In the absence of national endorsement for the implementation of vouchers in Australia, most States and Territories have implemented state wide financial incentive schemes since 2011. Although each jurisdiction has taken a different approach either by voucher value or target audience, the principle consistently focused on the promotion of sport participation. This paper explored the effects of sport voucher programs at state and national level in Australia to reduce financial barriers to children’s sport participation. This analysis enhances existing evidence on family expenditure for sport 
Existing evidence infers the positive effect of financial incentives to increase physical activity amongst adults [16, 26]. Whilst frequently adopted in Australia, global comparisons are challenging, as their use is sparse with only selected countries including the United Kingdom, Luxembourg and Czech Republic, utilising this approach [15, 27, 28].Whilst the assessment of voucher program efficacy was not the purpose of this paper this was the first robust analysis to assess the proportion of individual sport-related expenditure supported by a voucher and its potential association with child participation rates, using the national population surveillance tool AusPlay, collectively analysed by age, sex and socio-economic status.
Nearly all parents of active children reported making annual payments for their child’s participation in organised sport and physical activity outside of school. National median expenditure for children aged 0–14 years was $447 (IQR 194.2–936), peaking in the 9–11 age category ($479; IQR 198.3–1001.2). Girls expenditure was consistently higher than boys ($499; IQR 197.4–1036.7) most likely, in light of girls preferred activities, such as dance which are frequently performed in specialised venues .
A previous narrative review  of voucher schemes explored their role in influencing participation and identified that within a multi-component strategy there was potential for a 25% relative increase in participation . This, coupled with the expenditure data analysed here begins to describe the potential that a voucher scheme could contribute towards children’s physical activity levels.
The social inequalities in sport and physical activity amongst children and adolescents [8, 29] are reinforced through these analyses. Children in areas of low socio-economic status participated less frequently in organised sports and physical activity outside of school hours than their advantaged counterparts. A higher sporting club membership exists amongst higher income families [2, 8, 30] with children from advantaged communities more likely to receive greater logistical and financial support from the families to participate in consistent structured activity . Disparities in the presence, geographic accessibility and affordability of sporting and recreational facilities have also been shown to influence child participation [8, 9]. Differences in the inclination towards sport can also be explained by economic factors as the traditional club based membership structures require financial outlay beyond sports club membership, including sports equipment and potential transportation costs [12, 29]. The dose response relationship between expenditure and socio-economic status was an important finding in this analysis, with a $311 difference in median expenditure between the most disadvantaged and least disadvantaged. The potential benefits of sport vouchers shows a social gradient, with 60% of current reported costs supported in the most disadvantaged areas. This is one step towards alleviating the financial barrier for disadvantaged communities to engage in sport. This finding is also reinforced at a State level, when applying individual state voucher values. For example NSW, the latest state to implement a voucher program, 36% sport related costs are supported by the $100 voucher in the most disadvantaged areas compared to only 19% in the least disadvantaged communities. As a result, it is important that whilst the implementation of universal voucher programs at state and national level offer potential to influence population participation, they must consider the specific targeting of priority groups including individuals from disadvantaged communities, children from CALD backgrounds, those in the overweight or obese body mass index categories, and children who are low active or completely inactive, to prevent a widening of the social gradient.
As participation is defined as at least one session of organised sport and physical activity outside of school hours in the last 12 months, it only represents a small fraction of health-related physical activity. Estimates of regular participation during leisure time are needed to learn more about the contribution of sport participation in overall leisure time physical activity. Further, parental report is used for most children’s organised sport and physical activity surveillance [9, 12, 32] and may have decreased reliability among adolescents.