What is the Batson-Chiles-Webster Commission?

The goal of the Batson-Chiles-Webster Commission is to explore the importance of sport for young people and their communities, and the role that sport can play in supporting low income neigbourhoods. Its key objective is to identify, highlight and amplify the voices of community-based sports organisations.

These community organisations play a vital role in supporting some of the most vulnerable young people in the country. Evidence suggests they are more effective than any other type of organisation at activating the hardest to reach young people, yet their importance is often not reflected in the support or recognition they receive from Government, from funders, or from the wider sports sector.

The Commission will combine academic evidence, and in-depth conversations with community organisations themselves, to assess the strengths, challenges and opportunities for this under-appreciated sector and to hear first hand what they need to deliver for their participants.

The Commission is independent and evidence led. It seeks the broadest possible dialogue – bringing together academics, professional bodies, frontline organisations and the young people who benefit from them.

The emphasis is on finding, understanding and amplifying the experiences of children, young people, and the neighbourhood organisations that support them. These are the voices which can give us a true picture of how community organisations activate inactive communities and change lives through sport.

The Commission will host 6 round tables that focus on these key questions:

•        What role do neighbourhood organisations play in social change?

•        Why does sport matter to children and young people in left behind neighbourhoods?

•        How is sport used by these community organisations as a lever to deliver wider social change?

•        What do neighbourhood organisations have to say about what works?

What are these community organisations and why do they matter?

‘Somewhere to go, something to do, someone to trust.’

They are the local, grassroots organisations that are filling the gap left behind by the decline in traditional youth services.  Up and down the country, children are growing up in communities hollowed out by a lack of investment. This disappearance of local amenities means young people face lives of social isolation, without the opportunities of their better off peers.

For these young people, community organisations are a lifeline, offering programs and activities that appeal to a broad cross-section, not just the naturally sporty. Come rain or shine, in car parks and scout huts, these clubs are providing vital support to young people who desperately need somewhere to go and something to do. Without them, neighbourhoods would be poorer and more isolated places.

Our research shows that 70% of their participants do not take part in any other sports groups outside the school or college setting and our research shows that 72% of the demographic cohort are not currently meeting CMO physical activity guidelines.

One reason why these community organisations are so important to us, is that they do not sell being active as a commodity. The young people we are concerned about do not have much money, neither are they sports-mad people who chose to spend their scarce resource on being active. They need somewhere to go and someone to go with at a very low cost.

About the Commission

What makes this Commission different is the way it will work. The emphasis is on finding, understanding, and amplifying the lived, but often unheard, experiences of children and young people. We will also hear from those neighbourhood level organisations that work to support them.

For too many children and young people, growing up in low-income and under-served communities means reduced life-chances. These young people endure a broad spectrum of inequalities: they are more likely to suffer worse physical health and poorer mental health; many never go on holiday and are more likely to suffer food insecurity. Whether as victim or perpetrator, low-income youngsters disproportionately experience negative contact with the youth justice system.

The Commission is concerned with inequality and especially the inequality that reduces the chances of young people adopting an active lifestyle and gaining all the social and physical benefits being active can bring. The Commission will examine how low-income families rely on those typically small, neighbourhood organisations which challenge this inequality and deliver sport and other activities in disadvantaged neighbourhoods.

The Commission will combine hard academic evidence, and in-depth conversation with community organisations themselves, to comprehensively assess the strengths, challenges and opportunities for this under-appreciated corner of the sporting landscape.

The Commission is independent and evidence led. It seeks the broadest possible dialogue – bringing together academics, professional bodies, frontline organisations and the young people who benefit from them.

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