By reaching out and providing opportunities for your local community, your club or group can play an important role in encouraging people to be active and take control of their own health and wellbeing.

Sport and physical activity can improve lives, promote community cohesion and reduce the pressure on the health and social care system across the country. Inactivity costs the NHS an estimated £7.4bn every year (Public Health England, 2014), so playing a role in tackling inactivity can make a real difference.

Being active, especially within a club or group setting, can have lots of benefits for individuals and their communities, including:

  • Reducing individuals’ risk of different health issues, ranging from dementia or depression to hip fractures.
  • Supporting people to manage their pre-existing physical and mental health conditions.
  • Encouraging people to take control of their own health and wellbeing, and find enjoyable ways to look after themselves.  
  • Offering social opportunities, reducing loneliness and giving people a sense of belonging.
  • Helping people of all ages to develop healthy habits and daily routines.
  • Bringing people together from different backgrounds to create connected, active communities.

Your sports club, group or organisation is probably already key to offering some or all of these benefits to your members and participants. However, you may also be able to play a wider role in your community by becoming part of a formalised local approach to ensuring that those in greatest need can access and benefit from sport and physical activity. You can do this by positioning yourselves to be recommended to local people in need, as part of a solution to help them manage their health and wellbeing.

People in greatest need can often stand to gain even more than most from sport and physical activity. Experts note that the people who can especially benefit include:

  • People with disabilities or long-term health conditions.
  • People with mental health problems.
  • People who are lonely or isolated.
  • People who have other, complex needs that impact their life.

People that work directly with individuals in need, like social workers, health professionals, housing officers, fire safety and police officers, pharmacists, and in the places that individuals spend time at, like voluntary groups, libraries, community centres or job centres, can all play a role in raising awareness of local opportunities.

Raising awareness of your organisation locally and making sure that other organisations such as those listed above are aware of your offer can help to recommend you as a possible support option for the individuals they work with.

Some areas or communities might not have a formal approach to referring people to sports clubs or groups to support their health and wellbeing. Instead, it may be that people working directly with individuals in need, or in the places that they spend time, can suggest joining a sports club or group and signpost those in need to local organisations. Raising awareness of your organisation locally can therefore help make you a valid choice for people. For more information on marketing your organisation click here.

However, in some areas, more formal community systems might exist. Some areas have a ‘Link Worker’ whose role is to create partnerships with GPs, voluntary organisations, local authorities and other organisations that can refer people who need tailored support. Using their knowledge of different local services and organisations, Link Workers work with people in need to co-produce a support plan, which might include them joining a sports club or group.

If a link worker recommends your club or group to an individual who then joins, the Link Worker may get in touch to establish a shared plan to ensure that the experience you provide meets the needs of the individual attending. However, this won’t always be the case. A Link Worker might not be able to let you know in advance, or people might find your organisation another way. Being ready and willing to welcome new people and meet their needs is therefore really important.

Creating an inclusive environment that makes people feel comfortable and supported is key to this, in addition to being ready to listen and adapt to people’s needs and having robust safeguarding and welfare procedures in place. If your area does have a Link Worker, it might be useful to ask for their advice on creating joining processes that enable you to effectively identify and support individuals in need. 

Becoming an organisation that others are happy to signpost to can benefit not just the individuals who join as a result, but also your club or group itself. These benefits can include:

  • Helping to place your organisation at the heart of the community. By becoming a source of support for those in need and embedding your organisation within the networks around them, you will be able to play an important and valued role locally.
  • Increasing the diversity of your membership. By welcoming new people into your organisation through different routes, you will be able to increase your sustainability at the same time as bringing people together from a range of backgrounds and support diversity and community cohesion.
  • Working for social good. Giving back to the community is really important for a lot of sports clubs and groups, and supporting local people’s needs is a great way to do this.
  • Boosting your reputation. Positioning your club or group as somewhere that can support people’s mental and physical health and wellbeing within the community will help to create and promote your reputation as being a great place to be.
  • Finding new volunteers. Some people who join you might also want to get involved as a volunteer, so be sure to ask them when the time is right.  

The process of referring and supporting those in need through accessing sport and physical activity is often called social prescribing. The term and concept applies to lots of other activities too. Link Workers, or others in the community, can help people get involved in the arts, volunteering or other hobbies and activities that can meet their needs and improve their quality of life.   

To help position your organisation within a local social prescribing system, find out if you have a link worker in your area get in touch with them. If you don’t, raising awareness of your club or group across your community, including with key organisations and people like social workers or health professionals that can refer individuals to you, can help to bring people to your organisation through word of mouth. However, it is important to first make sure that you have a culture and environment that makes people feel comfortable, with robust safeguarding in place, to ensure you can best support those in need.   
Last modified: Thursday, 15 June 2023, 10:27 AM