Comhairle agrees to lobby group’s participation request

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Families into Sport for Health (FiSH) have been approved by Comharle nan Eilean Siar (CnES) to participate in the creation of a new strategy to improve Island residents’ physical activity, sport and health.

The lobby group’s request to become involved is the the first, and so far only participation request in the Western Isles, following the Community Empowerment Act 2015.

In its request FiSH stated: “The outcome that FiSH would like considered is improved and equitable access to recreational facilities for the health and wellbeing of families, especially children.

“The output we would like considered to improve this outcome is improved access to the Ionad Spors Leodhais (ISL) by adding a minimum of 5 hours on Sundays for a six month trial period.”

In support of their request to become involved in the process of creating the new strategy the lobbyists submitted information from The Outer Hebrides Community Planning Partnership’s ‘How Good is Our Place Survey 2017’, the ‘Local Outcome Improvement Plan’, and also from their own information gathered in the ‘FiSH ISL User Survey 2015’.

They also emphasised the diversity of their membership, stating: “Members of FiSH live in the community.

“We are families and individuals with professional backgrounds in such areas as HR, economics, medical and mental health professionals, healthcare workers and carers, community engagement and community empowerment, and sports and athletics.

“Our membership includes those with disabilities, carers, single parents, elderly, children, those with varied religious beliefs and non-belief, sexual orientation, ethnicity and socio-economic backgrounds.

“FiSH membership has equal representation of women.”

It has been reported extensively that FiSH has already fundraised money to cover the CnES stated shortfall for a trial of Sunday hours in order to provide a cost-neutral trial.

FiSH member, George Macleod said: “This participation approval couldn’t come at a better time.

“With the current budget cutbacks, now more than ever, we as a community need to find ways of reducing pressure on our health care systems and ensuring that council run services are operating at maximum efficiency.

“As ISL has never been open on Sundays, it is impossible to know if this revenue generating service is being offered at the most efficient hours.

“Statistically, sports centres in the Western Isles and the rest of Scotland have their second highest revenue generating hours on Sundays. Plus, keeping ISL closed on Sundays also comes with its own costs.”

In the CnES acceptance of the FiSH request, they stated: “An outcome improvement process has been established in respect of that outcome.

“The Quality of Life Priority Group of the Outer Hebrides Community Planning Partnership (OHCPP) has the remit of producing an action plan in relation to the third priority of the OHCPP’s Local Outcome Improvement Plan (LOIP), namely that the Outer Hebrides offers attractive opportunities that improve the quality of life, wellbeing and health of all our people.

The Group proposes to develop a whole-life physical activity, sport and health strategy to achieve the LOIP outcome of increased levels of physical activity and mental wellbeing for children and young people.

“It is intended that this work will commence in March 2018. It is anticipated that the Group will recommend to OHCPP’s board in March 2018 that this be prioritised as a year-one target of the LOIP.

“It is expected that FiSH will have an opportunity to participate in the process by being consulted for its views on the strategy.”

Pauline Matterson, a member of the FiSH management committee highlighted: “There are currently no indoor sports facilities open on Sundays in Lewis and Harris.

“According to the OHCPP’s Single Outcome Agreement 2013-2023, limited access to sports facilities and inclement weather are the contextual reason for a number of health concerns: The Western Isles has some of the lowest rates of participation in sport and exercise and some of the highest rates of childhood obesity in Scotland, as well as high overall body mass index rates.

“Reduced access to sports facilities during 50% of children’s time off from school - or seven weeks of the year - has had a negative impact on our children’s health.

“We must do better.”