Falklands : LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY 24 APRIL 2014 Part 2
Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Juanita Brock) 24.04.2014 (Article Archived on 08.06.2014)
That this House believes the provision of suitable sporting and leisure facilities in the Islands should be incorporated into the Government’s Infrastructure Planning.
LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY 24 APRIL 2014
Motion No 8/2014 by Dr the Hon Barry Elsby:
That this House believes the provision of suitable sporting and leisure facilities in the Islands should be incorporated into the Government’s Infrastructure Planning.
Explanation by Dr the Honourable Barry Elsby:
Mr Speaker, Honourable members, I have already touched on this subject today of the need for primary prevention to keep people healthy for their own benefit but also to reduce the cost to Government for sending people overseas when they develop illnesses.
And this is a very large subject – probably much larger than people realise than just a simple title. The one aspect is the provision that Government makes for people to take in competitive sports throughout the islands for enjoyment so they can increase skill levels so they can take part and represent the Falkland Islands in such places as the Commonwealth Games and the Island Games. I would encourage that. And that my younger, fitter, and slightly more active Colleague, the Honourable Michael Poole, who will be seconding the Motion – I am sure will be speaking more about competitive sports. There is sadness, Of course that Manchester United is feeling a bit upset for not doing so well.
The other aspect of this debate is the provisions should Government make for the less active members of our society. And here I include myself and perhaps quite a number of my colleagues sitting around the table here today. But we need to take more exercise and how are we going to encourage people to do that and to take more leisure pursuits and not just competitive sports.
There is a mountain of research out there that shows the more active people are the less they suffer from things such as heart disease, many forms of cancer, obesity and possibly even depression. And it’s generally understood that for every £1.00 that we invest in measures that end up in prevention we see a return in the reduction of healthcare costs of about £3.50 so it’s a good way of investment for the future.
Last month this House accepted the new Islands’ Plan and in that plan in the Health Section, it states, ‘everyone in the community should be encouraged to live a healthy, independent and fulfilling life. We will continue to focus on the provision of excellent public health and primary care and appropriate secondary care.’ That means hospital based treatment. We will place renewed emphasis on health prevention (I think that should be worded better) and promote healthy and active lifestyles to reduce the requirements for costly treatments both at home and in overseas. Then again you see it’s focusing on the investment on primary and prevention to stop people from getting ill in the first place is very effective. And as my Honourable Colleague has already said today by the end of this financial year we will have probably spent somewhere in the region of £2Million sending ill people overseas for treatment. It is estimated the total medical budget by the end of this financial year will be somewhere around £8Million. That’s almost 20% of the whole FIG budget and that’s really unsustainable. And that’s growing year on year. We have to do something. My estimate is that we have already spent in the year about £90,000.00 on health promotion measures which could stop people getting ill in the first place. And this difference on what we spend on prevention and what we spend on illness is crazy. We have to shift the emphasis more on prevention.
Mr Speaker, the Jesuits have a saying – ‘give me the child for his first seven years and I will give you the man.’ This is a very powerful statement because the habits we develop in childhood forge the habits of a lifetime. And we need to engage children in regular sport so that it becomes part of their way of life and they carry it on into adulthood and then they expect their children to develop more active lifestyles. Most experts think children in school should be doing somewhere between 2 to 3 hours of physical education a week.
In the Islands we do somewhere between 1.5 and 2 hours a week which is not bad but not as good as it should be. I think it is partly because teachers recognise the importance of physical education but they are in competition with the need to produce more academic results. And all too often physical education suffers as a result.
In the UK only about 7% of children attend private schools. 93% go to state schools and yet when the Olympics were held in London, 17% of the British Olympic squad was made up of competitors who had attended private schools. And of the medals that the UK won, 40% of the medals went to people who attended private schools. Just about half of the English Cricket Team – they aren’t doing too well at the moment – but half of them are made up of people who attended private schools. And the same applies to the English Rugby Team. I would suggest that’s because private schools recognise the importance of physical exercise on a daily basis as an integral part of their education. They provide very good resources, they provide very good teaching but perhaps more importantly they have the full and active support of the parents who are paying to send them there.
