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ukactive And Nike Launch Open Doors Summer Programme To Provide Sport And Food To Children And Young People As Health Inequalities Grow

ukactive and Nike have today (20 July) announced the launch of the Open Doors programme for summer 2022, providing sport, activity and food to underserved children and young people in four major cities.

As the cost of living rises and health inequalities grow, children and young people will have the chance to join athletes and coaches at 12 sites and schools across London, Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool, providing them with opportunities to have fun, try new activities, and stay active in a safe environment during the summer holidays.

Open Doors removes the barrier of high expense summer holiday provision for families, and this year will see sport and activities delivered by partners including the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation, the Rio Ferdinand Foundation, Tanzii TV, Aspire, and Bloomsbury Football.

The programme is based on ukactive’s Open Doors model, which was designed with Nike to help unlock school sports facilities and provide essential support for children and young people’s physical, mental and social wellbeing – particularly for those from low-income households.

The model forms part of ukactive’s Schools As Community Hubs policy, calling on the Government to help unlock our school playing fields, halls and courts, which make up 39% of community sport facilities in England but are usually closed or inaccessible during the holidays. 

With government funding, the Open Doors programme could be scaled nationwide to reach many more children and young people.

Research by ukactive’s Research Institute shows that children and young people suffer a loss in cardiorespiratory fitness levels over the summer holidays of up to 74% – with those from lower socio-economic groups suffering a drop in fitness around 18 times faster than their more affluent peers.

Figures from Sport England’s latest Active Lives Survey, covering the academic year for 2020-21, showed that children and young people are doing fewer activities than they were before the pandemic.

It showed those from the least affluent families remain the least active, and this gap has widened since the start of the pandemic. There is also a broader ethnicity gap, with only 36% of Black children getting active compared to 45% of all children and young people. 

The evidence poses a stark warning as health inequalities grow in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and the cost of living crisis – with inactivity, community disengagement and holiday hunger each at risk of growing this summer.

Open Doors is being championed by Nike athlete and Iron Man, John McAvoy, and is also backed by charities, sports clubs and other elite athletes, including Paralympic champion and ukactive Chair Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson; and former England Rugby captain Lawrence Dallaglio.

The power of the sustainable model lies in its place-based approach, partnering local providers of sport and physical activity with safe and familiar community facilities outside of term time, harnessing both public and private funding – without putting any additional burden on schools, staff or families.

The programme was first piloted during 2020 in London through collaboration with the Greater London Authority, and in Birmingham with West Midlands Combined Authority, before expanding to Manchester and Liverpool in 2021.

Figures from the 2021 Open Doors programme show the positive impact on children and young people who experienced it.

The key findings showed:

  • 35% of the children and young people were classified as ‘inactive’, meaning they said they normally do less than 30 minutes of physical activity a day. 34% were ‘fairly active’ (30 to 59 minutes a day) and 30% were ‘active’ (60 minutes or more a day).
  • 90% of children and young people said they made new friends on the Open Doors programme.
  • 63% of children and young people said they were looking forward to going back to school after the summer holidays. 

John McAvoy, Nike athlete and Iron Man, said: “Tragically, we know many children and young people are facing a really tough summer holiday, without even basic access to food or a safe place to play and be active with others.

“By unlocking school sport facilities through Open Doors, we can have such a positive impact on children and young people, bringing them happiness, confidence and friendship at what otherwise could be a very lonely time.

“We want to show every community the power of sport and physical activity to enrich the lives of every child and young person, no matter what their background.”

Huw Edwards, CEO of ukactive, said: “Open Doors will give hundreds of children and young people the opportunity to enjoy sport and physical activity this summer, as well as providing nutritious food.

“Supporting the physical and mental health of our youngest citizens has to be central to the Government’s ambitions for levelling up and reducing health inequalities.

“We must not accept holiday hunger and physical inactivity as the reality for children growing up in the UK today, so we are calling on central and local government to help realise the potential of the Open Doors model to support millions more children.

“As the nation prepares to host the Commonwealth Games, Open Doors shows us how we can empower our children and young people to lead happier, healthier, more active lives, and feel more connected through sport and physical activity.”

In June ukactive and Nike also launched the Open Doors Blueprint, a practical guide aimed at schools, local authorities, activity delivery partners and funding organisations, offering best-in-class guidance to help more communities to benefit from the model.

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