The Cost of Living Crisis and Its Impact on Sport Participation and Wellbeing

The Cost of Living Crisis and Its Impact on Sport Participation and Wellbeing

The continuing rise in the cost of living is adversely affecting people’s physical and mental wellbeing, with people who have additional care and support needs and those on lower incomes hit the hardest.

This blog explores what is happening to the cost of living and what this means for adults attending sport and physical activity clubs and groups. We’ll also discuss the mental health and safeguarding support that these adults may need, and some ways your organisation can help.

What is the ‘Cost of Living Crisis’ in the UK?

The cost of living has increased sharply across the UK during 2021 and 2022 and is set to continue to rise into 2023.

The cost of everyday essentials, like food and energy, are rising much faster than average household wages. This ongoing situation has been described as a ‘cost of living crisis’.

What is Wellbeing?

The term “wellbeing” will have different meanings to different people and so should be understood in a broad sense.

Wellbeing might refer to our:

  • Physical and mental health.
  • Ability to participate in employment, training, education or recreation.
  • Personal dignity.
  • Ability to have control over day-to-day lives.
  • Protection from abuse and neglect.
  • Domestic, family and social lives.
  • Contribution to society.

The term may also refer generally to how we feel at any given moment, as well as how well we’re coping with daily life, or what feels possible.

Wellbeing is at the heart of safeguarding adults. Safeguarding is essentially about promoting an adult’s wellbeing to enable them to live their life free from abuse and neglect. All of the above aspects work together, and when one is affected it will have an impact on the others.

The Impact of Financial Insecurity on Physical and Mental Health

Financial insecurity can affect your wellbeing in numerous ways.

You might not be able to afford the things you need to stay well. This might be housing, food, water, heating, or treatments like medication and therapy.

Worrying about money can lead to sleep problems and increased feelings of anxiety and stress, and this can affect relationships and social lives.

Financial troubles and the stress and anxiety they cause may lead individuals to make unhealthy choices in other areas of life, such as excess drinking, drug taking, gambling or stealing.

Financial insecurity can impact on an individual’s safety. People may engage in illegal activity to improve their finances. Gangs may exploit desperate people and involve them in drug dealing, money laundering and shoplifting.

The Impact on Support Networks

According to new research from Mind, SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) and Inspire, over a fifth (22%) of UK adults are seeing members of their support network less, due to the cost-of-living crisis.

Many people, particularly those with additional care and support needs, rely on trusted support networks such as family or friends to support their mental health and wellbeing. The rising costs of fuel and public transport means that many people are unable to travel and see their network. This is leading to increased feelings of anxiety, stress, loneliness and isolation.

The Impact on Participating in Activities

The same research from Mind found that one in four people can no longer afford social activities that help them stay mentally well. This includes exercise, fitness classes, and grassroot sports.

This is particularly worrying given the positive impact sports and fitness have on mental health and wellbeing. Not only are the physical benefits of taking part in a sport or activity lost, so too are the social aspects of spending time with others in a club or group.

Inactivity could also increase existing feelings of stress and anxiety and may lead to increased health risks for those with existing health issues.

The Impact on Workforce

Many community sport and recreation clubs are struggling to cope with the dual impact of steeply rising energy costs and the recovery from COVID-19.

With the increase in energy bills, and membership numbers already impacted by COVID-19, any additional costs are likely to be passed on to participants who, at this time, can least afford it.

In a statement, Lisa Wainwright, CEO of the Sport and Recreation Alliance, said:

Community clubs support millions of people to play and be active every week up and down the country – they are the lifeblood of sport and recreation. These clubs are an essential part of our social fabric. They bind communities together through a shared passion and provide the vital first step on the ladder for those who aspire to reach the top of the sporting pyramid.

Sport England has produced guidance for clubs and organisations on how to get people active at a low cost, along with some tips on keeping energy costs down.

What Support Can Clubs and Groups Offer?

Safeguarding adults is everybody’s business. We can all play a part in supporting each other. We can pledge to create safer cultures that prioritise wellbeing. Also, we can speak up if we feel that something isn’t right.

People sometimes worry that it isn’t their place to intervene, and that adults can look after themselves. But through intervening, you could make a big difference to someone in your club or group – whether they’re a participant, a volunteer, or staff.

Creating a positive culture in your club or group is essential to safeguarding adults. You can do that by:

  • Listening – Gathering feedback about the club and discussing what is working and what isn’t.
  • Learning – Attending a course on safeguarding adults or mental health.
  • Leading – Making changes in the club based on the feedback you’ve gathered and the courses that you’ve attended.

By listening, learning and leading you are showing the adults in your club or group that you care about them, and that wellbeing underpins everything that happens.

Safeguarding Starts With a Conversation.

If you have concerns about someone – maybe because they look unkempt, or their behaviour has changed – have a word with them. Simply asking ‘How are you?’ may give someone the opportunity they need to speak about what is happening to them. And if they say ‘I’m fine’, follow up by saying something like ‘I’ve noticed that you’re not quite yourself recently. I am here to help if I can’.

Sometimes people don’t ask such questions because they are afraid of what the adult may tell them. Or, because they don’t know how to help. But you don’t have to have all the answers to people’s problems. You may be able to signpost the adult to some local support services, such as the Citizen’s Advice Bureau. Or you could ask the club or group welfare officer to speak to the adult.

If you’re a club welfare officer, make sure you get the right training for your role. Also ensure you know how to link with your NGB safeguarding team.

Need more support?

We have a comprehensive list of signposting information and services that offer support.

We also have a dedicated Safeguarding in Sport Toolkit to help clubs support participants with their mental health.

A version of this article originally appeared on the Club Matters website. Club Matters has extensive guidance and resources that cover all aspects of running a sports club or group. Take a look at their resources here.