Our Leisure Centre is something that we should be proud of and its mission statement used to be: ‘The Stanley Leisure Centre working towards a happier, healthier Falkland Islands Community,’ which fits in with what we already have been talking about. In 2012 that changed to: ‘to provide sporting facilities including swimming pool, fitness suite, sports hall and sports field for approximately 16,000 users a year and approximately 370 members. I think that change has been a retrograde step in a way. It separates the Leisure Centre from the Islands’ Plan – this idea that we should be exercising more. We should be getting people more active. And that change in mission statement and – I hate that word mission statement – but that mission statement seems to disconnect that and I think we need to look at that again.
Evidence is very clear in virtually every society in the world that the poorer members of society have poorer health for all sorts of reasons and it’s these people – the poorer members of any society that we should be encouraging to use our leisure facilities. The way the leisure Centre charges at the moment is to offer relatively cheap annual memberships for regular users but to charge proportionally far more for the casual or the occasional user. If you earn a good salary then this annual membership is very appealing but it you are a family on a lower grade and you’ve already got 3 or 4 children, then that £320.00 might be just a little bit too much. And we need to come up with innovative ways of pricing that we can encourage the occasional users so the family on a Saturday and Sunday can feel they can go off to the Swimming pool for a few hours a day and won’t feel it will cost too much.
I believe that we need to re-focus again at the Leisure Centre to target those people who would benefit the most – mainly those people who take little or no exercise – those families on low incomes who don’t have the annual membership certificate. We also need, I think, to use the leisure centre to lead on the provision of more after school and holiday clubs. Now I know some already go on but with my education hat on I get lots of parents contacting me saying particularly during the holidays but during lunch breaks and after school both parents work and we are concerned about looking after our children. It will be good if we have more after school clubs and exercise during the holidays.
And I think to bring all these changes about I feel we need to place the Leisure Centre – perhaps under a joint medical and education management structure so it can not only provide the facilities that dedicated users want but it can also be used as a tool to try to improve the health of the nation.
Mr Speaker, if you will bear with me for just a moment – I wish to expand on the leisure aspect as well. I asked my Honourable Colleague earlier today what provision had been made for the Sapper Hill encouraging people to cycle to school. I think that is very important. We have to encourage children to walk to school. We have to encourage people to cycle more, particularly children. We don’t see enough children walking to school or walking to school and I think we need to put more emphasis on that. As we build and develop the Islands, as we build and extend Sapper Hill we really need to recognise that unless we get everybody driving to the centre of town every day – and there’s nowhere to park – we have to make it easier for people to walk and cycle.
One of the commonest leisure pursuits in the Islands is probably gardening. But as new houses and flats are built there’s less garden attached to those. And I think when Sapper Hill first started to develop I suggested that we put some land aside for allotments because I think it is important and I think it is something I would like to see the Lands Committee to consider again – the need for allotments which is not a new concept in the Islands but it is something that has grown in popularity in other countries where land is at a premium.
So Mr Speaker in summary, I think we need to expand and re-focus the Leisure Centre and its facilities. I think we need to look at providing more after school clubs and finally we need to recognise the need of cycle tracks, more play areas perhaps allotments as well – to get more people out to get more exercise who perhaps wouldn’t be attracted to formal sport.
Mr Speaker, I support the Motion.
Seconded by by the Honourable Mr Michael Poole:
Thank you Mr Speaker, Honourable Colleagues my Honourable Colleague has very clearly laid out a vision and underlined the public health benefits of good sporting and leisure facilities generally. Despite his kind words, sadly, my dream of becoming a professional footballer may be over - I have just come to realise in recent weeks. So instead I am left to talk about these kinds of things instead.
To begin, developing our sporting infrastructure is a priority of mine and I think as had been mentioned we put it very clearly in the Islands’ Plan and it is part of the Government more widely as well. I don’t think anybody would argue there’s a lack of things to do in the Falklands – there’s not. Government has a role to play in terms of basic infrastructure and I think there is more we could do and more we must do. Hopefully that will be reflected in this year’s budget and in future budgets as well.
A lot of what does go on in terms of sport and leisure is very heavily based on volunteers and also supported generally by corporate sponsorship which is great. We would all like to see that continue. We need to thank a number of people have consistently given their time towards sporting clubs and general leisure and clubs as well and we really appreciate that but I think support from FIG needs to come from financial terms and basic infrastructure development but it can also come in planning terms and land allocation terms as well which is something we touched on earlier on.
In terms of wider leisure facilities separate from sporting facilities we have started discussions about having a community centre essentially incorporating a cinema as well. And I don’t want to set unrealistic expectations here. It is very early stages – anything in this area is going to be possibly prohibitively expensive. We are just starting to consider it and talking to a few people about it. And will develop it over the next weeks and months and see where we get to. Hopefully we can come up with a plan over the next few years and actually put something in place. But there is a lot of work to be done in the meantime.
