Working with local authorities to reduce health inequalities and transform physical activity provision for disabled residents

Tom Haworth, Sports & Physical Activity Relationship Managers at Trafford Council, shares how working alongside the the Empower You team to ensure sport and physical activity in the borough is inclusive, has helped transform the council’s understanding and knowledge of reducing health inequalities for disabled people:
“My team’s objective is to encourage residents to engage in sport and physical activity – and to tackle the barriers that may prevent that from happening. Historically, our data shows us that disabled Trafford residents are among the most inactive in our borough – and this has been a reasonably long-term trend.
Despite having pockets of activity happening across the borough, there was a need to have a centralised approach to address this issue. We were pointed in the direction of Empower You by a local GP and, through a jointly funded pilot with our health partners, we were able to commission the Empower You in Trafford.
Empower You has encouraged us to look at inclusion in a different way – both strategically and practically.
People often think that people with complex issues or physical disabilities will only be interested in certain activities – but working with Empower You has taught us that we need to provide a much broader choice in terms of sport and physical activities and services. Partnering with Empower You has enabled us to work with a larger and more diverse group of sport and fitness instructors – from community groups, private providers to local authority providers – to upskill them, so the activity is sustainable.
It has shown us that we can expand provision and tackle health inequality in such a way that we don’t have to constantly obsess about what it’s going to cost and how it’s going to be subsidised – or what specialist is going to be needed – as the solution can be embedded into existing provision.
For example, Empower You has worked with our local leisure provider to improve their knowledge and understanding of inclusive provision. The provider has been able to change the way that they engage with people – from front of house to delivering fitness programmes. It’s shown us that sometimes it’s not costly changes that are required – it could be a tweak to how you present information, or how you sign up someone into a fitness class for example. The return on investment far outweighs the effort.
We have also strengthened our understanding of the need for appropriate leisure spaces, changing facilities and conversations/interactions between instructors and participants.
We’ve been able to develop our knowledge of the best way to have meaningful conversations with disabled residents that will then turn into practical, actionable changes. During the pandemic for example, when we needed to support a high-risk group, we worked with disabled people to develop a digital offer that was welcomed by many young adults who previously hadn’t undertaken any physical activity. Empower You’ technical know-how combined with lived experiences enables the team to address the subject matter/the issues in a way that gives you the confidence that the advice is appropriate and actionable.
We’re 18 months into the project and we’re already seeing results: we have seen an increase in the number of disabled people not only taking part in an activity but also continuing activity – because of the way they’d been supported into it.
Engaging with people with lived experience, thanks to the support of Empower You, has given us valuable insights that will influence our approach to inclusion going forward.
We are making sure the lessons learned through our work with Empower You are embedded by including them in future strategies and commissioning activity.”

“Empower You has encouraged us to look at inclusion in a different way”

– 3Y0ndBA!#