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Place Partnerships expanded to help those in greatest need

We’re investing a further £250 million into this groundbreaking and innovative work.

7th November 2023

We’ve announced a major and unprecedented expansion of our investment into local communities across England to ensure those in greatest need are able to be physically active.

We’re extending our Place Partnerships work to help more people to be physically active by breaking down the barriers that get in the way.  

Tim Hollingsworth, our chief executive, joined Sports Minister Stuart Andrew at Waterside Leisure Centre on Canvey Island – one of the places that will benefit from our new approach – to announce an overall package worth £250 million of National Lottery and Exchequer funding that builds directly on the learning generated by our local delivery pilots since 2017.

This new way of working directly supports the Government’s recent Get Active strategy, which set ambitious targets of getting 2.5m more adults and one million more children active by 2030 to tackle the disparities in activity levels across society. 

A group of people play with a giant ball on an indoors hall.

Why place matters

We know that where a person lives and the environment around them has a huge impact on how likely they are to be physically active, and that too often people in low-income communities don’t have the access to the same facilities or opportunities as wealthier areas.

For example, the most active place in England has almost double the activity levels of the least active place, while a person’s lifespan could vary by up to nine years depending on where they live.

Furthermore, people living in some places in England are twice as likely to have a disability or health condition than people living in other places.

We know that if we can increase activity levels in these places there'll be significant benefits to the people living there.

Over the last five years, through the evaluation of our local delivery pilots and through longer-term investment in the network of 43 Active Partnerships, we’ve clearly seen that targeted action, built on the deep insights and understanding of the people who live and work in a place, is now creating positive lasting change. 

What we’ve announced today

That’s why, over the next five years, we’ll expand the number of places that we’ll work with in this way.

We'll invest £250m of National Lottery and Exchequer funding into our place-based work, with £190m of this focused on an additional 80-100 places which have greatest need.

In addition, we’ll continue to support our existing place partners to make further progress and impact in their communities.

An additional £35m will be invested to strengthen work with our existing place partnerships, with a further £25m being made available to create a Universal Offer of key tools and resources, ensuring every area of England can access support.

This significant revenue and capital investment, which is central to our Uniting the Movement strategy, builds directly on the learning generated by our LDPs since 2017.

This insight and expertise will help many more communities develop a Place-Based Systemic Approach to physical activity that reflects their unique needs, relationships and geography.

We’ll target the greatest resource to areas with highest inactivity levels and other social need indicators. This is where this commitment can have the biggest impact on our key outcomes.

We’ll use a range of data sources to inform this approach, including physical activity data from our Active Lives Surveys, as well as wider social data including IMD, community need and health inequalities data.

A further explanation of our analysis can be found in our 'Identifying priority places' guide below.

Our targeted investment is on top of our universal place-based support, and over the coming months we'll be developing and expanding this offer that includes leadership development, the transfer of learning and access to resources, advice and guidance for partners.

Chief executive's reaction

“Access to sport and physical activity in England is still not close to being a level playing field. Where a person lives and the environment around them has a huge impact on how likely they are to be physically active. Too often, people in low-income communities don’t have access to the same facilities or opportunities as wealthier areas.

“This is manifestly unfair – and must be addressed as a real priority. That is why our expanded Place Partnership programme will unashamedly see us target our resources and efforts on communities that need the greatest levels of support and experience the greatest levels of inequality.

“We will invest most in those that need it most so that everyone has an equal chance to access the very real benefits of playing sport and be physically active.”

Tim Hollingsworth

Chief executive, Sport England

Our Executive Director of Place reacts

"This is an important moment in our delivery of Uniting the Movement, our long-term strategy which has tackling inequalities at its heart.  

"We have shown through our local delivery pilots that this approach works.

"We will continue to work with local experts from a range of locally trusted organisations and partners in a bottom-up way to break down the barriers that prevent their community’s least active members from joining in.

"We want to ensure that a wide range of local spaces where people can be active – be it a facility, park or outdoor space – are the right spaces that meet the needs of the community.”

Lisa Dodd-Mayne
Executive Director of Place, Sport England

Minister's statement

"Our new sports strategy sets out an ambitious aim to get 3.5 million more people active by 2030 and this £250 million investment from Sport England will help make that a reality.

"This targeted place-based funding gives greater access to quality activities and clubs for people of all ages in areas of the country that need it most.

"Keeping active is essential for our mental and physical health and wellbeing, so it is crucial we continue to break down barriers for people to stay fit and healthy.”

Stuart Andrew
Sport Minister

Tim Hollingsworth, Sport England's chief executive, addresses the audience during a panel in Essex while presenting our place partnership expansion plans.


Frequently asked questions

Below are answers to some common questions about our place-based work.

  • In which areas will Sport England work?

    Sport England will continue to support all areas of the country through our universal offer.

    However, we know that some places have greater needs than others.

    One of the three guiding principles of Uniting the Movement relates to our goal of tackling inequalities, and our principle of investing most in those that need it most. 

    This principle is at the heart of how we'll expand our place-based work into an additional 80-100 places.