I would like to encourage anybody who may be interested in being involved in that project to come and talk to myself or the Honourable Phyl Rendell or Barry Elsby in particular.
So thank you Mr Speaker. I support the Motion.
MS: Mr Speaker, Honourable Members, I am delighted to be able to contribute to this discussion because it is close to my heart. Exercise and sport in particular is a crucial part or any successful society.. My Honourable Colleague noted that half the English Cricket Team came from the English Public School System but the other half comes from South Africa where they place a great emphasis on Sport as they do in Australia and New Zealand.
(There are) a couple of things I would like to contribute. The Commonwealth advisory body on sport whose Chair was actually visiting us fairly recently with the Queen’s Baton, had a recommendation to governments that they should spend on the order of (.75%) of the national budget on sport and leisure activities. In our circumstances it would equate to something like £375,000.00 per annum. We are nowhere near that and so I think as an aspiration – as a way to start thinking about that sporting activities, it’s a figure to have in mind. And our issue, I think, is going to be the mechanism to deliver. We have a Leisure Centre but it is part of the Government therefore it is restricted by Government ethos, Government thinking, Government rules and regulations and all that sort of thing.
The Falklands’ Overseas Games Association, of which Members are aware, I am Chair, is trying to take a broader view of sport in recent years – not just overseas competitive sport but sport development. And we have been the only body in recent years that’s been able to do anything about developing sports and I think we have been reasonably successful. But there is a lot further to go and in the last couple of years actually as a result of the secondment of a person from Canada we developed a proposal for a National Sports Council and that is with the Director of Central Services and has been there for some while.
A National Sports Council would provide a focus for the sorts of things that my two colleagues have been talking about – to be able to focus not just on the role of sport and exercise in community development but also excellence in Sport. And the two things are not necessarily the same but they are complementary. And I think I have circulated the proposals for the national Sports Council to all Members. The thinking of the Director of Central Services I believe was that once the investment was made in the Leisure Centre we should come back to this because the obvious way to launch the national Sports Council is by handing over to it or by making some arrangements for it to run the Leisure Facility so Government has and they can run it in a very different way than we currently do.
The Overseas Games have always been a flagship for the Falklands and we are going back to jersey again next year. Last time I was in jersey which must be 16 years ago now, I came across “Exercise on Prescription.” That was something that the Jersey sporting community and hospitals had pioneered and I brought the idea back here and I think for some time it was actually used in the hospital here. So somebody comes in who is not very well and instead of giving some pills you send them us to the Leisure Centre to take some exercise. That relies on having somebody who can devise a proper programme – a proper safe programme for those people. Again, we have had at times an exercise referral practitioner or somebody with the capability of devising safe exercises for people. And if you are going to do that sort of thing you are going to need to do it safely like that. So these are all things to think about but of course they all cost money but within the (.75%) of Government spending I think we could probably do that. (Note: it could be .075 of Government Spending).
I am also hugely supportive of exercising in the curriculum in schools. And I have that discussion, again, as Chair of FIOGA with the Heads of both schools to see how much formal exercise has been done in the schools and indeed what’s organised for after school. I know it’s an awful long time since I was at school but when I was at school we had sport and exercise every day at lunchtime, after school, Saturday afternoons, Sundays instead of going to Church. It was a much better thing to go and play football or run around the field than go to church – perhaps I shouldn’t say that.
But exercise in the curriculum is important for two reasons. Not only for developing the health of our young people but also for developing competitive spirit. Competitive spirit matters. If you are going to get on in this world you have to be able to work with other people – teamwork comes through sport – competitive spirit comes through sport. And I think that is one of the fundamentally important things that you see in the British Public School System who provide all these excellent athletes that they generate this ethos that competitive spirit matters.
And just in closing I would note that I visited the Palmerstone North Boys’ School recently in New Zealand to remember Rick Epsilon who died here on Mount Longdon 32 years ago. It was a very interesting experience because in that school which is a State School, but a very competitive school, sport matters, competition matters and they have leadership as part of the curriculum. They have a Leadership Director and he attends all parts of the school activities to relate the boys (It is just a boys school but) keeps relating the boys back to this concept of leadership. So this is an important discussion. It’s about health, it’s about teamwork, it’s about leadership and all these things can come together if we do it properly.
