Blackpool’s incredible community work goes on

The past few weeks have brought new challenges for everyone, since the coronavirus pandemic hit, but for Club Community Organisations (CCOs) it poses a significant question…

How can they continue their work which serves some of the most vulnerable members of society at a time of great uncertainty for their own organisation?

Ash Hackett, who is Chief Executive at Blackpool FC Community Trust, explains.

“The vast majority of our funding partners have been fantastic and told us to use the funding however we need to in order to continue to support our community. Yet we still have to account for a loss of income from activities where people pay to turn up, such as holiday clubs. However, we have strong governance and reserve funds in place to help us through this very difficult period if it becomes necessary.”

Hackett says that even during these uncertain times for the organisation, it’s still the people in the communities they serve that remain their number one priority.

He adds: “We thought about whether the Government Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme is appropriate for us. However the most important point for us is ensuring we have enough staff to continue to support our community.”

CCOs across the country have been looking at innovative ways of how they can continue delivering their existing programmes, as well as finding new ways to serve their community.

Hackett explains what they’ve been doing at Blackpool: “My team have been absolutely amazing in doing this. Every staff member has continued to work from home, developing a host of ways to stay in contact with our participants and partner organisations.

“Our education and employability teams have developed virtual classrooms to continue to educate our students and maintain some regularity for them. This means our BTEC Sports College Students, Degree Students and Traineeship participants continue to turn up for classes each day and complete their normal work just from home.

“Some don’t have laptops, so we have sent them home with ours and some don’t have Wi-Fi in their homes so we are sending paper based assignments for them to complete and we are calling them to talk through the subjects, whilst we investigate if we can get them online in their houses.

“Our school delivery teams have continued to support educational establishments that are open for key workers and are short staffed, by going in and being an extra body to deliver some PE and other fun activities. Our secondary schools team have been putting challenges and ideas together to support teenagers’ resilience and mental wellbeing. “

The members of the CCO team not involved in this delivery have been hard at work collating schemes of work, creating and undertaking challenges and thinking of games for schools and families to follow in isolation.

Hackett adds: “We have competitions coming up over the next few weeks including our #BlackpoolRhyme competition, running throughout April, for everyone to tell us what they love about Blackpool in the form of a poem.”

CCOs work with some of the most vulnerable members of the community and ensuring that they are not affected by the current situation is a key priority, as Hackett outlines.

“We have set up call centres for participants to engage with us, if they need a chat, some help or information about other organisations they may need to talk to,” he says.

“We are also in regular contact with our more socially isolated participants, to see if they need any help or support. It’s really important we consider everybody’s mental health during this period and this is one way we can help with this.”

Alongside many other CCOs during this difficult time, Blackpool FC Community Trust has also received a host of calls for additional help that are outside their normal operations. One of those being the call from Blackpool Council to set up a community hub.

“We will host one of twelve hubs that will distribute food parcels to the most vulnerable residents that are isolated for 12 weeks. Our team will coordinate the Bloomfield Ward and deliver the parcels to people’s doorsteps.”

FIT ROBINS: John’s story

John Davey had suffered from high blood pressure for a number of years and was generally unfit and therefore made the decision to make a change and signed up to the first 12-week programme of the Foundation’s FIT ROBINS project and he has not looked back since.

Bristol City Robins Foundation’s FIT ROBINS initiative is a free 12-week health and wellbeing programme which combines both classroom-based advice and support sessions with active fitness sessions to help participants lose weight and lead healthier lives.

As the weeks passed, and John put into practice the healthy living plans suggested at the sessions, he began to witness improvements in his blood pressure and general levels of fitness.

By the end of the 12-week programme, John’s blood pressure had dropped to a healthy level and his general fitness levels had improved significantly. In addition to this, he also lost nearly 10% of his starting weight.

John told the Foundation: “I have thoroughly enjoyed the FIT ROBINS programme and have been surprised by just how much weight I have lost – I have even had to go a size down in trousers!

“I had never really bothered to look at my weight and have been the same for a number of years but being part of a group who are all working towards the same goal certainly made this process easier and rewarding.”

Lead coach of the initiative, Lee Gillett commented: “John was a proactive member of the programme and contributed in all of the sessions sharing his stories and offering support to fellow participants.

I feel that the supportive group environment really helped to motivate John and enabled him to achieve his goals.”

