By Jackie Oncescu, PhD & Lauren Green, Faculty of Kinesiology, University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, Canada

Neoliberalism governance has shifted community leisure provisions away from operating within the principles of community development and towards a market model delivery system that treats citizens as consumers. To participate in leisure, individuals will need to have access to money and other resources such as transportation, equipment, and time, which ultimately excludes low-income citizens. Practitioners strive to include low-income families but predominantly focus on reducing the costs of user fees. Though an important strategy, it focuses on the individual’s finances and ignores the exclusionary mechanisms within leisure delivery systems that create barriers to participation. Despite practitioners’ inclusion strategies, many families are excluded from the benefits that can come from leisure participation. Thus, new ways of supporting low-income citizens is needed.

Approaches to support low-income families’ participation in community leisure are possible if the programs are designed be more accessible (Oncescu & Loewen, 2020). First, practitioners can provide choices (e.g. the freedom to choose) in programs and services directed at low-income families to give them control over their leisure and better support their needs. Two, practice outreach by finding families and reaching out to provide services. Working closely with case-workers, family resource centres, etc. that have built relationships with families is a good start. Three, consider how staff can start building social relationships with families where they feel valued, supported and appreciated. This can create bridging social capital which is beneficial for facilitating and maintaining participation in leisure. Lastly, embrace the role of leisure educator and help develop families’ leisure literacy. Many families are unaware of the leisure provisions available in the community, and more directed education can open up access for families. Adopting new ways of designing and delivering leisure provisions and working closely with excluded populations will help provide community leisure to low-income to families.

More details about leisure for low-income families are available from:

Oncescu, J., & Loewen, M. (2020). Community recreation provisions that support low-income families’ access to recreation. Leisure/Loisir, 44(2), 279-302.