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July 13, 2023

Grant amount: £20,000

Sported Foundation

  • Grant programme: Active Lives
  • Region: Scotland

Towards the costs of a pilot programme aimed at improving community sport provision for young people with hidden disabilities in South Lanarkshire

About the organisation

Sported transforms the lives of young people, and empowers communities across the UK, through the sustainable local provision of sport and physical activity. Our ethos aligns neatly with the aims of the Peter Harrison Foundation in that we strive to provide more opportunities for self-development through participation in sport and physical activity especially for disadvantaged and disabled young people.

Our primary conduit is a nationwide network of around 5,000 grassroots clubs and groups which reached almost one million young people in 2023-24. Through bespoke support, added-value resources and funding – all provided at no cost – we create social impact and lower the barriers that prevent our next generation from realising their full potential.

We recognise that many young people face complex transitions to adulthood which has been made more complex due to the impact of COVID and now the cost of living crisis. Working with the trusted local leaders who use sport as a tool to address their needs, we are there with solutions from our team, backed up by a pool of over 300 volunteers consultants who provide professional support based on their skillset or lived experience.

And while we underpin government targets on increasing physical activity, our true impact is felt across areas such as community cohesion, crime reduction, mental wellbeing, closing the attainment gap and in raising the levels of inclusion among marginalised young people.

Organisation’s objectives

Sported’s vision is that we want every young person to have the same opportunity to fulfil their potential. Our purpose is helping community groups survive, to help young people thrive.

About the project

Empower South Lanarkshire (Tackling Hidden Disabililities)

Participation in sport and physical activity is particularly effective at deliver physical, mental and social wellbeing for our young people. However, research underlines that young disabled people are significantly less active than their non-disabled peers.

One contributing factor is that community sports groups lack confidence and knowledge around disability which prevents many of them from offering fully inclusive programmes of activity. To address this identified barrier, Sported launched Project 21  and Include Project to support clubs. Its ambition was to not only increase participation among young disabled people participating in sport but to grow the number of young disabled coaches and leaders – fulfilling the mantra that ‘you can’t be what you can’t see’.

These programmes provided bespoke help to over 30 groups across the UK to improve their provision and knowledge. However, the climate remains challenging for the disabled community. To grow and deepen our support, Sported has undertaken innovative research that spotlights further key issues to proactively address. We were able to use our member groups as a representative sample, gaining valuable insight into concerns and how their own needs could be better met. This was supplemented by extensive research – including surveys, consultation with young people and group leaders – and in-depth discussions with partners such as Scottish Disability Sport.

This insight work identified a number of gaps in provision and tangible opportunities to make a difference.

  1. Prevalence of young people with hidden disabilities in the UK (1 in 5 people has a disability with 80% of that group having an invisible disability). The impact that COVID has had on both their physical and mental health is significant.
  2. A lack of confidence around working with young people with hidden disabilities such as autism, ADHD and learning disabilities. 56% of groups in Scotland told us they want to improve their engagement with those with learning disabilities. However, 33% don’t feel confident in supporting disabled young people and 37% state they are unsure of their confidence in this area.
  3. Limited opportunities for young people, particularly with learning disabilities, to become leaders in the sport sector and achieve qualifications related to this.
  4. A gap in sports provision within South Lanarkshire but with the potential to bridge that through strong partnerships between schools, leisure providers, disability organisations and sports groups.

To narrow these gaps, Sported – in partnership with Scottish Disability Sport, South Lanarkshire Disability Sport, South Lanarkshire Leisure and Culture and Scottish Sports Futures – created a bespoke programme with three key elements:

  1. Upskilling group leaders by providing bespoke education around hidden disability – delivered through all partners but with 1-1 support from Sported’s volunteer consultants and Disability Lead to identify and implement tangible and sustainable actions which improve inclusivity.
  2. Empowering young people with hidden disabilities. We delivered an innovative leadership programme which focuses on communication and influence (how to use your own lived experience to influence others), goal setting, personal development and leadership skills. The programme is now associated with two SCQF qualifications.
  3. Strengthening connections within the local community – opportunities for groups to network with each other, key stakeholders, disability organisations and current providers.

Impact of PHF’s support

The success and impact of the Empower Project  has been praised by local providers with young disabled people, group leaders and local organisations all benefiting immensely from the programme. Project partners South Lanarkshire Disability Sport were asked to sum up the impact:

The Empower Project is proving to be immensely valuable in helping South Lanarkshire Disability Sport develop effective approaches for supporting our member clubs in inclusive practice. The partnership approach taken in the project, involving Sported, South Lanarkshire Leisure & Culture and South Lanarkshire Disability Sport is key to the success, as evidenced by the clubs already confidently contributing to parasport festivals with South Lanarkshire Schools.

“The Young Influencers strand of the project has been very successful in developing young people’s self-belief and skills as contributors and ambassadors. 

“I could see huge potential in the Empower Project when I first heard about it. I’m delighted to see it all falling into place and having the impact we would have hoped at this stage.”  Theresa Campbell, Chair of South Lanarkshire Disability Sport

Empower has been a catalyst for change and collaborative working within South Lanarkshire with a number of different schools, community groups and organisations connecting for the first time. In June 2024, the Empower groups and Sported will together deliver the South Lanarkshire ParaSport Festival, a unique opportunity for young disabled people to try a number of different sports and then connect with local groups that match their sporting interests. It puts their new-found knowledge into practice and will expand their reach into local communities.

Ten young people from a range of different sports (football, archery, kickboxing, multisports) with a range of hidden disabilities have attended weekly leadership sessions delivered by Scottish Sports Futures. A visible increase has been noted in the participants’ self-confidence and ambition with a number of those involved now undertaking coach education programmes or voluntary roles in local organisations. This is significantly diversifying the coaching workforce, providing personal development opportunities which also increase the sustainability of groups involved in the project, leading to impactful, long-term change.

The groups involved in the project have ongoing opportunities to engage with a number of different training sessions including Autism Awareness delivered by SDS, Martial Arts Disability Inclusion Training, and UK Disability Inclusion. Feedback from attendees states that this education has been extremely useful and helped them to better their understanding around supporting young people with hidden disabilities in sport. Each group has also had access to bespoke resources and have connected with the Sported Team on a regular basis around their progress and support required.

It is clear that the benefits of this project have been profound, particularly for the young people involved. We will continue to evaluate and address the needs of the young people and group leaders throughout the remainder of this project in order to build on the momentum generated directly by the support from the Peter Harrison Foundation.

It has strengthened Sported’s commitment to supporting young disabled people. As a charity, our own ambitions have been enlarged to expand the programme and reach more young people through partnerships in South Lanarkshire and beyond.

How does your organisation exemplify PHF’s values?

In a January 2024 survey of the groups we assist, 80% said our support was relevant to their group, 78% said we’ve made a positive difference, 57% said we’ve increased their skills and knowledge, and 45% said we’d helped them engage more young people from historically underserved communities. We constantly engage with those we serve to ensure our services and programmes are fit for purpose. In the past 18 months, we have introduced innovative participatory grant models where those who we are trying to reach are integrated into the strategy-setting and delivery process.

Through transparency in how we select our partners and provide grants, we ensure our organisational integrity is front and centre. And while one of our prime missions is to guarantee the sustainability of the clubs and organisations we nurture, we also shine that light upon ourselves with a strategic plan that measures and demonstrates the value for those who invest in us: with independent research from Made by Sport suggesting a £6 return for every £1 invested in our core business: sport for good