    We’ll invest a greater amount of time and resources in those places where the need is greatest.

    For expanding our place-based partnerships, we'll classify a place as somewhere of ‘greatest need’ primarily based on where the data indicates there's a ‘sport and physical activity need’, and also consider where this coincides with ‘social need’.

    This is because we know that people who are less active tend to have worse outcomes and that these people and communities have more to gain from a change in physical activity behaviour.

    To help identify places of greatest need we have established a Place Need Classification (PNC) to support prioritisation and decision making.

    This has been collated and ranked for each place across England.

    The places that fall within the top 10%, 20% and 25% for both a sport and physical activity need and social need are identified within the PNC.

    We'll start our conversations with those places listed within the top 10%.

    This will be an opportunity to explore the current and future opportunities for collaborative work in each place.

    We have purposefully not developed a competitive process for Place Partnerships.

    Firstly, we realise that such a process is capacity and resource-intensive for both the applicant and the funding body. We know how scarce and stretched resources are at a local level and so we wanted to move away from making that worse.

    Secondly, we would like to see all places to take a more systemic approach to tackling inactivity and inequality – starting with the tools and resources we'll have available through our universal offer.

    This is a development journey that all places can go on around Place Based Systemic Approaches, but we know that some places will need increased support and resources to make change happen because their need is greater – this is where we will start with targeted interventions.

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  • What support will there be for these areas?

    In addition to the £250m we also want to be an active partner in this work, offering our own capacity and skills.

    We'll also enable colleagues within Active Partnerships and the original Local Delivery Pilot areas to help.  

    The learnings from our Local Delivery Pilots and other place-based system work tells us that support around capacity, skills development, networking and strengthening local structures are critical.

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  • How do we know this will work?

    Over the past four years, we’ve tested our place-based systemic approach with ‘Local Delivery Pilots’ in 12 areas of the country working with inspiring local stakeholders to understand how we could have the biggest impact on people’s lives through movement.

    From Free Bikes in Birmingham to ‘Beating the Streets’ in Burnley, from getting school kids moving in Calderdale to rehabilitating patients in South Tees to improve their chances of recovery after surgery, we’ve been targeting systemic barriers to activity in each community.

    This also includes how we align spaces to be active around people’s needs such as Great Sankey neighbourhood hub, which encompasses leisure, library, health, and cultural facilities under one roof.

    And the results have been amazingly encouraging.

    In the pilot places we saw increased activity amongst the people who are typically less active, better value for money than national programmes, and signs of faster recovery and greater resilience in the sport and activity network after Covid-19 than other areas.

    This has given us confidence to expand the approach.

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  • When will Sport England announce the places selected?

    Our first step is to talk to the Local Delivery Pilots and Active Partnerships about the need in their places and to explore the role they can play.

    These conversations are just concluding and helping to inform some immediate priorities of where we will go next and where we will need a longer-term phased approach.

    This intelligence will lead us to bring forwards stakeholders in targeted places to start a more detailed conversation around a system-based approach to tackling physical inactivity and associated inequalities.

    It's important that we co-design the detailed approach so that resources are most effectively utilised based on local leadership and ownership.  

    Some places with low activity levels and poor wider outcomes are already clear on their own local priorities for getting people moving more and these places will likely be the first early “adopters” in our expansion approach.  

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  • What support will there be for areas that aren’t initial priorities?

    Alongside the specific areas we're prioritising investment in, we'll also be shaping a universal offer.

    This will be a wide-ranging offer which will support places across the country who are keen to work with us to unite the movement in a whole system, place-based way.

    The Universal Offer will provide a way of supporting the entire sector to increase physical activity, reduce physical inactivity, reduce inequalities, and promote positive experiences for CYP by building on the already developed extensive tools and resources we have.

    Supported by dedicated capacity, we'll build on our already extensive suite of tools and resources and work with key partners, within and beyond the sport and physical activity sector, to design an even more enhanced Universal Offer. These resources already cover a wide variety of themes and topics and include:

    • Support to local clubs and National Governing Bodies (NGBs)
    • Guidance for local authorities on creating and protecting the places and spaces that make it easier for people to be active.
    • A suite of resources focussed on data, insight and learning.
    • Various Learning and Development opportunities that support sector leadership of Uniting the Movement. 

    We know that Sport England don’t ‘own’ all the current and future resources, and that many of our partners and the sector have and will continue to develop great tools and resources that will also form part of this offer. 

    We'll begin a series of engagement with key partners and places to start to co-design what the new enhanced offer could be.

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  • How will we know if this work has been a success?

    The aim of this investment is to use what we know about working effectively in places to increase activity, decrease inactivity, reduce inequalities, and improve the experience of sport and physical activity for children in each of the places we work.

    A Measurement, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) framework has been initially developed and approved for this programme of work.

    This will enable Sport England and its partners to demonstrate progress, causality and impact at a place, programme, and population level over time.

    The framework is informed by learning and insight from our MEL approach with Local Delivery Pilots.

    Our National Evaluation and Learning Partner (NELP) will support further development and the launch of the framework over the coming weeks.

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Find out more

Place Partnerships

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