UK GOVERNMENT POLICY IN LEISURE, SPORT AND HEALTH
UK Government Policy in Leisure, Sport and Health
Policy can be defined as standards or regulations that guide choices towards attaining coherent results. Within the government, policy statements are formulated with specific purposes and put into practice as a process or protocol. Policies are accepted by the senior governance entity in an organization whereas procedures would be created and implemented by senior management officers. Policies can help in both objective and subjective decision-making. The development of a policy is usually referred to as its cycle, and the most common stages in this cycle include setting the agenda, formulating policies, adopting and implementation and finally, assessing the effectiveness of the policy. Within the United Kingdom (UK), numerous policy statements have been made by the government concerning different aspects such as the economy, public utilities, agriculture and finance. Leisure, sports and health, have all been key sectors that are extensively addressed in the UK policy statements (Dorey 2005). Therefore, an in-depth analysis of the nature, elements and scope of the policies covering these three fields will shed more light and understanding of how policies work.
UK Government policy on Leisure
A core fundamental argument is that while welfare politics have rendered supply of consumption services difficult in the 19th century, the role that leisure plays in production has renewed the significance of leisure policy greatly. Consequently, the grounds for government involvement in leisure matters has also transformed gradually. The close relationship between political ideologies and leisure policy has made leisure become a principal target of state regulations. In the UK, the government has had an extensive history of both offering leisure opportunities and controlling and promoting activities of other factors through regulations, enforcement and financial assistance (Hann 2007). Leisure and play have been combined to create an institution that is concerned with the wellbeing, comfort and freedom of choice for its citizens. Named the Play and Leisure Policy, the policy document was developed with the aim of delivering a long-term strategy that will result in a happier and healthier young generation. The main target of the policy document was to enhance the present play and leisure provision for all young people below18 years.
This long-term youth strategy was founded on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child of which the UK become party to when they ratified it in 1991. This convention acknowledges the significance of play and leisure in the development of children. By attempting to comply with, and fully implement Article 31 of the Convention, it is planned that this policy statement should have a say in molding an environment that defends and advances childrens’ and young peoples’ rights to play and supports an approach for offering these groups play and leisure requirements (Hann 2007). Play is a useful channel for instructing values to children at a tender age. Play is an innate and general need among all children (Hann 2007). It is an important element and causative factor to promoting children’s emotional and physical welfare, development, learning and progress.
Currently, the latest launch of the Play and Leisure Policy for Northern Ireland policy document jump-started the founding of an Implementation Group to spearhead the formulation of age-appropriate implementation strategies. Dubbed ‘Our Children and Young People – Our Pledge’, the implementation plan for the ten-year policy for young people has the following major tenets: Quality; Accessibility; Inclusion; Flexibility; Affordability; Integration; Diversity and Participation (Dorey 2005). The implementation team comprising of a broad range of stakeholders is also composed of several agencies that receive their technical expertise from the PlayBoard staff. The group has been mandated the task of developing two implementation plans according to two major age groups: 0-11 and 12-18 years. This is a direct indicator that the UK government is focused in ensuring that all young people live a comfortable and happy life.
UK Government policy on Sports
The United Kingdom hosted the 2012 Olympic and Paralympics Games that featured contributions by women’s football teams, athletes and other sports. The UK has hosted the Olympics on previous occasions with excellent results. The UK government played a crucial role in facilitating every aspect of the Olympic Games including providing military security, broadcasting the proceedings and promoting female participation in the sporting activities. These actions and decisions during the sporting event were guided by a set of principles that were part of the larger sports policy adopted by the government.
The 2012 Olympic and Paralympics Games was the best opportunity for legislators and bureaucrats in the ministry to create a permanent legacy. The policy document dubbed Creating a lasting legacy from the 2012 Olympic and Paralympics Games was concerned with the appropriate method of conducting the games and the events succeeding it. Through the Olympic Games, the government intended to establish a strong cultural, sporting and economic legacy that would be advantageous to the whole nation. To achieve this goal, the government established a joint team that would combine the efforts and resources of the government and the Greater London Authority (GLA) to supervise the program of legacy action throughout the UK and even globally. The team would also cooperate with other private business organizations, charity groups, local and regional partners. The economic benefits were clearly indicated as the first priority for the sports policy that would see UK realize an income of about ?12 billion, in a period of four years. The economic legacy would also provide opportunities for other investors and traders to make networks, transactions and compare notes (Bramham & Wagg 2011).
