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Jersey Sport Predicting 'Bigger Demand'

Students took part in the Bikeability programme during 2020.

The CEO of Jersey Sport is expecting a bigger demand on its services as the island continues to recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

Many programmes were suspended and planned projects had to be put on hold because of the restrictions in place over the last year and a half.

That included an inclusion programme for disabled islanders, and the move more sessions.

Catriona McAllister says she's expecting the impact of social isolation, and the mental health challenges that many people have gone through, will lead to increased demand on Jersey Sport services.

"What we're really looking to do is partner with professionals in the different areas that have seen the biggest impact.

"When it comes to mental health, we've just launched a couple of new programmes specifically around mental health with MIND and people who have found themselves completely isolated as a result of Covid.

"Another group that we've just launched is the buggy walks. A lot of parents who would normally go, baby arrives, you go to baby toddlers group, you meet the mums and dads you met at antenatal or whatever the scenario was, and you've just not been able to do that so suddenly you've had this baby for as long as a year or 18 months and you've not been able to do much in the way of group activities.

"Activities, where people can feel safe, predominantly outdoors, getting out and being able to reengage with community life, is going to be really important, so we're looking to grow our capacity in our existing suite of programmes that allow people who feel they haven't exercised as much, that feel a bit more isolated as a result of Covid, can come and know they're going to meet someone in a social aspect."

A target was set one year ago to increase physical activity in Jersey by 10% by 2030.

At the time, 49% of adults and 81% of children and young people did not meet the World Health Organisation's recommended level of weekly exercise.

Ms McAllister admits they are probably 15 to 18 months behind on the target, but hopes it can be made up subject to future funding.

"I think we can be quietly optimistic, but that was always a significant and tough target.

"We just need to continue to take small steps towards helping every islander build some more physical activity or sport into their weekly routine."

In 2020, there was an increase in the number of people cycling.

The Level 1 bikeability programme ran within six primary schools to Year 5 and 6 children, with 256 children completing the certification.

18 students from St Mary's School completed the Level 2 programme and are now cycling to school.

The island's first inclusive cycling centre was also launched in October 2020.

The Jersey Sport CEO says there is still a bit of resistance by many people to getting back to group activities again, and it may take a bit of time to bounce back from the impact of the pandemic.

"I think we will bounce back relatively quickly and we're certainly doing a lot of work to build confidence and I think with a lot of people suffering from the impact of Covid, either through Long Covid or through the isolation experience as part of Covid or having to shield, I do think there's going to be a bigger demand on our services."

You can read the full Jersey Sport 2020 annual report here.

"Jersey Sport believes that now is the time for optimism. Sport and physical activity play a crucial part in creating a more active population, whilst boosting the economy through the indirect effect of a healthier population, as well as its direct financial contribution and savings to health spend.

"Sport must be placed at the heart of all strategies for the island’s long and short-term recovery and Jersey Sport are in good health to deliver all that is required to achieve this success in the future."

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