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Independent evidence SLT on road to recovery after weathering COVID storm

Sandwell Leisure Trust (SLT) is heralding its latest independently verified success story of generating and delivering £16.5 million of social value* back to the borough.  

In the last full operational year prior to the impact of COVID-19, the Black Country-based charity (which runs nine leisure facilities for Sandwell Council across the borough) achieved 16.1% local resident attendance figures – the national average is 15.9% – but with seven of its centres sitting in the top 50% of sites it places them all well above standard for the industry.

The Social Value report measures and benchmarks the contribution services make on improved health, improved subjective well-being, increased educational attainment and reduced crime – and is a key measure of how charitable and leisure operators contribute back to their local areas.

This positive news comes with SLT retaining all frontline staff as all nine centres have re-opened successfully following pandemic restrictions lifting, plus the Trust being given a clean bill of health by an independent Health & Safety advisor following no less than 46 separate inspections of their COVID-secure procedures prior to and during lockdown re-openings.

SLT has also recently celebrated being the only leisure operator to achieve RoSPA’a President’s Award for achieving the highest Gold Safety Standard for 15 consecutive years; one of the few nationwide to maintain Investors in People Silver Standard for leading the way in people management skills; as well as being awarded the highest possible Quest Prime Excellent Status at two of its oldest premises no less for superior facility management and COVID-secure standards.

What’s more, the recently completed Reach Project, funded by the National Lottery’s Coronavirus Community Support Fund (CCSF), sought to increase the confidence and self-esteem of some 120 individuals by re-introducing them into SLT centres and back towards a healthy and active lifestyle. Nearly 90% said it had a positive impact on their mental health, 89% were motivated to improve their activity levels, 74% felt it has improved their sleep and 68% their general eating habits.

SLT CEO, Ash Rai, says: “We have managed to navigate one of the worst crises to hit the leisure industry in our lifetime, whilst maintaining national award winning and safe services. Some others have unfortunately not re-opened, handed services back and made large redundancies, but we want our positive example to give hope to other operators.

“Ours is a confident but cautious approach and we’re encouraged to see an enthusiastic return by our customers, even though it may take some time to get attendances back to pre-COVID levels again. The signs are certainly promising and we are actively recruiting again – with, for example, over 60 applicants applying for a part time receptionist post.”

SLT’s Portway Lifestyle Centre in Oldbury and Tipton Sports Academy have also played a major role in the borough’s COVID-19 vaccination programme, with both the facilities being part converted to approved vaccination centres and responsible for nearly 150,000 jabs as at early August ’21.

*Benchmarks and comparisons are from the DataHub, which is the largest database of physical activity data in the UK, with automated membership and participation data feeds from over 2500 leisure facilities. It values and measures the social impacts of participation in sport nationwide.

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