To find out more about FIT FANS visit:

Championship Clubs partner with ‘His Church’ to distribute food packages to their communities

Hull City’s Tigers Trust and Leeds United Football Club and their Club Community Organisation have linked-up with ‘His Church’ (HIS) as part of an initiative to support NHS workers and vulnerable people who have been heavily impacted by COVID-19.

The initiative is known as ‘In It Together’ and will not only help to tackle the shortage that has been seen in food and supplies in the area, but will also create hampers to be given out to NHS staff who are working on the frontline every day to protect people suffering in our communities.

The launch sees lorryloads of deliveries to both Hull City and Leeds United football clubs, who will help distribute it to hard-pressed NHS staff in their communities. From Hull City’s ground, the football club will help to transfer the food to Hull Royal Infirmary where it will be distributed to NHS staff at the infirmary and Castle Hill.

At Leeds United, the first lorryload of supplies arrived at the stadium yesterday afternoon, with coaches and staff on hand to sort the parcels into several vehicles ready for distribution. The food packages where then delivered, through a contact-free method in line with government guidelines, to local hospitals and the South and East ‘Early Help Hubs’ that are working with other foodbanks and vulnerable families during this period.

HIS is a charity that has been providing help to foodbanks across the country for the past 13 years and due to the coronavirus outbreak, the organisation has had to increase the amount of stock it supplies fourfold, with demand at an all-time high.

Their warehouse, which is based in Lincolnshire, is 50,000 square foot and stocked with freezers, fridges and shelving to store product. Before the crisis they were distributing just over 50,000 meals a week across the UK and in response to the overwhelming demand they are now receiving, they are set to distribute around 200,000 meals a week through a network of over 15,000 charities and organisations, including via both of the Championship sides. 

Senior Coordinator for His Church Richard Humphrey, said: “We have never known demand like it. We have staff who are living in lock-down at our warehouse to continue getting food out to people who need it at this desperate time.

“We are simultaneously sourcing new donations to maintain our supply levels. With COVID-19, we really all are ‘In It Together’ and it is only by working together that we will triumph over the virus and the hardship it creates.”

Michael Kinsey, Operations Executive at the Leeds United Foundation, added: “Leeds City Council have set-up a really well coordinated operation to support those who are in need throughout the city and we know it is important to play our part in helping to support vulnerable people and families who have been heavily impacted by COVID-19.

“We have a longstanding relationship with His Church and the operation they run is fantastic. The amount of people they are able to support is outstanding and we want to ensure that this initiative is going to help people in the long term. It won’t just be food packages, but we will look at supplying emergency care parcels as well to help with other essential items such as medicine, toilet roll, nappies, washing powder and so much more.

“By working together, we are able to help so many more people who really need it.”

Head of Programmes at Hull City’s Tigers Trust, Richard Dexter said: “As a local Charity we are delighted to continue to support our local communities and importantly the NHS through these unprecedented times, through our on-going partnership with His Church. The opportunity to provide fresh food for NHS workers who continue to work tirelessly is critical to us and the people we work with, and the very least we can do as a means of showing our gratitude to them. During these difficult times we are proud to be able to do this with the on-going support of our funders the Premier League Community Foundation and EFL Trust together with the support of our Club and Trustees.”

Connor: “I have autism, but I don’t let it stop me”

EFL Trust NCS Graduate Connor Burleigh explains how having autism has helped him do things he didn’t think were possible and how much of a positive impact the NCS programme has had on his confidence…

I struggled quite a bit with my autism in Primary school. It might have been because I came from a small community and felt a bit like the odd one out. But I also struggled a lot more with changes to routines than I do now, so the experience of education was quite challenging in those years. This caused me to lag behind, and I went into secondary school not very confident and with really poor reading skills due to lack of engagement in classes. 

But, in truth, secondary school was a new start for me personally. There was a much better support base in place which allowed me to get caught up with my lessons. And, by the end of Year 7 I was a member of the schools eco council and had completed the school’s reading scheme ahead of schedule. The increased amount of people helped too as there were more students who also had autism, and really were in the same boat as me, so it was easy to connect with them.

For me, my autism has always affected how I talk to crowds. I used to struggle a lot, so getting involved in social action has really helped. The Doncaster Youth Council has proper support and training in place that allows me to improve my public speaking skills. It started with me speaking more regularly at youth council meetings. I remember the first one, I just sat at the back of the room not speaking to anyone for the entire meeting! 

But, over time I started speaking up, and even though getting involved was out of my comfort zone, it really helped build my confidence. Being involved in social action projects allows me to be part of something bigger than myself and make a difference in my community. I think those things also give me the motivation to continue to speak to new people and find more public speaking opportunities.

