In partnership with the South Care Partnership, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough ICS and Cambridge United Community Trust, Living Sport coordinated a walking football project in South Cambridgeshire which launched in March 2023.
The project supports identified adults to increase their physical activity levels and improve mental wellbeing. Sessions are running in Bar Hill, Milton and Histon for 12 weeks. At each session, there has been a social prescriber present to lead healthy conversations with participants. The initial participation and feedback from the project have proven to be successful and this has been highlighted by the planned continuation of the sessions in South Cambridgeshire.
We look forward to seeing the broader impact the project has had and continuing to build our relationship with the South Cambridgeshire INT and more comprehensive health network.
The Cambridgeshire South Care Partnership (CSCP) secured winter funding, from the Integrated Care System to support Neighbourhood Teams (PCNs and partners) to provide proactive, personalised, care to those they felt were at risk of poorer outcomes over the winter.
The PCN social prescriber recognised the value walking football clubs could bring to the neighbourhood. They saw that they had the potential to help connect the personalised care team to a cohort of the community that haven’t engaged with public services about their mental health challenges and were likely to be under increased pressure this winter due to the cost of living crisis.
Rob Ward, from Living Sport, began coordinating a Walking Football programme to facilitate the delivery of the sessions and promote this within communities. Rob worked on developing a model that could be implemented and sustained across a wider network, ensuring sustainability and continued delivery were prioritised.
Following this, Living Sport also created and distributed marketing materials to help spread the messaging around the event. Living Sport also led the monitoring and evaluation to ensure the outcomes of the project were fully understood. We were pleased to be able to make the project happen quickly in response to the need identified and to use all partner’s expertise most appropriately to make a real change for the participants.
The project uses walking sports clubs as a way of attracting a cohort of people who traditionally do not engage with health & wellbeing services, but do engage well with sports. Once attending the group, the Social Prescribing / Personalised Care Team from the PCN will have informal conversations to identify if they need a more detailed personalised care conversation – either undertaking those conversations pitch side, at the local practice or at another suitable location and time. If the personalised care conversation identifies that the person would benefit from further counselling, they will
be offered up to 6 free sessions via Cogwheel.
Data was collected via paper or online questionnaires, which were completed by the participants when they attended their first session. that are sent to participants taking part in programmes. Data was also collected at 6-weeks via an SMS mailshot and at 12-weeks via an email questionnaire.
Changes in Wellbeing
The wellbeing questions ask participants about satisfaction with life, happiness, worthwhileness and anxiety. Rated from 0 (not at all) to 10 (completely). On average, between baseline and 12 weeks, participants maintained levels of satisfaction, happiness and community connection. There were improvements in worthwhileness and overall wellbeing and participants also had reduced anxiety levels.
At baseline, 34% of participants were inactive (< 30 minutes of physical activity per week). 20% of participants were classed as fairly active (between 30 – 150 minutes of physical activity per week). 36% were active, meaning they were achieving the recommended levels of physical activity (> 150 minutes a week). At the 12-week point we see a large increase in the number of people becoming more active.
From the 12-week follow-up questionnaires, 90% of respondents report that they have achieved the goal they set when starting walking football. Their goals included:
“I heard about walking football in Milton through an NHS Check-up, where they signposted me to the sessions. It’s great to be outside in the fresh air and the exercise is more movement than I thought it would be. I thought it was going to be easy, but I still feel like I am getting a good amount of activity out of the sessions. Since attending the sessions, I have a better appreciation of the subtilities of walking football. Through this, I feel I have harnessed my skills and become better at football because of this. I have also improved my mobility not only for the present but for the future too. I think walking football has made my body adapt it mobility to suit the movements. In the long term, I feel this is going to greatly help me to keep moving for as long as possible. I’m really looking forward to carrying on attending the sessions and I will be sure to tell others about the fun and benefits I’ve experienced. It’s been good to have drills which the coach went through with us. This helped to get not only me but everybody back into the groove of playing football and taught me the basics of playing football which is equally as important. I also feel like the socialisation is key. I am lucky because I have my wife at home, but if I was perhaps at home alone, this would be a great way to interact with others and keep feeling good physically and mentally because of that socialisation.”
Jake Potts, Cambridge United Foundation, Community Engagement Officer had this to say about the impact of the walking football sessions he’s coached:
“Since the sessions started, they have really transformed! For the first few weeks we started with some ball skills and basic teamwork drills, before introducing some small sided games. This helped prepare participants for the future sessions and built social connections amongst the participants. Over the last twelve weeks I have seen changes, both physically and mentally in many of the participants. One big change I have noticed is the social hub that has been created around each of the clubs. Although many participants knew each other prior, the conversations were often limited. Now I can’t keep them quiet off the pitch and our conversations allow everyone to feel part of the community.
The consistent attendance has helped the group feel more like a team. They share stories, successes, and challenges with each other. This has all led to positive experiences which are then shared with others in attendance and prospective players away from the pitch, a real benefit when we are looking to attract new players.
One of my favourite moments has been the togetherness of the group and their welcoming nature, which allows any member of the community to feel part of the sessions. Also, two of the participants have shared how they have been practising outside the session, Brilliant!”
Following on from the project, the project group have worked to ensure that sustainable delivery of the three existing clubs in Bar Hill, Milton & Histon is continued.
We are hopeful to continue expanding the provision of the walking football clubs into three more of the villages within the PCN footprint. Working with additional partners and trying to link with pre-existing community provisions to enable the greatest possible attendance.
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.