Building an active environment where everyone can thrive 
“People with a disability or long-term health condition will engage in sport and physical activity, given an environment that empowers them to thrive,” says Jake Turner, Operations Director at Sport For Confidence 
Here Jake Turner talks about how Sport For Confidence CIC is successfully engaging previously disengaged groups by tackling the inequalities that exist in sport and physical activity. 
“Sport For Confidence continues to evidence the wide-ranging benefits that sport and physical activity can have on people’s lives. It is encouraging to read in the 1.Future of Public Leisure report this month, that Sport England has identified a need to reposition the traditional leisure centre offer to focus more on active wellbeing and supports the needs of the local community in terms of levelling up health inequalities. 
In November, across our network of 12 community venues in Essex and London we recorded 3,498 attendances and 870 unique users. This means that, on average, our attendees are visiting 4 times a week and are achieving the 150 minutes of moderate activity recommended by the Chief Medical Officer. Our model also encourages carers to get involved in our sessions. In November more than 2,000 carers attended, this again, is a traditionally inactive demographic group. 
Our team of Occupational Therapists take a holistic approach in understanding the relationship between the person, environment and activity which then supports people to reach personal goals and removes barriers to tackling inactivity. Our model of practice sees beyond diagnoses and limitations, focusing instead on hopes and aspirations. Our team looks at the relationship between every day activities– occupations – alongside the challenges faced and the environment. Delivering this support in a mainstream environment in partnership with the leisure centre workforce can make a real difference, giving people a renewed sense of purpose and belonging, opening up new horizons, changing the way they feel about the future and providing a safe place for people to return – sport and physical activity used therapeutically and meaningfully. 
Now more than ever, we need to support the NHS and Health & Social Care sector by encouraging the use of meaningful physical activity in supportive and safe environments which will combat rising waiting lists and pressure on primary & secondary services. Our team builds positive and healthy relationships with participants. Working together they build plans which support the individual in their pursuit of happiness, health and fulfilment. 
Every day we see the lifechanging positive impact our model is delivering. It is therefore difficult to read in the 2Annual Disability and Activity Survey 2022 by the Activity Alliance that so many people are still unable to access opportunities to engage in physical activity due to barriers and inequalities. 
The report highlights the widening gap between those with a disability and the rest of the population when it comes to engagement in physical activity. 
According to the Activity Alliance Survey, only 4 in 10 people with a disability are as physically active as they would like to be compared to 6 out of 10 for non-disabled people. 
This disparity is mirrored in Sport England‘s Active Lives adult survey carried out earlier this year. The report stated in April 2022 42.4 per cent (4 million) of disabled people were inactive compared to 22.6 per cent for non-disabled people. 
There is clearly much still to do to reduce inequalities and provide opportunities for people with a disability to access meaningful sport and physical activity. 
The Sport For Confidence vision is to Play Our Part in creating an equitable society and tackling inequalities so that everyone can enjoy community spaces which promote movement, activity, well-being and relationships. 
Recently, Sport For Confidence was invited to contribute to ukactive’s Everyone Can agenda that aims to improve inclusivity and access for people with a disability. Working with a number of leisure operators including Everyone Active, Fusion Lifestyle and GLL, community heath teams and sports clubs, Sport for Confidence is evidencing that people with a disability will engage with our facilities and services if they are able to do so in a meaningful and fulfilling way.” 
Speaking about the Everyone Can agenda and the involvement of Sport For Confidence, Timothy Mathias, Strategic Lead for Inclusion at ukactive, says: “Sport for Confidence is a valued contributor to our work at ukactive, including our Everyone Can agenda to set a collaborative tone for inclusivity, and as a committed member of ukactive’s Wider Activity Forum. As a trade body, we are uniquely placed to convene leading providers across the sector, and Sport for Confidence shows the role that organisations in the the physical activity sector can play to address inequalities through collaboration and knowledge sharing.” 
Ben Beevers, Group Development Director, Everyone Active, adds: “We are running the Sport for Confidence programme at six of our sites and the interest just keeps growing. 
As the programme continues to expand, new participants are now being referred to the programme via a network of well- established community health groups. The model is proving that, working together, we can reduce inequalities and level up disparities. These steps will ensure we move towards a more person-centred, cross organisation approach.” 
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