A key focus in Active Essex’s work is to tackle inequalities in our local communities, and one way of achieving this is by improving access to physical activity for people with disabilities. Ability Using Sport is a non-profit, disability sports club in Colchester, founded by its coach and chief director, Kevin Smith, who has almost 20 years of experience in disability sports coaching.
Ability Using Sport aims to provide sports education through coaching to children and young adults with special educational needs and any disability. Members can enjoy the benefits of making new friends and taking part in the various sports and activities provided.
With funding from the Local Delivery Pilot (LDP), the club has been able to run a Multi-Sports session at Stanway School three times a month. Activities are decided by the attendees and include beanbag and hoop games, Paralympic sports such as boccia, as well as more mainstream sports such as netball and cricket. The club was also able to use the LDP funding to upskill volunteers so they could undertake more delivery and ‘influence’ elsewhere, by offering activities for SEND children and their families.
Kevin contacted LDP Coordinator Sarah Stokes to pitch his plans, and as a result received an LDP microgrant in 2020, which was then paused due to Covid-19. Since then, Kevin was able to receive further support through the Tackling Inequalities fund, to help get the club back up and running to help recondition members. The club now has several volunteers who regularly support the sessions.
Sarah said; “Ability Using Sport are accessing a range of training courses, which will help the volunteers and families with workshops running alongside these courses. These are vital to upskill and retrain where key skills are needed. Despite lockdown delaying the training, Ability Using Sport have continued to quickly respond to the needs of their community members, linking in with other local groups who require specialist support and engage some of our most inactive young people.”
Typically SEND programmes target 5-25 year olds, but Kevin has found that parents, siblings and even grandparents want to get involved in the sessions. The larger group is split into smaller groups; however, Kevin has found intergenerational participation is often welcomed, and role models become identified by the young people who attend the sessions.
Kevin commented; “Many families I work with are often inactive due to the cost of sessions, the lack of opportunities available and the inaccessibility of services. This is something this project addresses by making provision local for families living on a low income, and who are unable to access public transport or own a car.”
The families have reported that they have seen an improvement in their child’s mental wellbeing, social skills and activity levels, and the participants soon find that they belong to a club that they look forward to attending each week.
Find out more about the club here.