Published on: 10,May 2022

The power of long-term collaboration: our continuing partnership with Sport England

by Juliet Bouverie OBE, Chair of the Richmond Group of Charities

The Richmond Group of Charities and Sport England first crossed paths back in 2015. Physical activity had long been an important part of the portfolio of services, information and support that our members offer to people with long-term conditions – reflecting just how important a part of health and wellbeing it is for people at every stage of life. However, as we increasingly compared our experience and evidence across the Group, it was clear the sort of services and systems needed to help people living with long-term conditions at scale were simply not in place. Nor were the barriers and challenges people faced well understood by many professionals and policy-makers.

Meanwhile our partners at Sport England were sounding the alarm bell. Their annual Active Lives survey was telling them that people with long-term conditions were twice as likely to be inactive as people without (43% v 21%). Together we agreed this was a huge inequity that had to be addressed.

Roll forwards to 2022 and our partnership with Sport England has grown into something we could never have imagined.

Our Sport England funded programme has allowed us to work across the Richmond Group and with other partners to understand and address critical barriers to getting and remaining active. We’ve been able to learn and share much more about the key ingredients that make interventions successful and sustainable. We’ve created new resources, showcased good practice and developed an assets library. We’ve expanded our work with health professionals and the sports and activity sectors, and our fantastic Community of Practice has become a lively and supportive place to ask for and offer knowledge and expertise.

Although the pandemic has been hugely challenging for our organisations and the people we support, the work has not stopped. With Sport England’s support and investment, we were able to create new physical activity content to plug the gaps for people who wanted to stay active at home. Our suite of six Make Your Move videos are led by experienced instructors and provide three ability levels for each type of activity whether you want dance, be mindful, try gentle boxing, enhance your energy or work on your strength and balance.

Perhaps one of the most unexpected developments of our journey together came in 2018.  This was when, building on the insights of our work to date, we launched the award-winning We Are Undefeatable campaign with Sport England and our partners at Mind, MS Society and Parkinson’s UK. The campaign has changed the narrative about being physically active, providing inspiration and support for people with long term conditions to be active in ways that suit them. We have worked with brilliant people from a diverse range of backgrounds who have shared their own physical activity and health journeys as the face of the campaign. There are many milestones and ways to measure success, but this comment from someone who had seen the campaign really summed it up for me: ‘I’ve never seen people like me on TV before. Or thought I could do anything like that, now I do’.

Partnerships and collaboration are not always easy, but at the Richmond Group we fundamentally believe in the power of working together to do more and better for the people we support. We’re incredibly proud of our collaboration with Sport England. Although unfortunately the difficult events of the last two years have set back our collective progress, we remain determined to reach our goal: people with (multiple) health conditions more active, in ways that work for them, wherever they live and whatever their background. I, for one, am delighted to be continuing our partnership with Sport England as a system partner over the next three years, and to play our role in helping achieve Sport England’s ambitious 10 year Uniting the Movement strategy.

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Physical Activity