Engaging lower socio-economic groups (LSEG)

Organisations delivering sport and physical activity are often ideally placed to help address issues and challenges faced by their local community. However, they often lack the resources, expertise, or access to do this.

Sport and physical activity should be accessible to everyone, no matter their background or bank balance. Sports clubs, groups and organisations are uniquely placed to provide opportunities for everyone to get active and engaged. This page explores some of the factors that may affect participation and volunteering by people from lower socio-economic groups, and how clubs, groups and organisations can work to become more accessible.

Why is this important?

  • 12 million adults are from lower socio-economic groups. (Source: Office of National Statistics 2011).
  • 1 in 3 adults from lower socio-economic groups are inactive, compared to 1 in 6 adults from the highest socio-economic groups (Source: Sport England, Active Lives data, 2020).
  • Families with the 20% lowest incomes have, on average, £3.21 to spend on active sport each week for the whole household (Source: Office of National Statistics, 2016).
  • People from lower socio-economic groups are less likely to volunteer than those in higher groups (Source: Sport England, Active Lives data, 2019).

What are the barriers facing people from lower socio-economic groups?

Every individual is different. The barriers that may impact participation and volunteering habits are influenced by a range of factors outside of income, such as ethnicity, age, gender, health, employment status, family circumstances and much more. However, there are some barriers that people from lower-socio economic groups are more likely to face. These include, but are not limited to:

  • A lack of disposable income – people with very limited disposable income may not be able to meet the full cost of membership fees, training and match fees, transport costs, or buying kit or equipment. For some, it may be a choice between attending activity sessions and putting food on the table or heating the house.
  • Health inequalities – people from lower socio-economic groups are more likely to experience health inequalities. This means they are more likely to have mental and physical health conditions that can affect their likelihood to take part in sport.
  • Personal barriers – for some, joining a club or group can require a significant change in their behaviour or habits. Some may be worried about being judged or feeling out of place, and others may have wider responsibilities and commitments, such as multiple jobs or caring responsibilities. All of these can act as a barrier to participating or volunteering.

It is important to remember that people face unique barriers, so doing some research and talking to local people about what would support them to get involved is really valuable.

Before reaching out, agree internally why you want to create a community partnership and the collective outcomes you’re looking for as an organisation, and for the community you are working with. All key people from your organisation (e.g. all committee members) should be involved in this. Try to engage with as many different people as possible and not just those who are involved in the decision-making processes within your organisation. This will aid communication of intentions, encourage commitment across your organisation and from your partner/s once in place, and support planning and goal setting.

It is important to better understand and address the barriers impacting people from lower socio-economic groups in your own local community. The results of your conversations may highlight the need to make some changes to your operations, activities and pricing structures to make them more accessible.

StreetGames, a leading sport for development charity that work in under-served areas, recommend considering if your activities are:

  • happening at the right time for the people you want to attract? e.g. not 9am on a Sunday for teenagers.
  • in the right place for the people you want to attract? e.g. somewhere that feels welcoming and open rather than a private facility.
  • being run by the right people for who you want to attract? e.g. are they from the area.
  • pitched at the right price for the people you want to attract? e.g. using ‘pay what you can’ approaches.
  • being delivered in the right style for the people you want to attract? e.g. including opportunities to socialise within the session.

StreetGames call these the ‘Five Rights’. Incorporating the questions above into any discussions you have can help you to understand how your offer looks and feels to people from lower socio-economic groups and any changes you might need to make to improve your accessibility.

Doing some research on your local population can help you to better understand:

  • the demographic make-up of people living in your local area.
  • the organisations that exist to support people from lower socio-economic groups.
  • the specific challenges affecting people’s participation and volunteering.

There are a number of ways you can do this, including:

  • Exploring the research or data already available for your area, including the Indices of Multiple Deprivation.
  • Talking to trusted local organisations who work with people living in under-served areas such as schools, community groups and charities. They may be able to share their insight, facilitate discussions for you or help with your marketing.
  • Consulting local people via trusted organisations or directly through; informal conversations, discussion groups or surveys to find out what barriers they face, how to overcome them and encourage and support their involvement. Remember, you can use StreetGames’ ‘Five Rights’ as a guide.

There are a number of ways that you can embed inclusivity into the way you run and manage your organisation, including:

  1. Be as flexible as possible regarding your pricing structure and/or the membership options on offer. Having options to suit as many incomes as possible will make you more accessible. You can find out more on our ‘Exploring membership options’ webpage. Also consider if there are any ‘hidden costs’, like specific kit, that you can address.
  2. Making sure your procedures or practices don’t disadvantage some groups. For example, penalising members for absences can make you less inclusive to people with responsibilities or personal considerations, like health issues, that mean they sometimes need to miss sessions.
  3. Involving people from a wide range of backgrounds in the running of your organisation. This can be a great way to make sure your activities, operations and procedures are influenced by a range of different perspectives so that they work for as many people as possible. When getting people involved on a formal or informal basis, be clear what you are asking of people in terms of their time commitments, skills needed and any potential costs such as transport/refreshments etc. Think about flexibility – just because your committee meeting has been at 8pm on a Monday for years doesn’t mean it needs to stay that way!

Ensuring inclusivity underpins your culture, decision-making and activities is an important step towards creating an environment where people from all backgrounds feel welcome, comfortable and part of something. Embedding inclusion in your values and promoting these so that they are understood by everyone will make sure people understand that inclusivity is a priority and part of your culture.

Reviewing and adapting the activities and volunteering opportunities you offer can also help promote inclusivity. Introducing changes or new sessions that address some of the barriers discussed above can create more accessible activities. For example, you could:

  • Set up sessions where equipment isn’t needed or can be provided.
  • Work to make activities as enjoyable and informal as possible, with a relaxed atmosphere.
  • Offer sessions that are clearly marketed as needing no prior experience.
  • Break volunteering roles down into tasks, so that people take on responsibilities that suit their time, ability and experience.

It’s important to make sure your community is aware of your offer and commitment to inclusivity and accessibility. Your marketing and communications have a big part to play in this so be sure to:

  • Reference any specific adaptations, like equipment-free or beginner sessions in your advertising.
  • Tailor your messages to address what might be impacting people locally.
  • Use positive and informal language, to highlight the inclusive and enjoyable atmosphere you are creating for people.
  • Include images that show the experience you offer people, including social opportunities. Ideally, try to include photos that display the wide range of people and interests you can cater for.
  • Check your website offers as much information as possible to help people know what to expect for example: where sessions are held, what they need to wear or bring, and where they can leave their belongings when they arrive.
  • Share an email address or phone number so that people can check on things they are unsure about in advance.

Different groups can be easier to reach through different channels. Finding out which channels work for local people from less affluent backgrounds, to make sure you can reach them more effectively, is really important. Partnering with local organisations can help to guide your marketing in terms of which the platforms your target audience use, and the ways they prefer to be communicated with. These organisations might also be able to share information about your sessions through their own channels, to help raise awareness.

Last modified: Monday, 26 September 2022, 5:19 PM