NCS was a great experience as it really allowed me to get out of my comfort zone in a controlled environment. The challenge week helped me learn new skills, and the social action week meant I could give back to my local community. It was also the first time I had stayed away from my parents for a significant amount of time and the experience really changed my life. 

Before going on NCS I was quite unsure if I wanted to go to university. This experience of living away from home really gave me the confidence to apply and I now have a conditional offer from the University of St Andrews! 

After NCS, I successfully applied for the Yorkshire and Humber Regional Youth Board run by the EFL Trust. This led to me taking on another new challenge: using public transport. I had never been on a train alone before so this was quite a shock, with the business of the train stations. Luckily my fellow board members and the staff were really supportive. Since then I’m much more comfortable using public transport on my own, even applying and becoming an #iwill ambassador, and travelling around the country in this role. 

Autism is a wide spectrum and it affects no two people the same way. But, the advice I can give, and wished other people had told me when I was younger, is to try and get involved in as many opportunities as you can. Autism doesn’t define me, it doesn’t define you, and we shouldn’t let it affect our futures.


All Rover the community: Blackburn demonstrating the power of football

Blackburn Rovers Community Trust’s Events and Fundraising Officer, Jess Clegg, says that although it is a challenging time for everyone, she is proud of the work that is being done in communities. 

After having to cancel their sleep-out event this weekend due to the coronavirus outbreak, the Trust have ensured that the Blackburn Foodbank has still been able to carry out its duties, despite having to close its doors to the general public. 

She said: “One of the main things we have been doing is working with the Blackburn Foodbank; we had a sleep-out event planned for this weekend and the proceeds from that would have gone to them, but with the current situation we have had to postpone that event. 

“One of my first thoughts when the coronavirus became more prevalent was ‘how would the Foodbank cope with what is going on?’, so I got in touch with them and they really welcomed our support. We went in and packed the bags, trying to get ahead of the game a bit so they were ready to give out parcels straight away. 

“Last week they had to close their doors to the general public, so we came up with a bit of a plan to do a delivery service. We had two minibuses from the Community Trust go out and deliver all the food parcels to the referrals that were coming in.”

With the Government’s advice ringing firmly in Jess’ ears, she has been extra careful when out and about, making sure that her team have the correct equipment that they need to carry out their tasks, such as hand sanitiser.

She added: “We have been doing a lot and making sure that we are sticking to the guidelines; obviously using the hand sanitisers, spreading ourselves in a decent space around the minibus and, until we get told any different, we are going to continue what we are doing. 

“We have such a huge responsibility, really, because there is such a huge service in Blackburn and, without our support, I don’t think the Foodbank would have been able to get the packages out to those people who really rely on them. 

“Our support has not stopped there, though, as we have offered help to anyone of our participants that might need any help getting out and about, mainly to get them some essentials like shopping and toiletries, so it has been really full-on for us over the past couple of weeks. 

It was confirmed very early on that vulnerable adults over a certain age would have to stay at home to protect themselves from the virus, meaning that some of the Rovers Community Trust schemes would have to be cancelled, but the participants would not be forgotten, with staff members from the Trust getting on the phone to make sure they know that they were not alone. 

Clegg said: “Some of our sessions where we have older participants have unfortunately had to be cancelled, such as line dancing and health walks, so you’re looking at 60-plus. With that age group told not to come out of their houses, it has made things quite difficult for us in that respect. 

“But we have battled on, like they have really – the staff that would tend to be on those sessions have been on the phone, calling them up, just to see how they are getting on, asking them if they need anything or if we could help them with the odd jobs here and there. 

“It’s just to be a friendly voice on the phone, really, because we have built up a really friendly relationship with these people. That phone call from our staff could be the only one they receive this week, or in two weeks’ time, because they haven’t really got anyone around this area.”

Autism Awareness Day: Dec’s story

Dec: “If you really want something and work hard, then you can do anything.”

Student, volunteer and member of Bristol City Robins Foundation’s award-winning youth council, Dec Stone, hasn’t let autism stop him from making a positive change in his community and he continues to inspire those around him.

Dec says: “People shouldn’t really see autism as a disability or think that just because someone is autistic it means that they cannot do things. If you really want something and work hard, then you can do anything.”

