Creating Connections started as a Sport England Inclusive Sport funded project to design and develop a sport and physical activity pathway for disabled people across West Yorkshire.
A collaborative approach was taken to utilise the expertise of healthcare professionals, service users, clubs and activity providers.
The aim is to support people to get involved in community sport and physical activities, and to support community clubs/providers to welcome more disabled people to their sessions.
A social prescribing methodology was used along with Department of Health Let’s Get Moving guidance and NICE brief advice guidelines for increasing physical activity (public health guidance 44). The connections to the health sector and disabled people’s organisations are a significant part of the project.
A gap in ‘recruiting’ disabled people into activity was identified through local stakeholders and following consultation with disabled people and disabled people’s organisations. West Yorkshire has a wide range of activities available and we needed to identify a better way to connect people to these opportunities in a targeted and tailored manner. We didn’t just want to provide more activities without investigating a new way to engage people in the first place.
This was particularly apparent with the adult population as many of the projects and programmes across the network had focused on children and young people’s participation. Only 18% of disabled adults regularly take part in sport compared to 39% of non-disabled adults.
Recruit – A bespoke online recommendation and client management system was designed and developed to enable health professionals (such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists, eye clinic liaison officers, care navigators, etc.) to recommend people to the service. Individuals are also able to self-register online, using paper copy forms and over the telephone. GPs were not targeted as recommending agents during the initial development stages but this is an area for expansion in the near future.
Intervention – Project officers are deployed to each district across West Yorkshire and in Barnsley. They are responsible for the direct intervention with participants using the service. All are trained in motivational interviewing techniques to provide advice and signpost to participant-centred activities. A self-reported baseline ‘activity level’ is recorded using the single-item physical activity questionnaire. This is then followed up at 3, 6 and 12 months.
Activity – Although a wide range of activities were already available, market development was also required where gaps in provision were identified by the project officers. This allowed us to nominate ‘focus’ providers who received additional support to set up or extend their provision for disabled people. Individuals are also encouraged to get active outside structured sessions if this is identified as a more realistic goal during discussions.
A project evaluation report can be viewed HERE.