The section concerned with the sport legacy within the policy document aimed at motivating the citizens and other people and changing their perceptions of and relationships to sporting activities. The policy statement targeted the young generation with the main purpose of attracting them into sports. This would be implemented by investing state funds and lottery money in integrating sports programs in school curriculums. Another approach by the government was to invest billions in long-term programs such as youth and community centers. The government was also interested in developing and renovating over 1,000 sport centers. Lastly, the policy statement included a clause addressing the inclusion of physical education in the curriculum. Apart from sporting activities, the policy also mentioned briefly on the plans concerning healthy living although this will be addressed later in the essay.
Apart from the earlier policy paper, Maintaining and improving Britain’s elite sports performance was another policy declaration that held significant benefits and improvements that would be useful to active sportsmen who desired to purses their sporting careers to the highest level. The policy document sought to discover UKs best athletes and assist them in training, providing them with more chances to gain experience in the UK before key events such as the Olympic and Paralympics Games, and ensure that British elite sport maintains a clean record and high reputation. The government intended to achieve these objectives by prioritizing UK elite sport within the national budget (Bramham & Wagg 2011). The government was also interested in increasing their bidding efforts that would see major sporting events taking place in their country. Finally, the government also established several agencies to handle sporting discrepancies such as doping and bribing (Bramham & Wagg 2011).
From the overview, it seems that the UK government has invested a lot of human resources and time in formulating prudent and multifaceted sports policies. It is also apparent that these sports policies have resulted in positive results for the country, judging by the conclusion of the 2012 Olympic Games where the team from UK hauled several medals in all categories. However, the same government has been at the forefront in issuing conflicting statements and taking opposing stands concerning physical education and sports in general. For instance, the move by the government to withdraw the stipulation that all English schools needed to provide their pupils with a mandatory 2-hour sport session every week acted in defiance of the policies that had been implemented earlier. By withdrawing funds necessary to keep sporting activities from most educational institutions, the government had made a wrong policy decision. This is because talent development, discovery and promotion happens at the high school and college levels and withdrawing the funds would result in a drop, in sporting performance.
UK Government policy on Health
The healthcare situation in the United Kingdom has been greatly devolved. To that extent, Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England each operate under their own structures of public and privately funded healthcare (Wanless 2004). The disparities within the healthcare system of each country have resulted in multiplicity and distinctions between the systems. Nevertheless, each country offers public healthcare to all UK permanent citizens free of charge, the expenses being covered through public taxation (Dorey 2005). Additionally, each national system also possesses a private healthcare subdivision that is significantly lesser than its public sector that offers private healthcare that is covered for by private health insurance that is typically obtained from an employer or private arrangements (Yule 2002). Some of the unique characteristics of the healthcare systems in the UK include free ambulance services, elaborate cost effective techniques and the presence of general practitioners that provide healthcare (Hann 2007).
Several policy statements have been formulated and implemented within the UK, and most of these policies have originated from the Department of Health. One of the most influential and significant policies named Helping more people survive cancer was particularly relevant in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland where a large section of the population were diagnosed with different types of cancer. The government prioritized this policy after conducting an analysis study that revealed the grave economic and social impacts that cancer had on the society. The study revealed that over 100,000 people died annually owing to cancer-related complications. Furthermore, the productivity losses due to cancer totaled to about ?18 billion. This was enough to prompt the development of a health policy aimed at lowering the mortality rate due to cancer by 2014. The key intention of the policy statement was to transform people’s lifestyles and lower the risk of cancer, increasing people’s awareness of the symptoms of cancer and encouraging early diagnosis (screening) (Wanless 2004).
The financial implications for the cancer policy strategy presented a major challenge. This is because while the government was focused on providing the best possible health services to their citizens, the huge financial investment would place a great pressure on the national budget. However, funds have been channeled into training health personnel on handling the latest surgical methods, improving radiotherapy services and subsidizing cancer treatment through various charities and campaigns. These are such as the Cancer Drugs Fund, Cancer Research UK and NHS England that have helped cancer patient life a comfortable and healthy life (Wanless 2004). Apart from cancer, UK health policies have also been developed to deal with drug dependence and misuse (Dorey 2005).
