Red2Green have two established services on site: Aspirations and Options. The charity objective is to increase opportunities in education, training, work, and leisure for people with disabilities and special needs and offer respite for their carers. They currently support around 85 people on site, some with complex needs and 1-to-1 or 2-to-1 support.
The pilot project was created when their Mental Health Support Worker identified the many barriers for their learners with autism and learning disabilities when it came to accessing gyms.
The aim was to facilitate access to the sports centre environment and build confidence in learners.
The project enabled individuals using the mental health service (and their tutor groups of around 6 learners per group) to experience an induction and gym sessions, in a safe and supported environment to encourage a healthy lifestyle and remove barriers.
When asked, ‘Do you think you would like to use a gym on a regular basis?’ responses were:
“I am now aware that there are small gyms which would cause less anxiety than a larger gym”
“Sometimes if it was with a small group and not busy”
“If I had the chance, yes”
Red2Green said there have been so many positive benefits to our organisation as a whole including:
Client A is 76 years old and came to life when playing football with another client aged 74. He tried out all the different activities in the sports hall and really got stuck in. He has limited mobility but enjoyed taking part. Everyone in his group came out of their shells, loved getting out in the mini-bus from the centre, and enjoyed the trip out.
Client B is non-verbal, autistic, and has short concentration. He usually always has two support workers with him, who were anxious about how he would react to the new environment and he can tire very easily. He likes the car and was happy travelling to the gym. They stayed for about 30 minutes and he was able to express when he wanted to leave. He remembered the machines and was able to express which machines he wanted to use, controlling the buttons on the machine, and listened really well to Simon who gave him the induction. He enjoyed watching the world go by outside as he was walking on the treadmill and sat after his session. He was really excited to go on his second visit.
Client C was unable to go to the gym because of a historical issue with the location and his confidence levels. The Red2Green Mental Health Support Worker worked beside him 1:1 using social stories and walk and talk therapy to build his confidence and address his concerns. She then took him to the gym and supported him to join the group. He continued to access through Red2Green twice a week and really enjoyed it.
When asked about learning from the project Red to Green said, we learned a lot through this experience and as an organisation it gave us the confidence we needed to give it a go, and our clients all positively benefitted from it. We know that without support from us, the majority of clients would not be able to attend the gym regularly on their own, but that we can incorporate more physical fitness activities on site or at the gym in the future.
We also learned more about how much our clients want to take part in more activities, and that the real barriers are from society, not them as individuals. With the right support and accessibility from organisations such as the gym in Cherry Hinton, they were able to get involved as much as they wanted to.
Red2Green are still finalising the next steps but they include the following possibilities:
Once this framework has been published, we encourage partners to consider how they can implement the framework to make a real change for disabled people to access physical activity, sport, and leisure in the way they want, when they want, with no barriers placed on them by society.