Russell Cartwright, who is a Development Manager at the YST, talks about what a week in August looked like for him.
My week begins with a project board call between Suffolk County Council and the charity I work for, the Youth Sport Trust, where we discuss the progress of our ‘Summer in a Box’ programme. Children in the county are not getting enough physical activity following lockdown, which is hugely detrimental to their physical and mental wellbeing. So far 2,200 activity packs have been distributed to the most disadvantaged children, including those in care and young carers, to ensure they had a good summer holiday. Some children have never received anything like this before. For the first time they have their own frisbee, water bottle, chalks with whiteboard, and reaction ball. No child in Suffolk has missed out this summer and that makes me incredibly proud.
I virtually meet with our research and insight team to understand the impact that access to our resources and support over summer has had on young people’s wellbeing. This allows us to gain insight into the hardest to reach communities and develop strategies and programmes to ensure fewer children miss out on the skills and opportunities that sport and play can give them, meaning they are less likely to grow up obese, depressed and unsure of what the future holds. Research is a vital part of how we support children to keep active and remove barriers to sport for future generations.
Having been furloughed previously for nine weeks, I take the opportunity to do some CPD to bring me back up to speed on how Covid has impacted on the education system, school sport and physical activity, and the lives of children and their families. As a dad, I saw first-hand the challenges of home-schooling during this pandemic and ultimately how it has impacted on my son’s activity levels. Talking to teachers and parents, I have heard how children’s activity levels have plunged without the opportunities to do PE or team sports, and with pressure to be using devices. My lad would normally do over 20,000 steps a day when in school, but at times during lockdown would be below 5,000 at the end of the day – and he loves being active. It makes me wonder what this would look like for children who don’t like being active as much.
I pick up the phone to some hugely welcome news. Following the work we have done in Suffolk, the Mayor’s Fund for London want us to provide 7,000 activity and resource packs to families in need in Lambeth and Southwark. We also hear from Durham County Council who need support, in total we are helping nearly 10,000 young people. I feel reassured. This pandemic has robbed so much from so many families. Children have been impacted by lockdown in ways we might not even know yet. It’s important we give them some sort of normal and encourage play through stimulating fun activities, so they develop healthy and active habits for life.
This week has brought me hope that we can prevent many of the barriers to sport and health inequalities that children face growing up. Later today, I am meeting a community co-ordinator in Townhill, Swansea, to hear how their community has responded to Covid through the Local People Programme funded by the People’s Health Trust. The town has seen a rise in food bank use and is trying to address social isolation and declining mental health by providing positive sport activities for young people who experience significant health, social and educational inequalities. We talk about how the Youth Sport Trust can help Townhill access future funding and sustain the outstanding work of the project and continue to improve the lives of the local community.