22 – 24 February 2017: Oxfordshire Inclusive Sports Forum

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On 22-24 February 2017, INSPORT+ partners gathered in Oxford (UK) for the 4th Interregional Event organised in the project.

Our Oxford partners Oxfordshire Sport & Physical Activity, led by their very own Ed Nicholas and Lucy Tappin, hosted the event, where representatives from various local groups representing people with mental health illnesses and disabilities shared their experiences with the INSPORT+ partnership, represented by 7 attendants from 4 partner countries (Bulgaria, Germany, Hungary, and Italy).

Over 14% of the population in Oxfordshire have a limiting illness or disability. Of these, the vast majority (or, more than 12% of the total population) have a mental health condition. In response to the need for a more inclusive agenda, Oxfordshire Sport & Physical Activity adopted a strategy to provide services tailored to Disability & Inclusive Sport and Physical Activity, focused on:

• Increasing participation
• Structure and coordination
• Expertise and advice to the general public, partners and professionals
• Specific projects accessing funding and engaging with target audiences (such as INSPORT+)
• Distribution of Disability and Inclusive Sport Information
• Improving the Disability Sports provision offer across Oxfordshire

As of 2014-15, Oxfordshire had almost 25% of people active with a limited illness or disability, a significant increase from just over 17% in 2005-6. During the three days of the Interregional Event, INSPORT+ had the opportunity to learn from and exchange with participants from Oxfordshire who kindly shared and discussed their experiences, knowledge, opportunities and challenges in supporting those with a mental disability or health condition through sport to achieve this outcome over the last few years.

For example, partners got the chance to learn from a highly successful local project called ‘Active Body, Healthy Mind’, which since 2014 has been run jointly by Oxfordshire Sport and Physical Activity with local and national charities Aspire, Coasters, Mind as well as user-led groups and leisure providers to support individuals with mental health illnesses.

Thanks to Active Body, Healthy Mind, 1250 people have engaged in sport and physical activity 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 (including through INSPORT+).

Other initiatives shared throughout the seminars included:

• West Oxfordshire District Council’s work to promote greater inclusiveness by 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.
• Coasters’ network of mental health service users and staff who come together to take part in a range of health promoting, sporting and challenging activities, such as weekly badminton activities.
• ActivEyes Oxfordshire – a community of active Oxfordshire people aged 18+ living with a Visual Impairment who take part in a range of activities offering something for everyone, including sports, walks, cultural visits, excursions and social meet-ups, exploring the county’s vast array of eateries and watering holes.

Last but not least, INSPORT+ partners had the great pleasure to take part in a series of afternoon/after-lunch health walks and an evening of badminton kindly led by Coasters’ founder Colin Godfrey, along with fellow service users and organisers of the Event, where everyone engaged in lively and cheerful activities. INSPORT+ is pleased to have provided further support for initiatives such as the ones witnessed in Oxford and to help people improve their physical fitness, help build their confidence and self-esteem, improve their mental health and build positive relationships.

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