The events of 2020 have had a disproportionate and widespread impact on disabled people. Research* shows that disabled people and people with long-term health conditions are more adversely affected by Covid-19 than any other population.
With a significant increase in the number of inactive disabled people during the initial months of the pandemic, and ongoing challenges for sport and physical activity providers, the situation has demanded a radical shift in the way that people and communities can be supported and how services are delivered.
The Gloucestershire Active Inclusion Network (GAIN) brings individuals and organisations together to improve opportunities for disabled people to take part in sport and physical activity in the county. GAIN provides the opportunity to meet and learn from others, find out what is going on locally, and share ideas on how, together, we might overcome some of the barriers that get in the way of disabled people leading an active life.
In our July and December sessions, GAIN has responded to the current crisis by facilitating discussion around how together, we can continue to best support communities during restrictions, and what we have learnt and need to do differently. Together we also explored how to re-engage communities as restrictions ease, to ensure that physical activity is part of our daily lives.
Learning from the network showed us that similarly to the national picture, (and despite exemptions meaning that some physical activities for disabled people can legally continue), there are some stark realities linked to the pandemic that we cannot ignore; the most significant being the further widening of the inequality gap when it comes to participation and the increased anxiety and reduced confidence for disabled people when taking part in activity.
But we have also learnt that there are opportunities to work in new, collaborative and innovative ways. We have seen inspiring examples of organisations who are thinking differently about how they can deliver or re-purpose their offer to support individuals, communities and families during the pandemic. At the latest GAIN network we heard from Get Moving Whaddon, supporting the community through a socially distanced walking train for people with various abilities, and AllSorts Gloucestershire, who are continuing their inclusive activity sessions online. If you’d like some help to shape your activities, get in touch.
While the network has highlighted some significant challenges, it has also demonstrated the resilience and dedication of local groups, charities and organisations who are passionate about inclusion. In learning from each other, we can build confidence in the county’s provision and increase the confidence of disabled people who have been so disproportionally impacted by this pandemic.
As we await the latest announcement on the 22 February, we will continue to listen, work together, and explore new and creative ways to make physical activity something that is accessible for everyone in a world with or without Covid-19.
If you would like to receive more information about the GAIN network, get in touch to register your interest.
*Read the full Activity Alliance report.