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17 Mar 2021

UK government says it will not fund scheme to get people back to fitness
BY Tom Walker

The Work Out to Help Out scheme would offer discounted access to health clubs and leisure centres

The Work Out to Help Out scheme would offer discounted access to health clubs and leisure centres
photo: Shutterstock/Perfect Wave

The government has said it has no plans to fund a Work Out to Help Out scheme to encourage people back to exercise after lockdown, as part of a 'Bounce Back Fitter' initiative.

Last year (2020), the government pumped £950m into an "Eat Out to Help Out" initiative, designed to help the hospitality sector get back on its feet.

A petition calling for a similar scheme for the physical activity sector – offering discounted access to health clubs, gyms and leisure centres – has so far attracted nearly 230,000 signatures.

The initiative has also secured wide support from the industry itself.

Today (17 March), however, in an official response to the petition, the government poured cold water on the scheme, flatly rejecting calls to provide the investment needed.

"We do not intend to fund a Work Out to Help Out Scheme," the government said, going on to comment in a statement which did not mention the gym or health club industry:

"We have provided unprecedented support to businesses through tax reliefs, cash grants and employee wage support, which many sport clubs have benefited from.

"On top of wider economic support, we have announced a £100m support fund for local authority leisure centres to ensure these important facilities remain available once public health restrictions are lifted.

"Sport England has also provided £220m directly to support community sport clubs and exercise centres through this pandemic, via a range of funds including their £35m Community Emergency Fund.

"This sector support was recently boosted by an extra £50m to help grassroots sports clubs and organisations as part of Sport England’s new strategy Uniting the Movement.

"We will continue to work with partners including Sport England and ukactive to open sports facilities and to encourage their usage.

"An example of the work the sector is leading in this area is the Fit Together campaign, developed by ukactive in line with its reopening framework for operating a fitness or leisure facility.

"Fit Together aims to raise awareness among the public that people can return to their facilities and be active in a safe environment."

Liz Terry, editor of HCM said: "As we go into the spring and gyms and health clubs start to reopen, it's essential people are encouraged to get back to fitness and given every incentive to do so.

"Government funding for a Work Out to Help Out scheme would signal the commitment of policymakers to the health of the nation and the power of exercise, so it's a real regret that this idea has not been adopted. Especially given the fact that research is showing people intend to eat out three times as often after lockdown – further worsening the obesity crisis.

"It's also frustrating that this government is still not able to differentiate between funds allocated to sport and funds allocated to the gym and health club sector. Although there are great synergies between these markets and they are very aligned, they are not the same and we must keep lobbying to make this point clear.

"It's good to see ukactive's Fit Together campaign getting a mention, however, we would have loved to see Work Out to Help Out and Fit Together combining to encourage the nation to have a huge leap forward in fitness."

The government's full response has now been attached to the petition, which asks for the Work Out to Help Out scheme. To access the page – and to sign the petition – click here.



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