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Source: Sport for Development Coalition 

January 2021 

Organisations within the Sport for Development Coalition are ready to play their part in responding to a report published this week which revealed that the Covid-19 pandemic has taken a “devastating toll” on young people’s mental health and wellbeing. 

The Prince’s Trust long-running annual survey of young people’s happiness and confidence returned the worst findings in its 12-year history. 

More than one in four young people surveyed in the 2021 Youth Index said they had felt unable to cope with life since the start of the pandemic, increasing to 40% of young people who are not in employment, education or training (NEET). Half of 16 to 25-year-olds said their mental health had worsened since the start of the pandemic. 

Jonathan Townsend, the Trust’s UK chief executive, said: “The pandemic has taken a devastating toll on young people’s mental health and wellbeing. 

“Many believe they are missing out on being young, and sadly we know that the impact of the pandemic on their employment prospects and overall wellbeing could continue far into their futures.” 

The Coalition has launched the ‘Adapt, Support, Respond’ campaign to highlight how charities and organisations have continued to support young people throughout lockdown, for example by adapting current programmes to be delivered online, providing one-to-one mentoring online and over the phone, and working with schools to maintain regular contact and support for vulnerable pupils including those at risk of exclusion.


Even before the pandemic, these organisations were delivering programmes and courses which were proven to improve mental health, and which could play a significant role in the recovery from the crisis. Examples include the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust which reported an overall increase of 7.5% in mental wellbeing across all programmes (measured using Short-Warwick Edinburgh scale) and self-efficacy increased across all programmes with Education seeing an increase of 3.2 points (measured using General Self-Efficacy scale). 

School of Hard Knocks stated that 95% of participants in adult programme report an improvement to their mental health and wellbeing, and throughout 2019, 65% of graduates from the Change Foundation Girls Win programme demonstrated through one-to-one mentoring sessions with their Coach Mentor that they achieved their short, medium and long-term goals and felt more confident about their future.

Ollie Dudfield, Executive Director of the Coalition, said: "Before the pandemic, the evidence showed that sport for development organisations were making a valuable contribution to the mental health and wellbeing of young people across the UK.

“Through the pandemic many of those same organisations are working hard to adapt and respond to such key issues which the pandemic is serving to exacerbate. Our collective aim is for sport and physical activity to play an important role in the recovery from Covid-19 in the coming months and years.”

There are more than 160 organisations within the Coalition’s network, each focused on maximising the contribution of sport and physical activity to important social outcomes. Most are actively delivering or promoting physical activity sessions, with evidence from Sport England’s Active Lives Children and Young People Survey 19/20 (above) showing the positive association between levels of engagement in sport and physical activity and levels of mental wellbeing. 

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