Andrew Fawkes explains the background to this process and how it can enable local authorities to plot a course for physical activity and sport through choppy waters.
Knight, Kavanagh and Page (KKP) has now delivered six Strategic Outcomes Planning Guidance (SOPG) diagnostic reports in the last year and is about to commence on a comparable equity impact assessment in Tameside and another, which will be considering the issues in a Welsh context, for Bridgend. Application of this guidance, and the associated research and consultation, is definitely helping these authorities to articulate the connections and contributions of sport and physical activity to their wider objectives.
The SOPG is essentially a four-step guide which enables the development of an effective case for investment in physical activity and sport. Its four headline themes are:
- develop shared local strategic outcomes for your place
- understand your community and your place
- identify how the outcomes can be delivered sustainably
- secure investment commitment to outcome delivery.
Sport England’s new 10-year strategy, Uniting the Movement, places tackling inequality (which has been exacerbated by the Covid pandemic) at the heart of its approach. This reinforces the need for local authorities to work collaboratively across their own key services and with external agencies to articulate a clear role for physical activity and sport in the delivery of broader local and corporate outcomes.
In the light of the financial and operational strain that Covid-19 continues to cause on health, mental health, adult social care and education services, the themes of sustainable recovery and local authority understanding of the positive mental and physical health impact of built leisure assets and related services to local communities are central to this work.
KKP’s role in the process is to assess, gauge and articulate the evidence presented by council staff, health professionals, community practitioners and local authority elected members with regard to the often significant public health challenges faced. Many councils are, for example, trying to work out how to tackle the often very significant gaps in healthy life expectancy between key local neighbourhoods.
Evidence gathered via consultation is supplemented by analysis of strategic documents, such as the authority’s local plan, health and wellbeing strategy or sport/leisure facilities strategy, to provide a rounded assessment of the point the council has reached on its journey along the SOPG path.
In terms of what ‘good’ looks like, we have found that the insight provided by external partners, such as housing associations, public health practitioners and social prescribers, often delivers the best insight into the extent to which a place either meets the requirements of the SOPG guidance or where there are gaps. Rossendale Connected is an excellent example of the type of community response to the pandemic that has provided telling insight to the SOPG process.
Not every local authority can approach the four-step process in a linear fashion, especially given the current volatile environment and the fact that they have essentially been in crisis mode over the past 12 months.
However, our diagnosis can, for example, confirm the findings of a pre-existing built facility strategy that clearly sets out where new-build leisure provision should be placed while at the same time pointing out that further insight is needed to help specify exactly what type of physical activity will be preferred by local residents as they emerge from a lengthy period of restrictions.
What makes KKP the best option for advising a local authority on the SOPG journey? A key strength is the emphasis placed on, and the effort applied to, the consultation phase. This is allied to the depth of experience and expertise within our team.
In addition, all our work emphasises the high value of interpersonal conversations with stakeholders and key officers. This is analysed alongside the collection and analysis of all available data to create a complete project picture. Presentation is then underpinned by illustrative and informative maps generated by our sector-leading GIS team.
There is little doubt that the SOPG process is having a positive impact by assisting local authorities to adopt a clear, strategic and sustainable approach to investment in sport and physical activity facilities and services.
Andrew Fawkes is a principal consultant at KKP.
Rossendale Connected: http://rossendaleconnected.org/