EFDS_logoA report released today shows that eight in ten supporters state they have some level of influence in encouraging disabled people to be active. Supporting me to be active, created by the English Federation of Disability Sport (EFDS) highlights the important role those who support disabled people play, whether in a professional or personal capacity. The findings aim to give providers guidance on how to engage with these supporters and help increase activity levels of disabled people.

EFDS research has shown that many disabled people often have smaller social networks, who they rely on for day-to-day support. Supporting me to be active collates discussions with those who regularly support disabled people, to understand their views in more depth. These are the friends, family, and professionally paid support. The people in these networks can play a significant role in encouraging more disabled people to be active.

The report illustrates the impact supporters can have on disabled people’s participation. Key to their influence is the relationship the supporter has with the disabled person and the extent to which they are active themselves. In addition, how willing they are to recommend sport and physical activity to the disabled person. Findings include:

  • Eight in ten supporters state they have some level of influence in encouraging disabled people to be active.
  • Supporters offer a variety of emotional and physical support to help disabled people to be active depending on the needs of the disabled person.
  • The most common type of support given, by six in ten supporters, is acting as a motivator and inspirer. This provides disabled people with new ideas to be active or offering logistical support to enable them to take part.

EFDS worked with Future Thinking research agency, in partnership with the English Learning Disability Sports Alliance (ELDSA) and Sport England. ELDSA is a unique partnership between Special Olympics Great Britain (SOGB) and Mencap to promote the inclusion of people with a learning disability in sport and physical activity. This means the sample also ensures a greater representation of people with a learning disability.

EFDS, ELDSA and Sport England hope providers can use the report to maximise supporters’ influence in sport and physical activity. The report findings pinpoint particular areas for provider planning, such as marketing, which can influence more supporters to choose their opportunities. They include:

  • Helping supporters be confident about an activity and ensure relevant information is available. To be willing to encourage and support a disabled person to be active, a supporter must be confident the activity is relevant and suitable.
  • Helping supporters’ concerns and ensure supporters can access information. It should answer the key questions about safety, facilities, environment, who the activity is for and whether it is competitive or not.
  • Targeting supporters better and making them aware of activities, using communications, which appeal to them directly. Thinking more about the imagery, language and contact information can help.

Barry Horne, Chief Executive for EFDS, said:

“EFDS puts disabled people at the heart of all our work and particularly in our research and insight. Increasingly, within our research, disabled people talk about the importance of support systems in order to be active. This is often the people around disabled people and this report highlights supporters’ influence in making active lives possible.

“The report helps us to build a bigger picture of disabled people’s lives with regards to sport and physical activity. Tapping in to new markets, like supporters, could help providers to reach and include more disabled people.”

Adam Blaze, Strategic Lead of Disability for Sport England said:

“We already know that the people around us can have a big impact on our lives, which means those that are supporting disabled people can do a great deal to support a change in lifestyle.

“This research just goes to show how important it is for the friends and family of, and professionals working with, disabled people to encourage them to get more active. Their decision to help that person to take part in sport or other activities will have a direct impact on their health and emotional wellbeing.”

Speaking on behalf of ELDSA, Andy Heffer, Director of Sports & Development at Special Olympics Great Britain, said:

“This report has confirmed and developed our insight on what we have known anecdotally about the crucial role supporters can play in enabling people with a learning disability to be active. We plan to use this research to continue to work with supporters and disabled people to increase participation in sport.”

You can download the full report here. Follow the conversation with #SupportingActiveLives. For more information on EFDS, visit www.efds.co.uk