Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson pledge to tackle inactivity

The two Conservative leadership candidates respond to a letter from YST and partners urging action on the crisis in young people's wellbeing.

During YST National School Sport Week 2019, YST along with almost 100 partners wrote a joint letter to the two Conservative Party leadership candidates, urging them to commit to tackling the decline in young people's wellbeing and make it a priority to ensure every child enjoys at least 60 active minutes every day. These are their responses.

Jeremy Hunt's response

Dear Ali,

Thank you for writing to me, and for your kind congratulations on my reaching the last stage of the leadership campaign. Please accept my commendation for the extremely valuable work that the Youth Sport Trust undertakes.

I was pleased to receive your letter because my work encouraging youth sport, as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, was some of the most important work that I have undertaken as a Minister. At DCMS, I increased the share of revenues that sport received from the National Lottery, and provided £135 million to Sport England to fund community sport facilities and activity. As Secretary of State for Health, I secured a record £20 billion increase in spending on the NHS, including substantial increases in mental health spending on young people.

Improving children’s wellbeing, and that of the whole population, will be at the heart of my programme as Prime Minister.  The Childhood Obesity Plan that I published at Health recommended that every primary school child should get at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity a day. These ideas are so important because they will make a significant positive difference to young people’s lives.

Thank you, again, for getting in touch.

Best wishes,

Jeremy

Boris Johnson's response

Dear friends

I want to thank you for reaching out - the issues you raise surrounding young people are vital.



I have recently written to other members of the sports community, and addressed issues raised regarding school sports there too, so receiving your correspondence was a welcome opportunity to clarify my position on this important subject. The health and wellbeing of the next generation of young people is a top priority for me. Recently, I have pledged to invest £4.6 billion for primary and secondary school funding, and I would like to see how this investment could be utilised and integrated into encouraging increased activities in school sports programmes and aid in promoting physical activity for children.



Sport is a very important part of British life. I have always marvelled at how an entire city or even an entire country can get behind 11 Lions or Lionesses, and be so engaged that everything else, even the most divisive of politics, is brought to an utter stand still. It is through sport that we as a society can come together in ways that are truly remarkable. If sport is given the room to grow and allowed to capture the hearts and minds of the younger generations, caught up in dreams of their sporting heroes, they themselves may one day achieve great things for their favourite team. There is no reason why every young person can’t aim high.



I firmly believe that people must have the opportunity to engage in sport and that it is up to us as the leaders of our great nation to ensure every possible opportunity is made available to them. Whether that be for young aspiring athletes, head filled with dreams, avid lifelong fans of their local team, or casual observers and sports lovers – caught up in the ups and downs of winning and losing, we have a responsibility to do all we can to facilitate and encourage healthy participation and continual engagement in sport across to reap all the benefits it can.



I have looked at some startling data on the matter which was provided from Sport England and you have referenced, and I am of course concerned just at the depth of the issue; that only 17.5 per cent of children are meeting current medical wellness guidelines.



At a Governmental level, I will work with the Department for Education, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, and of course the NHS on sport. I believe in and support a combined holistic approach to addressing these issues you raise and if I am fortunate enough to be elected Prime Minister, I will seek to ensure quick and effective coordination. I will support initiatives which will assist in training sports teachers and coaches, levelling up the exposure our children have to leaders who will push them to be the best athlete they can be.

Having a supportive coach or teacher who can provide positive reinforcement to the sporting and learning process is a fundamental link between sport participation and general wellbeing. I am also aware that the mental health of our children, and indeed adults, is intrinsically tied to the positive link between participation and general well-being, and I believe that it is our duty to foster an environment where we can encourage healthy competition in our young people.



I am happy to reassure you that tackling any sort of decline in young people’s overall wellbeing will be a key pillar in my programme for government. It is our responsibility to provide an environment where children and young people can be actively engaged in sport and physical competitions so that children feel engaged in the sport they love. I can also clarify that any government I lead will seek to reduce childhood obesity and increase the amount of physical activities that our children are exposed to.



I also wanted to thank you all for your incredible work and, if elected, I look forward to working together on these critical issues.



With best wishes,



Boris Johnson

You can read the original letter here.

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