The Ability PLUS Group Success Story

About the Ability PLUS group

Following the Millennium Youth Games (Heart of the East Games), it was evident that there was need for further disability sport provision and competition across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough.

In 2006, local authorities, national governing bodies of sport (NGBs) and local deliverers started to work together and created the County Disability Sports Forum, a constituted small group to aid the progression of this work. This forum, including special schools in the area and a select group of sports, started a disability sport festival: Youth Games PLUS.

The Youth Games PLUS festival was delivered annually and lots of PLUS competitions were developed, with some leading into the main festival in the Summer.

What changed?

With more mainstream schools coming on board, the interest in the group running the programme continued to increase and with leadership in the form of a chair from Cambridgeshire County Council, the group became the Ability PLUS group, by which it is still known today.

With this change in name, the scope of the group also changed, and a development plan was introduced to expand its purpose beyond that of just a schools’ competition.

In 2011, through Living Sport, the County Sports Partnership, funding was secured to employ a part time Ability PLUS officer.

The difference

This was a hugely successful move and the membership as well as the work programme exploded, with more Disabled People User Led Organisations (DPULOs), clubs, NGBs and other organisations joining.

  • The Youth Games PLUS was still being run alongside the new School Games Programme, the two merged into the full School Games programme of events we have today.
  • The Ability PLUS officer became full time, local and national disability charities were becoming involved with the group, and there was a change of chair and meeting format.
  • Meetings became a place to network, with a theme and speakers introduced from 2013/14. This change was hugely valued by the membership as an organic process and membership has sustained and grown ever since.

Now and the future

The Ability PLUS Group now has around 180 members, with average attendance at meetings of 20. Meetings are held 4 times a year, including an AGM in January, at rotating venues around the county. There is an independent chair, the group is fully constituted with a bank account and has a representative committee from the full membership. The full membership includes the following groups:

  • Active Partnership
  • Clubs
  • NGBs
  • Charities
  • Education
  • Local Authorities (sports team/Local offer/SEND team/sensory services etc.)
  • Local forums
  • National Disability Sport Organisations
  • Individuals
  • Sports Facilities
  • Country Park
  • GP Surgeries
  • Public Health
  • Social workers
  • Physios/OTs

Meeting themes are requested by members and are discussed and set annually at the AGM. Themes include:

  • Sensory impairments
  • Learning Disability
  • Physical impairments
  • Outdoor activities (sailing, cycling etc.)
  • Let’s Get Moving Cambridgeshire (Health project)
  • Talent ID
  • Speed Dating (about every 18 months)
  • Dealing with challenging behaviour
  • School and College 16+ (day service and community provision) link between school and 16+ in the community
  • Social isolation
  • Facts and figures, insight, M&E and consultation

What has been achieved to date

The Ability PLUS group is currently working on how to fully capture the impact of what happens during the meetings and as a result of the meetings. A number of examples are below.

  • Race Running has been set up via CP Sport through the Ability PLUSR Group with a local athletics club funding a Racerunning section after networking at the group.
  • British Blind Sport targeted the group for their ‘have a go day’ due to its ability to bring lots of Visual impairment charities and contacts together.
  • National charity Sense has begun working more in the region with sport and physical activity as a result of contact with the Ability PLUS group including delivering their accredited workshop to the workforce locally.
  • A facility provider has been able to link up with a day centre in their district to support facilitated use of their facilities by them.
  • Schools have remained part of the group and are part of the consultation process for reviewing inclusive School Games delivery and linking in with education related themes.

Living Sport produces a monthly newsletter in partnership with the group to promote activities and news stories. A closed Facebook group has been created to help to share information and have a central place to capture the impact from members. An annual survey goes out to members to ensure that all members, not just those that can regularly attend meetings, are engaged with.

Living Sport sees the group as the key to their disability sport and physical activity strand and work hand in hand with the group to support and deliver against their strategic priorities. Things have moved on considerably from just having an ‘Ability PLUS’ development officer in post. The Active Partnership have disability and long term health conditions as a key priority area in their current strategy and see the value of relationship building work that has gone on through the years to get to where they are today.

For more information contact: Rebecca Evans, Partnerships Manager or Jenny Lambert, Chair of Ability PLUS group,

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