Dec was selected to be part of the Robins Foundation’s Youth Council – a body of eight young people who use their understanding of challenges faced by the local community to help shape the Foundation’s delivery. Whilst Dec was a shy and introverted individual to start with, he quickly grew in confidence and has become a central member of the council over the four years in which he has been a member.

Over this period the Council have helped the Robins Foundation launch initiatives such as the award winning free female fitness & football hub and a social inclusion session in an area of deprivation within Bristol. This provision now engages with over 80 young people per session and has a resulted in a drastic reduction in criminal activity in the area that it operates in.

The incredible work of Dec and the rest of the Youth Council has been recognised at a national level with the body of youngsters picking up awards from both the EFL and the FA.

Dec’s involvement with the Robins Foundation however does not stop there as he also studies with the Foundation on its unique Sports Media education course. Dec has thrived on this course and was commended for his hard work and dedication at last year’s Foundation education awards evening.

In addition to this, Dec also volunteers on a number of the Robins Foundation’s projects including the social inclusion session – which he and the youth council played a pivotal role in establishing – and the Foundation’s disability football project.

Dec is an inspiration to the participants of the disability football project where he acts as a role model to the youngsters who attend the sessions.

Jenny, a parent of one of the participants at Bristol City Robins Foundation’s disability football project, said: “My son Sean – who has autism – has not engaged in anything before, but he loves coming to the football sessions with the Robins Foundation.

“The team are fantastic, in particular Declan, who could really relate to Sean. Declan made him them feel at ease and took away any pressure.”

Janice, a grandparent of another one of the youngsters at the Robins Foundation’s disability football sessions commented: “My grandson is autistic and thoroughly enjoys his time at the Foundation’s Tuesday evening disability session. It gives him the opportunity to do a sport that would otherwise not be available to him.

“The staff are so patient with the children, it’s a pleasure to watch the children engage with them whist teaching them new skills and not being judged because of their special needs.”

Dec told the Foundation: “When I first started at the Youth Council, I was way out of my comfort zone. However, I did not let this dissuade me from perusing my goals, and I am so proud of all that we have achieved.”


Autism Awareness Day: Matthew’s story

“He has always been made to feel as though he belongs there and this has given him the confidence to talk in a group which hasn’t always been easy for him.”

Matthew attends Derby County Community Trust’s weekly ‘Ability Counts’ sessions as part of the Every Player Counts network which provides inclusive sessions for all. This session has a particular focus on supporting participants with autism.

The Every Player Counts programme funded by EFL Trust and Wembley National Stadium Trust covers a wide range of disability programmes including wheelchair football, football for visual impairment, learning difficulties, amputees and autism, giving many disabled people access to football for the first time.

Matthew’s parents said, “Matthew has been attending football training sessions with Derby County Community Trust since he was around 11 years old and has enjoyed it so much is still going eight years later. He really looks forward to going and loves scoring goals and also the celebrations.

“He has always felt comfortable with the staff and loves telling them about his passion for Derby County and football in general. He has always been made to feel as though he belongs there and this has given him the confidence to talk in a group which hasn’t always been easy for him.

“He now seems to enjoy it as much for the social interaction as he does for the football. We feel he gets a lot from the sessions as he seems more animated and talkative afterwards.”

Matt added that he likes taking penalties and the warm up sessions. He remembers when two of the Derby County players came to one of the sessions and he got to play football with them.

Staff at Derby County Community Trust are really proud of Matthew’s development throughout the years he’s been involved.

Stuart Asquith, Inclusion Officer at the Trust, said: “So many of our sessions are about much more than football and the way Matt has grown in confidence since he first started has been amazing. He continues to be an important part of the group and supports us as coaches too and we hope to have the pleasure of his company for many years to come!”


Nadine: “I’ve gone from being shy and not wanting to leave the house, to getting active and being part of a team.”

After finding herself unemployed for over a year, Nadine was determined not to let her Austistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) get in the way of her ambitions.

Nadine enrolled on an Employability and Skills project with Cardiff City FC Foundation, which provides young people with support to develop their personal and social skills.

The project gave Nadine the experience and confidence to make the successful transition back into employment, and in-turn, become less isolated.

“Being part of the Foundation has changed me; they’ve accepted me for who I am. I’ve gone from being a shy person with anxiety and not wanting to leave the house to getting active and being part of a team.”

Nadine is now a part-time member of the Foundation team. She is thriving in her role as an Inclusion Project Worker, supporting children and young people with a disability.

Using sport as a tool, she helps to improve their physical health, social interaction and confidence levels.