The Government recognises the major role that sport can play in enhancing the health of people through active participation. The Irish Sports Council, ISC, which is funded by my Department, is the statutory body responsible for encouraging the promotion, development and co-ordination of competitive sport and for increasing participation in recreational sport. My Department and the ISC liaise with the Department of Health and Children and the HSE on matters of mutual concern.
Officials from my Department and the council have actively participated in the development of key initiatives such as, for example, the national children's strategy and the task force on obesity. The ISC participates in various working groups and committees of both the Health Service Executive and the Department of Health and Children on broad public health issues. For example, the chief executive officer of the ISC chaired the national obesity task force and also serves on a number of other groups including the national implementation committee for the children's strategy and a high level group on cardiovascular disease prevention.
At national level, the ISC has developed a close working relationship with the population health function of the HSE and has regular meetings with it to discuss areas of common interest and possible co-operation. In recent years the ISC has received funding from the HSE of €200,000, which is used to promote programmes that target obesity at local level through the local sports partnerships, LSPs.
My Department and the council also worked with the Department of Health and Children to secure support from the dormant accounts fund to employ social inclusion development officers in 20 LSPs throughout the country to promote participation opportunities for people with a disability. This year, funding of €1.5 million has been allocated from the dormant accounts fund for this initiative.
With regard to the LSPs, all of the LSP boards and committees include a local officer representing the HSE. In most cases, the HSE representative works directly in the area of health promotion with an emphasis on physical activity promotion. As part of the work of the LSPs, they develop a local strategic plan for sport and this plan is closely linked to the positive health messages endorsed by the HSE. Furthermore, the LSPs deliver programmes and projects in conjunction with the HSE to target specific groups that have traditionally low levels of participation in sport and physical activity. Examples of these types of projects include participation programmes for older people, women and people from areas of disadvantage.
The ISC is committed to the roll out of the LSP network on a nationwide basis to increase participation at a local level, ensure that local resources are used to best effect and to make sure that the experiences of participants in sport are positive. This network is due to be completed later this year, with 33 sites established covering the whole country.