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Spending on leisure in Shetland worth triple the money

Every £1 invested in sport and leisure in Shetland generates more than triple that amount in social and economic benefits, according to a major new study.

It is well known that when people do more exercise they can increase their health and be more productive in the workplace.

But until now no precise value has been placed on the benefit of the annual investment of £3.3 million in the provision and running of leisure centres, sports classes, games halls, sports pitches, play areas and other facilities in the isles.

The study shows that the gains are worth in excess of £10 million every year.

They include:

• reduced health/social care costs as a result of greater physical and mental wellbeing

• lower levels of workplace sickness

• fewer young people not in employment, education or training

• improved employability and earning potential

• cheaper access to facilities, allowing greater participation

The hugely positive impact is quantified in a Social Return on Investment (SROI) study commissioned by Shetland Recreational Trust and Shetland Islands Council’s Sport and Leisure Service (SICSL) and carried out by accountants RSM.

The true SROI figure is likely to be much higher: while the full cost of provision was included in the study only 60-70 per cent of SRT and 38-48 per cent of SICSL activities were assessed.

SRT Chairman Bryan Leask said: “The founders of Shetland’s network of first-class leisure facilities, who set out their vision more than 30 years ago, would have been delighted with the findings of this study.

“It shows that the value of the annual investment in leisure across the islands is reaping major benefits in the form of people’s health and wellbeing.

“That means lower health and social care costs, greater productivity in the workplace for local employers and young people in gainful education or employment among many other outcomes. It is a very positive report indeed.”

Councillor George Smith, Vice Chair of Shetland Islands Council’s Education and Families Committee, said: "Often the value and benefits of sport and leisure can be underestimated. This report demonstrates that there is a significant return on the investment locally with economic, social and health benefits all to the fore. I am pleased that the council continues to recognise this and supports sport and leisure activities throughout Shetland for all age groups."

SRT general manager James Johnston said: “The SROI work was a major undertaking for the trust and the council, but the results prove conclusively that the commitment of staff across the two organisations in providing leisure activities and maintaining our excellent facilities is well worth it.

“It is our aim to improve the lives of people living in Shetland and we are clearly achieving that.

“But be assured that we will not be resting on our laurels – this study will help us to determine our priorities as we look to the next 30 years.”

The study, the first of its kind in the UK to focus on the impact of leisure facilities in a rural community, was carried out by a team from RSM using an internationally-recognised methodology in conjunction with SRT and SIC Sport and Leisure staff.

It evaluated the benefits of:

• Regular exercise using SRT facilities by general access and subscription members – £6.4 million

• People participating in swimming programmes from basic to competitive levels, including access for those with additional support needs – £635,000

• Sport and physical activity under the national Active Schools programme provided by SICSL – just under £2 million

• Outdoor education programmes also provided by SICSL for senior school children (P7-S2) – £755,000

• Health specific exercise classes such as Cardiac Rehabilitation and Exercise After Stroke – £238,000

• Over 50s clubs encouraging participation in swimming, bowls, badminton, and table tennis and use of fitness suites in Clickimin, Yell, Whalsay, Unst and West Mainland – £100,000.

Janet Hamblin of RSM, one of the authors of this report, said: “The gain of more than £10 million per annum is itself striking, but it is all the more so when it is understood that this significantly undervalues the total gains from Shetland Recreational Trust and Shetland Island Council Sport and Leisure Service activity.

“The overall results show the significant value that is brought to remote and rural communities by the provision and use of local leisure facilities.

“Both in the health of individuals within them, and the social cohesion it encourages amongst their communities, they bring value significantly beyond their costs.”

Summary report - Social Impact Evaluation of selected projects