Government cuts to further education budgets are putting key initiatives tackling obesity and physical inactivity at risk, potentially triggering an even bigger health crisis, new research has warned
The research, commissioned by fitness qualifications provider YMCA Awards, came as chancellor George Osborne delivered the first budget by a Conservative government in almost 20 years yesterday. Osborne hopes to make £30bn in savings as part of his deficit-reduction strategy, with many sectors facing uncertainty.
The YMCA Awards research forecasts a shortfall in trained fitness instructors and coaches if current rates at which FE Colleges are cutting places and closing departments continue.
Data compiled by EMSI for YMCA Awards shows there will be a need for 6,867 newly qualified professionals by 2019, with demand predicted to maintain a steady rate of increase into the 2020s and beyond. However, following a fresh wave of budget cuts, YMCA Awards notes that courses designed to provide qualified fitness and leisure professionals are being disproportionately affected.
"Examining the impact of budget cuts, it is clear that departments related to the leisure sector and related skills such as fitness training and coaching are seen as a soft target when it comes to administrators wielding the axe," Rob May, director of YMCA Awards.
"This is a major concern given the importance to our nation of tackling the epidemic of inactivity that is affecting our health and wellbeing as well as having a knock-on effect on the costs of healthcare."
The reported targeting of qualifications for physical activity professionals is perplexing from an economic perspective. At a time when the government is eager to 'balance the books,' a recent ukactive report on youth inactivity cited official figures estimating the direct and indirect costs of physical inactivity in the UK total £20bn a year.
"The inactivity epidemic is costing the UK billions each year. It is imperative that funding the training of future generations of fitness professionals is maintained as a minimum, if not increased," said Tara Dillon, CEO of CIMSPA, which is working with YMCA Awards to ensure the findings of the research are addressed.
"We applaud YMCA Awards for undertaking this research which has yielded some alarming conclusions. It is essential that we tackle these shortfalls today."
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