News Room

09 August

INSPORT+ project: social inclusion for people with disabilities through sport at local level

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According to the European Commission, one in six people in the European Union has a disability that ranges from mild to severe, making around 80 million who are often prevented from taking part fully in society and the economy because of environmental and attitudinal barriers. In order to tackle these issues, the Commission recognises sport and physical activity as being extremely valuable in the context of social inclusion and integration for people with physical and mental health disabilities.

We interviewed INSPORT+ project to learn more about how different local actors use sport to help with social inclusion. The project is co-funded by the European Union’s Erasmus+ Programme and its goal is to develop a network of partner organisations across Europe involved in promoting social inclusion for people with mental health problems and mental disabilities.

 INSPORT+ was born as a continuation of the first INSPORT project, which took place from 2013 to 2014 and focused on promoting social inclusion for people with disabilities - generally speaking.

“Through the INSPORT project, the partnership became eager to continue its work together but realised that more attention was needed for those with mental health problems and for those with mental disabilities.

We noticed that these groups could benefit more from a tailored project, since most of them require more concentrated efforts and time to engage in physical activity.

Our aim is to help partners improve the effectiveness of local, regional, national and international policies to stimulate and support people with a mental health disorder or disability through sport, whilst strengthening voluntary-led sport activities and enhancing people’s participation in some form of sport and physical activity.

Currently, our goals are to generate the desired results and findings for this project - through both our research-driven activities and through our live events and activities which we have been organising in our ‘Interregional Events’.

Our upcoming milestones are the last Interregional Event of the project, to take place in Sofia (Bulgaria) on 12-14 October 2017, and our Final Event, organised with the European Parliament in late November (follow us online for the SAVE THE DATE!).”

INSPORT+ has many different ways in which they promote social inclusion through sport, showcasing the different actions that can be implemented at the local level:

1) Information campaigns, training for teachers and trainers, and creation of local centres of excellence

In the region of Tuscany, with the help of the Italian Olympic Committee and the Region of Tuscany, the Italian Paralympic Committee created the SportHabile Project. Aimed at establishing partnerships with organisations in the search for the best outcome in rehabilitation through sport, focused on:

  1. Informing – by opening information desks at major centres frequented by people with disabilities to inform them of opportunities and sporting activities on offer
  2. Training - via meetings for sports teachers, school teachers, sports coaches, and

voluntary associations

  1. Centres of excellence - for disabled sport made accessible and equipped with

qualified staff to integrate people of various training levels

2) Local stakeholder groups

In the city of Prato, more specifically, where the INSPORT+ project is managed, Polisportiva Aurora has also created a local stakeholder group to engage and meet regularly with other local associations representing different disabilities, in addition to its own group of mental health users. After all, each group has different needs specific to their disabilities but all of them share a general need for greater access to resources and qualified staff to support them.

In this effort, Aurora aims to translate existing initiatives - like the ones started in SportHabile - into concrete action to ensure that all the associations concerned are involved.

3) Expert centres and partnerships with schools

Other initiatives in Prato that we can consider as best practice are:

  • The Youth Centre for Sport Training (CGFS), set up by the Province of Prato, where interventions range from recreational and educational activities for younger children to guidance and specialized activities for older children/young adults (e.g. : social skills, physical skills and well-being sessions).
  • Bring experts to the classroom to update, train and provide advice to teachers and specialized professionals on issues related to the world of sport, with new teaching methodologies as well as through the organization of competitions and events at various schools and public facilities.
  • 4) Offering ‘Inclusive’ symbol in sport clubs

In Oxfordshire (United Kingdom), the West Oxfordshire District Council started offering

online applications for clubs to display the ‘inclusive’ symbol at their premises, on websites and in publicity, to show that they are recognised as inclusive for those with a disability and matching them with available services.

5) Organising weekly activities with local user groups

Again, in Oxfordshire, people with mental health problems and disabilities have been able to dramatically increase their engagement in sport and physical activities through a very high-impact local project called ‘Active Body, Healthy Mind’. Here, 1250 people have joined in sport and physical exercise from 2014 to 2017 through a rich range of activities, from weekly football sessions to weekly health walks, climbing, boxing, canoeing and fishing, in various parts of Oxford (Cowley, Witney, Abingdon, Wallingford, Headington, and Banbury), all supported thanks to partnerships between local stakeholders and various sources of local, national, and international funding.

6) Equine therapy

Equine therapy (therapy through horse-riding) is an excellent way which our partners in Portugal (PODES) and Hungary (the Megálló Foundation) have developed in partnership with relevant associations run by qualified Equine-Assisted therapists.

These have helped particularly young people to develop better responses when they are otherwise therapy-resistant and to better develop their social skills, trust, confidence and communication. Equine therapists will usually teach many lessons on ways in which horses learn, react, and follow instructions to the lives of youth themselves.

7) Very simple but effective: football tournaments!

Organisations like Aurora, IZSR (in Bremen, Germany) and FAISEM (in Andalusia, Spain) have organised annual football tournaments with associations from their city and neighbouring towns and even the wider regions.

In Prato, Aurora hosts the annual ‘Trofeo Città di Prato (T.C.P.)’ with over 8 teams from other countries in Europe and overseas. The tournament has grown to include other associations supporting people in need (for example, refugees) and is an important event for local integration in the community.

In Bremen, for example, IZSR has organised the ‘Bremen River Cup’ since 2008. Recently this last year, they organised a record of nearly 100 participants and 10 teams from 7 organisations, including organisations from Bremen and farther afield, such as Hamburg and Bad Oldesloh (a small town located in the north-east of Hamburg). Thanks to the increased repercussion of this event, they have been able to generate local press attention and, through INSPORT+, establish new partnerships locally.

In Andalusia, a similar but bigger event this year called ‘Tiquitaca for Mental Health’ gathered 10 teams of players with mental health disorders from 9 autonomous communities across Spain for the first time and representatives from 16 sport organisations, 8 institutions, and 14 health & social service organisations in Andalusia.

As you can see, the possibilities to help disable people through sport at local level are endless, and INSPORT+ has a few tips on how you can start such actions in your local community.

1) Know or research your audience(s) and the issues they face in advance

Ask yourself:  is it people with a specific mental disorder that you want to support? Or rather, is it a specific mental/intellectual disability like Down syndrome or Angelman syndrome? – take your time to find out the challenges and issues faced by these groups of people.

2) Find out what their needs are

What is it they would like to access? What is a service or an opportunity which they lack? This can only be done by contacting and consulting the locals affected by these issues in your area. And if you do, make sure to introduce yourself and let them know clearly why you are contacting or engaging with them: as the slogan of the European Disability Forum suggests, people with disabilities and disorders and their guardians must always be involved before anything is done on their behalf: ‘Nothing About Us Without Us’.

3) Contact and engage any fellow association(s) or people involved in representing specific disabilities or disorders

Meet them several times along the year, as much as you find necessary to get them to participate in any initiative you organise.

4) Get cracking with your project!

Once all these stakeholders have been consulted/engaged and are on board with your project, nothing stops you from getting started on organising your project – finding resources, mobilising project partners, etc.

If you wish to learn more about INSPORT+ visit their website and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Read 1236 times Last modified on Wednesday, 09 August 2017 11:05
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