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(2020 – 2021) County Durham Sport

Logo for County Durham Sport

The Sport England Tackling Inequalities Funding programme (TIF) aims to minimise the impact of COVID 19 on activity levels in underrepresented groups, ensuring inequalities in physical activity participation do not widen during this period. Through Active Partnerships (like County Durham Sport), funding is provided to organisations and community groups to remain connected with their participants and keep them active in the COVID 19 lockdown and recovery stages. TIF targets those who are suffering most from COVID 19, low socio-economic groups, ethnic minority communities, and disabled people and those living with long term health conditions (as we know this group are likely to be self-isolating and may continue even as lockdown lifts)


Outcomes – Develop Shared Local Strategic Outcomes for Your Place

The desired outcomes of TIF are to tackle inequalities in physical activity by sustaining participation and activity levels in under represented groups during the pandemic and recovery stages; and to keep community groups connected with their participants to support physical and mental wellbeing and reduce isolation.

Insight – Understand Your Community and Your Place

A survey by Sport England conducted during COVID 19 highlighted gaps in physical activity levels across existing priority audiences (lower socioeconomic groups, disabled people, people with long-term health conditions, and ethnic minorities) and suggested COVID 19 was likely to have a significant impact on their ability to be active with potential to further widen existing inequalities. Higher mortality rates from COVID 19 in these groups can create a culture of fear where people are choosing to stay indoors to keep safe. Additionally, we know COVID 19 had a greater impact on the financial status of these groups, and financial status is the single greatest determinant of activity levels.

Throughout the TIF programme County Durham Sport worked with a broad spectrum of strategic and Voluntary and Community Sector (VCS) partners to understand the ever-changing landscape and identify local needs. Initially County Durham Sport identified local need by collaborating with 3rd sector community gatekeepers who were working with community groups and conducting needs assessment and through our knowledge and understanding of people and place based on insight.

Throughout the programme our approach has been informed by periodic internal reviews, external evaluation conducted with Durham University, our ongoing engagement with strategic and VCS partners, and the Sport England sharing and learning network.

Interventions – Identify How the Outcomes Can be Achieved Sustainably

TIF funding has been used to develop a variety of interventions – designed and developed with the individual organisations depending upon the needs of the target audience and in line with the Government guidelines at the time.

Some of the projects delivered include: one-to-one doorstep activities, online sessions, social-distanced walking/jogging groups, delivery of activity packs (including physical activity resources and equipment like resistance bands and step counters), water sports, and virtual Couch to 5k training.

Commitment – Secure Investment Commitment to Outcome Delivery

Sport England distributed funding through the Active Partnerships Network. County Durham Sport was initially awarded £50,000. It was quickly apparent that the need in the county required greater funding, therefore we applied for a further £50,000 in phase 2 and have recently secured £60,000 for phase 3.

Evaluation – Understand the Impact of Your Work

County Durham Sport commissioned Durham University to undertake an evaluation of TIF phases 1 and 2. This provided learning and produced a set of recommendations. Recommendations included:

  • Providing clear information on COVID 19 restrictions to local organisations
  • Training staff and volunteers (to support new approached to physical activity provision, e.g. during COVID 19)
  • Facilitating networking among local organisations
  • Maintaining simple, supportive funding processes to make it easier for organisations to access funds

It also gave us a better understanding of how we can improve and best support organisations during TIF phase 3 and beyond. As part of the evaluation, we facilitated a network event to share learning and good practice amongst organisations seeking to address COVID 19-related inequalities in physical activity and to encourage mutual support.

Previous funding schemes have relied on organisations proactively approaching Active Partnerships or funding bodies for support. One key learning from TIF was that by using a solicited approach (whereby County Durham Sport proactively approached particular organisations, working with priority groups), we have successfully directed the funding to those community groups most in need. This led to a snowball effect, where community groups connected us with further community groups, growing our network of connections. Strengthening existing relationships and initiating new and sustainable relationships for the future was one of the greatest benefits of the TIF programme. The project will have sustainable long-term effects too – organisations are keen to work with County Durham Sport going forward to access training for their staff/volunteers to enable them to deliver physical activity within their groups.


Click on the blocks below to read case studies.


A multi-partner Sport England funded pilot designed. to build healthier, more active communities in Shildon and the Deerness Valley areas of County Durham.


Durham County Council took part in a national Sport England funded pilot to get more people swimming, more often.


Researcher from Durham University worked with patients, commissioners and providers through Active Northumberland to understand how we can improve exercise referral provision.


Durham County Council project designed to increase and sustain activity levels of the least active populations within the Durham Dales.


Durham County Council work closely with the Wellbeing for Life service, Public Health and Social Prescribing Link Workers to support the health and wellbeing of local people.