PR: Mr Speaker, I would like to make some comments on this Motion. I have much work on the debate today and make the point to that this is a Island-wide issue and it should be for everybody in the Falkland Islands – and we are talking here about facilities in Stanley and I do think we should not forget the Camp in so much a key area of Camp. Recently I visited the Faroe Islands and I was absolutely amazed to see that every tiny hamlet in the Faroe Islands had an astro-turf football pitch for how many kids that were in those places. This is something that we need to aspire to later on I am sure when finances are talked about but it was just a fantastic example of what can be done in a remote, isolated country. So don’t let’s forget the Camp.
I am pleased too that we are not just talking about sport here. Fitness is not just about sport. It is also about exercise and certainly for my generation it is about exercise. Again, referring to the Camp, I think Camp people lead a much less sedentary life and I hope they are healthier for it.
The Honourable Ian Hansen and I this last weekend were moving quite a lot of our Shearling Ewes around and weighing and drafting and I think we got our fair bit of exercise last weekend so I commend that lifestyle to people.
But also I am glad you mentioned gardening and walking to work. I have heard in the last few weeks discussions about the issues of parking around the Junior School, needing to knock down buildings to create more car parking spaces. In my view, the more car-parking spaces you make the more you will need. You have to tackle it in a completely different way. We must encourage our young people to walk to school, cycle to school and all of us perhaps try and walk to work as well.
Just lastly, I am glad you are looking at the Leisure Centre – my Honourable Colleague on my left – and considering the fee structure. I had a totally different view when I was Director of Education. It was all about getting revenue in and balancing budgets and trying to see how much revenue we got from that brand-new facility. But I have changed my view. I think the health of the nation comes long before the few thousand pounds that we take in revenue from the Leisure Centre. And I recommend you Barry Elsby to look at free entrance for young children going for swims – going to the leisure centre. I think we should be making it free for young people and a number of my constituents have mentioned this recently.
Furthermore I understand that to hire the sports field – there is really a costly charge for that. And I think if the young lads and ladies want to go and play on the football pitch we should try to make that available and as free as we can make it for those people to take that exercise.
I support the Motion.
JC: Mr Speaker, Honourable members, I don’t think you will find anyone opposing this Motion. The value of sport and exercise is well recognised as its value in education where knock-on benefits to learning for healthy active young people are well proven. And I would agree that several hours sport a week is appropriate.
And I think we should recognise the many people who buy their own sports equipment, those who provide sponsorship, do fundraising for their activities – but the community needs a usable sports pitch that is suitable for multiple activities and no one organisation can afford it. That’s where Government has a role. I agree very firmly with those who say we should make the Leisure Centre more affordable and certainly, while I had the education portfolio and the Leisure Centre was part of that, we made a nominal charge for children’s swims at the Leisure Centre.
There is some criticism of that. People who brought children are spending too long in the pool. I don’t think so and I know they are having fun as well as engaging in healthy activity.
But I would end by saying it’s also important that we make it easier for children to walk to school. I have watched my grandchildren walk to school and seeing the independence it gives them as well as healthy exercise. And while we don’t have all the facilities we would need, I would remind everyone that a brisk walk is healthy and free.
IH: Thank you Mr Speaker, I, too, am in support of this Motion and I am very pleased that it came to the House today. I believe the development of sport in the Falkland Islands is hugely important to us now and I think it is time we took that extra step forward. And I think the creation of a National Sports Council with its own annual budget would be a really good thing for the Islands. That would be the further step that would help people’s health and sporting facilities in the islands.
The Leisure Centre is hugely important as well but while I don’t disagree with what my Colleagues have said about the Leisure Centre, I do believe that we shouldn’t just focus on the Leisure Centre and be careful we don’t lose the rest of the plot because the Honourable Phyl Rendell mentioned that this is an island-wide thing and there is a lot of space out there and I think we can use that space for walking and whatever. Let’s just not lose sight of that.
Mr Speaker I do support this Motion.
RE: Mr Speaker, Honourable Colleagues, in rising to support this Motion for sport and fitness in the Islands, I actually think we do commit about .75% of our budget to sport or to the facilities and the provision of sport. I do believe it is spent in the wrong way currently and I think my Honourable Colleague Mike Summers should be congratulated both with his work as Chairman of FIOGA and with the proposal for a National Sports Council. It would certainly make our life a lot easier when it comes to Budget Select Committee when we get lots of subventions in from the Cricket Team, the Football Team, the Badminton Team or whatever it might be. It would be much easier if we could put in Government funding to a National Sports Council who then can distribute that funding in a far better and more equitable way than what we ever can when we are looking at individual requests. And so I strongly support that going forward.
