding barriers will and putting in place approaches to deal with them, like the CREST extreme sports project in Cornwall. There is, of course, the need to effectively use the BSF and extended schools programme. To encourage joined-up working all projects must fit within a local area strategy for change. And all of these strategies must fit within a National Performance Framework.

Sport England is focusing on club and elite sports. These are more expensive, bringing in fewer participants per £10K. The NHS show limited examples of their concerted engagement in driving up participation. BIG with its history of community engagement and of stimulating partnerships could make a real difference and help the Government achieve its outcomes.

Thank you.

(Supporting documents and legacy reports are available on request.)