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COVID-19 has impacted many aspects of children’s lives across Scotland. The Data for Children Collaborative with UNICEF ran a project in 2020 ‘Addressing socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19 on children in Scotland: A review of capability and available data sets’. One outcome of that project was a snapshot of the data landscape which highlights the depth and breadth of datasets that could be used for understanding the socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19.
The OSS sampled over 1,000 adults across Scotland in 2021 to understand the Covid impact on activity levels, and discovered that 47% of adults reported doing a lot or a little less in the first year of the pandemic – accelerating a trend for many in our population away from regular activity. However, that the majority also stated a desire to return to activity post-pandemic, and cited a lack of opportunities to participate in recreational sport as a real barrier. Now, with the help of the Data for Children Collaborative and UNICEF, we are turning our attention to Scotland’s children and young people, to better understand and map the impact on current and future generations, and how Scotland can shape its recovery from COVID-19 to improve its outlook.

Recreational sport has long been understood as a crucial mechanism for improved health and wellbeing, as well as having positive impact on social cohesion, education and the economy. Government data showed a decline in participation across many parts of the population starting in early teenage years prior to 2020, with poverty pinpointed as the main barrier, yet Children’s Neighbourhoods Scotland surveys of children show they value ‘play’ and ‘activity with friends’ among their top wishes. Holistically, little is understood of recreational sport accessibility, uptake and impact for children and young people across Scotland. The COVID-19 pandemic and its unprecedented impact on society has further complicated our understanding in this field and increases the requirement for action.

The purpose of this challenge question is to answer three fundamental questions; Where has COVID-19 impacted children’s access to recreational sport in the community? Who has been impacted? And how has COVID-19 impacted the facilities, systems, and opportunities that are aimed at supporting young people through sport in their communities?

Desired Outcome:

Using data driven approaches, a detailed understanding of the barriers to accessing recreational sport activity across Scotland, and how this has changed through COVID-19.

The outcome needs to provide insight into practical solutions to promote and increase participation, which the Observatory for Sport in Scotland will use to work with stakeholders across Scotland to shape policy change.

The outcome should also highlight the data gaps that exist, and practical solutions to bridging these gaps.