Referred to as the Reducing drugs misuse and dependence Policy this set of regulations and policy directives was aimed at lowering drug misuse, abuse and dependence among citizens that was related to the negative effects on health and quality of life. Drug abuse and dependence also placed a strain on public resources and increased cases of criminal activity in the society. The choice of the theme was based on the large number of young people who formed the largest number of drug abusers within the UK (Wanless 2004). The policy document was informed by several previous studies such as the National Drug Strategy for England reports that painted a poor picture of the young population in the UK and prompted deeper investigation into workable solutions (Hann 2007).
The policy guidelines used to implement the initiative at reducing drug dependence and misuse were subdivided according to the relevant sectors. The clinical governance guidelines in the policy document dictated that there should be specific education, management and capability among the professionals that worked with drug abusers (Wanless 2004). This category also demanded the participation of medical professionals through prescription of drugs that would treat misuse. The treatment guidelines addressed the condition, type of drug, extent of damage and previous medical intervention. Other guidelines included psychosocial aspects of treatment and pharmacological interventions (Dorey 2005). It is imperative to note the detailed nature of the Drug Abuse policy tabled by the government. This showed direct intent to reduce and even eliminate any elements of dug dependence and abuse within the society (Wanless 2004).
Several unique features among the different healthcare systems in the UK that were mentioned earlier contribute greatly towards the difference in healthcare provision among the countries. The results of the study performed by Nuffield Trust in 2010 concerning NHS performance in England and the devolved systems of healthcare revealed that while Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland had bigger allocations of funding per capita than England. Conversely, England had fewer professional staff, nurses and executives per head of population. The baffling point is that, in England, the NHS is more efficient at utilizing the resources through delivery of higher levels of productivity among its staff, and at reducing waiting times (Wanless 2004). Basing the discussion on revised medical staffing reports, Scotland was ranked as the least effective country in the UK when it came to basic productivity among medical personnel (Bramham & Wagg 2011).
Criticism of the Health, Leisure and Sport policies in the UK
Public health has been sharply criticized from various quarters recently as opponents blamed the health policies for failing to embark on significant health problems, over the last three decades, in the UK. This disapproval originated most conspicuously from the controversial report, Securing Good Health for the Whole Population. The report stated that the key motivators of public health have been documented since the 18th century with frequent downstream and upstream public health strategies having been anticipated (Rojek et al 2006). However, three decades later, despite some accomplishments, execution of these policies has been incomplete at best. Other critics assert that policy changes have made no noteworthy contribution to public health. Presently, the re-structuring of Primary Care Trusts and Strategic Health Authorities threatened to undermine present public health groups in England. Conversely, despite the organizational tumult facing public health in the latest years, the opinion that UK public health has not experienced considerable success is largely true (Rojek et al 2006).
It can easily be argued that public policy experts have made a great contribution to many of the policy achievements of the last three decades. Residents however, continue to face emergent challenges, recurring challenges for example bureaucracy, misinformation and duplicity of office and the persistent danger of a complete administrative failure. As a profession, public policy should be flexible enough to recognize new confrontations, cooperate with other partners to enhance the profile of public policy in the national awareness, and take up the role of promoters for the full range of public policy action as demanded. From the earlier days of constitutional reform and ministry reorganizations, opposition to public policy action has always existed in various forms. It is necessary for the stakeholders and partners to acknowledge that new public policy issues may generate conflict among different groups having powerful stakes. Developing a strong consensus from all players in the political spectrum to promote public policy action where required, will be a vital ability for the public policy advocates of the future.
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Dorey, P. 2005. Developments in British public policy. London, SAGE. http://site.ebrary.com/id/10256762
Hann, A. 2007. Health policy and politics. Aldershot, England, Ashgate. Retrieved from http://public.eblib.com/EBLPublic/PublicView.do?ptiID=438697
Rojek, Chris, Susan m. Shaw & Veal (Eds.) 2006. A Handbook of Leisure Studies. Houndmills, UK: Palgrave Macmillan
Wanless D. 2004. Securing Good Health for the Whole Population. London: HM Treasury
Yule J. 2002. Engendered ideologies and leisure policy in the UK. Part 1: gender ideologies. Leisure Studies. 16 (2). pp. 61-84(24)