The rising cost of living is forcing people in the UK to make tough decisions.
For some, that means choosing between having the heating on or feeding their families.
For others, it has meant saving money in other areas, such as having to limit exercise classes for themselves and their children.
BBC Sport visited the Mansfield School of Boxing and heard about the choices some families are forced to make when it comes to balancing the rising cost of living. We also spoke to swimmers at the Rye Leisure Center in Sussex, as their pool is closed until at least spring 2023.
Eleven-year-old Paul suffers from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). He says boxing helps “keep my mind focused” and his mum Sarah has noticed his demeanor has “pretty calmed down” since he started attending the Mansfield gym.
“Because he has mental health issues, coming to boxing is a relief for him,” she told BBC Sports News correspondent Laura Scott.
“We just have to tighten our belts so we can still afford to bring him here.”
She pays just under £10 a week for Paul to attend classes, but says things will get tougher in the winter months.
“Because of my disability, I’m going to have to turn on the heating a bit more and then it’s going to be difficult to get him here on a tight budget,” she said.
“We do our best to keep him here, but then we have to think about what’s more important: heat, food and electricity, and keep him out, or cut him down and keep him alive. ?
“[If he stops] his sanity will drop further, and his energy will go up and he will go up and down. It’s a very difficult decision for parents.”
A recent survey commissioned by UKactive, a non-profit organization, said 43% of its 2,002 respondents said the rising cost of living will negatively impact their ability to participate in sports and work. exercise.
For Ilo, whose 13-year-old son Emils hits the gym twice a week, the decision is simple but stark.
“Sport is the priority, for sure. If you have to choose between food and sport, you will eat less,” he said.
“Sport is going to be the last thing we are going to cut out of our family.”
Marcellus Baz, whose charity Switch Up set up the club, says he “finds it hard to sleep at night” because he fears people will fall through the cracks as they battle the rising costs.
Donations from local businesses have helped the gym allow people who can’t afford the fees to keep coming, but Baz says more needs to be done.
“On the back of the pandemic, people really struggled and didn’t recover, and then you have cuts everywhere,” he said.
“The cost of living crisis is just the latest thing. Fuel has gone up, food has gone up, energy bills have gone up. People are really struggling and they don’t know what to do.”
A survey of public sector operators, conducted by UKactive, showed:
- Leisure services are expected to be reduced or completely abolished in 40% of communal areas before the end of March 2023
- Leisure services are threatened in 74% of municipalities at the end of March 2024
UKactive chief executive Huw Edwards said the cost of living crisis, due to the financial impact caused by the coronavirus closures, has had a far-reaching impact.
“The stories we’re hearing right now are about people losing facilities they love and supporting their physical and mental health,” he said.
“I fear this will create a major physical and mental health crisis in the country if we do not find solutions in the coming weeks to support these facilities through the winter.”
In September, the government announced a six-month package to help households and businesses, but energy prices could still rise sharply in April.
“The cost is that there is a deterioration in the health of a nation through the loss of these essential facilities,” Edwards said.
“It’s about health and it’s about the health of families, communities and the nation.”
Tuesday, the pool at the Rye Sports Center in Sussex temporarily closed, with the operator claiming it cannot ‘absorb’ the £92,000 annual cost of maintaining the pool.
The non-profit organization Freedom Leisure – which runs 19 leisure centers with swimming pools on behalf of local councils in the South East, said its annual energy bill had risen at an “alarming rate” of 8 million to 20 million pounds sterling nationwide. He had already recently lowered the pool temperatures.
Emotional Rye swimmers told BBC Sport they were losing “a social community” and instructor Zara Riseborough said she was “absolutely disgusted, really upset for all of them”. She added: “It was a vital lifeline for a lot of people, physically and mentally.”
Swim England has warned that this will not be an isolated case and that more than 100 swimming pools could be at risk over the next six months.
Laura Scott, BBC Sports News correspondent
Over the past week, I have witnessed nearly two very powerful examples of the serious impact the cost of living crisis is already having on sport participation.
There was the raw emotion of swimmers at the Rye Sports Center at the thought of losing their beloved facility, which they told me offered them so much more than just sport.
And the Mansfield School of Boxing families’ absolute honesty about where to be active ranks in their budget dilemmas this winter.
Warnings from authorities are that these stories will be replicated across the UK as the sector finds itself in what many are calling a more perilous position than the pandemic.
It will take time to see the impact on participation levels, but it will come as no surprise to see it deepen the physical inactivity crisis and widen inequalities across the UK.
Baz added: “At the moment we are looking for solutions and the solution we have is the donations we receive from companies; fundraising, regular donations or payment for this support.
“Sometimes I come home, I have trouble sleeping and I think we can’t let down people who are struggling, who have no needs, who have no help, no hope.
“Everyone should look to the future and see some light. This community hub was set up to be able to give people that hope and a reason to believe and to support them so that they can move into a better place.”
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