I don’t believe my Honourable Colleague was politically correct when he suggested that you should perhaps play football on a Sunday instead of going to church. I had a Granny who used to put the Cockrell under a basket on a Sunday so that it couldn’t run around. And as for positive spirit – goodness me – when I went to school we used to get prizes for being first in form, second in form, third in form. These days that would be frowned upon so I think my Honourable Colleague is not being quite politically correct for today’s situation. However, I do support the Motion and I hope people come along on Thursday next when we are having a public debate about the Capital Programme and some of the decisions we have to make during the budget on Capital Funding is on possible Sports Pitches, Community Centres and the Rest.
So I hope people come along and give us their views because it’s very important that we get input from the community.
Mr Speaker, I support the Motion.
GS: Mr Speaker, Honourable members, somebody said before I don’t think you will find anybody who will vote against this Motion. I certainly won’t. I am actually being shamed as being one of the more portly Members who does practice some rather bad habits according to everybody else.
I was thinking back while I was listening to people to a conversation I once had with Roger Diggle when he was down here who was referring back to a study that had been done many years ago when they came down, looked at the population and basically we hadn’t a lot in sports facilities then and we had a pretty awful diet as well. It was mutton, spuds, cabbage and carrots basically. What they couldn’t find hardly any cholesterol problems when they did the survey. Why was that? It was quite simple really. In those days there wasn’t much in the way of vehicles, there wasn’t anything in the way of television and there wasn’t anything in the way of electronic games. Us kids were pretty feral after school. We went out in groups and roamed about and the adults were either in the garden or they were chasing peat 365 days a year. In other words the population was active in those days. And I think that is what it has come down to.
Society now has changed. As one of my Honourable Colleagues said, when we started building houses with smaller amounts of ground the gardening ceased. You now go down to the West Store and get your vegetables and fruit there if you can afford them. I am not beating the FIC over the head or anybody else because I know to air-freight fruit and veg in cost an arm and a leg. But that is one of the barriers to the lower paid families. If they wanted to feed their children fruit they would have to sell both their kidneys. And I think we have to look at all these aspects of it. It’s not just about sports facilities, important as they are.
But we have to look at everything – the affordability of the most basic items in a child’s agenda.
I fully support this and I look forward to – as my Honourable Colleague Mike Summers has mentioned – the ‘big shed’ theory for example.
I certainly look forward to hearing more about that and I know I did hear some years ago that the Rifle Club was thinking about maybe a shed for small boar rifle shooting and certainly I would support any initiatives that do come along so I look forward to seeing what does happen as we move forward.
KB: the Honourable Dr Barry Elsby it is your option to sum up, if you will.
Summation by Dr the Honourable Barry Elsby:
Mr Speaker, Honourable members, I think we have heard today a fair reflection of everyone’s concern that we need to invest in sport but also leisure because the majority of people are not going to take part in active competitive sport. They are going to take part in leisure activities. And I think it is important to recognise that.
My Honourable Colleague Mike Summers talked about £375,000.00 a year – that’s .75%? The Leisure Centre runs at a loss at the moment of £350,000.00 a year so you could say we are already investing some money but I think we need to invest whatever it takes. That might not all be in the first year or the first two years. Not everything to get people active costs a lot of money. It’s an attitudinal thing and I think mentioning about competitive sport and getting kids more involved and as my Honourable Colleague Gavin Short says years ago kids were more active. Parents were more active you didn’t have so much on the TV – you didn’t have four channels – I am not allowed to have Mario’s TV – my wife won’t allow it so I have only got 4 channels. Other people have got many more. Kids now virtually all have laptops and I-phones and you are competing against things – the amount of time they want to spend sitting, e-mailing people – just tweeting yards down the road.
It takes finance – it takes initiatives to develop some extra facilities – it takes commitment from the Members here which I am convinced that that commitment is there but it also needs a way of trying to change people’s attitudes as well and that’s a slower job and that’s partly with the schools and partly with parents but I think with the support we have got here today we will make progress in this matter.
KB: Honourable members, the Motion before the House is: That this House believes the provision of suitable sporting and leisure facilities in the Islands should be incorporated into the Government’s Infrastructure Planning.
There was no objection and the Motion passed unanimously.