Our CEO Ben Hilton gives some thoughts on what today's Levelling Up white paper means to Dame Kelly Holmes Trust

"Like our colleagues across the sport for development and youth charity sectors, we’ve been waiting for some time to understand more about the plans for Levelling Up, so the statement of intent from the government is welcome. We are well-placed to support policy priorities such as sustaining mental health and wellbeing; improving skills, employability and educational attainment; increasing social cohesion, and reducing crime and anti-social behaviour. 

At Dame Kelly Holmes Trust we believe every young person must have the opportunity to become the best version of themselves. As such, we’re pleased that the government has committed to enshrining its Levelling Up initiatives in law, and holding organisations accountable for ensuring everyone has a better chance of achievement.

We remain committed to supporting young people who are facing challenges in their everyday lives due to disadvantage and we’ll continue to focus our work where the need is greatest. It’s good to see recognition that local leadership will have more impact on creating positive change based on their local knowledge, and that regions can take more responsibility for wellbeing in their area. 

We’re encouraged to see that education has been spotlighted, and that the regions that need the most support to level the playing field should receive it. We know from experience the impact that our programmes in schools can have on the young people who need that additional support:

‘Although we don’t measure all the soft skills they improve in, we have looked at achievement points, behavioural points and attendance levels for the students who have taken part over the last four years, and we can clearly see increased attendance and achievement and reduced behavioural concerns in almost every student. The programme gives them a reason to come to school and then stay in school.’ Teacher feedback 

It’s positive that support for charities, social enterprises and those supporting vulnerable young people is being highlighted as needed. We sincerely hope that those of us in the sector are able to support planning and decision making using the valuable insight and data that we have available to effect change.

The white paper clearly covered a wide reach in its missions. What we’re keen to see now is clear direction on how we can use our expertise to support the agenda. We work with existing and former elite athletes who we train to use their unique experience from the world of sport to mentor young people who are facing disadvantage and challenges in their everyday lives. We’re a proud member of the Sport for Development Coalition, which is a growing network of 200-plus charities, organisations and networks over-arching thousands of projects and programmes using physical activity and sport to intentionally generate positive social outcomes, and tackle key health and societal inequalities in communities facing deprivation and disadvantage. We can demonstrate how sport can be used to target inequalities, increase wellbeing and develop skillsets – we’re keen to see how we can support more young people through the Levelling Up plans."

Ben Hilton, CEO