Colin Bennett: Why International Day of People with Disabilities is Important

Today, Friday 3rd December, is International Day of People with Disabilities (International Day of People with Disabilities (idpwd.org)).

But for people with disabilities, it’s not about one day and then move on to the next special day. It’s every day, week, month, all year. Every year.

And that’s why days like this are so important. The day should be seen as a platform to highlight the challenges and barriers to people with a disability and even more so, amplify the great work that goes on. Let’s keep the conversation relevant, front and centre and ensure our work is the norm.

I am very proud to be the Project Manager for the EFL Trust’s Every Player Counts project which has been funded by Wembley National Stadium for the last 5 years. By the end of the 5th year our network of Club Community Organisations (CCOs) will have delivered football to nearly 15,000 participants, enabling and empowering people of all ages to be active and play.

And it’s more than just play. We know that being active is good for people’s mental and physical health, their social inclusion and for them to have a community connection. We have participants who previously wouldn’t leave their house but now have started jobs, apprenticeships, college courses. We are hearing from teachers that participants are more outgoing; we are hearing from participants that the one thing they will not miss is their football; we are seeing a pride that participants can represent their club; we know the importance of the strength of the network’s community work.

Throughout today we are highlighting that work in just some of our CCOs to showcase what we do but also to celebrate the participants and their families. Disability should not be seen as a difference. Because in fact over 80% of disabled people acquired disability later in life. Fewer than 20% were born with disability.

Think about that for a moment.

Of the people with a disability fewer than 20% were born with their disability.

The work continues every day in our communities and through the EFL Trust CCOs I see first-hand these great stories. Hopefully you can support the amplification of the message and I look forward to continuing the great work each and every day.

Dylan Cook: Why I joined the EFL Trust Youth Forum

My name’s Dylan, I’m 21 years old from Wolverhampton and currently a third-year student studying Football Coaching, Development and Administration at the University of South Wales. I’m the newest member of the EFL Trust Youth Forum.

Read more

Adrian Bradley: This is a tipping point for our nation’s health

This year National Fitness Day is happening at a tipping point for our nation’s health.  As we enter our second winter during the pandemic, it has never been more important to help people to stay as active as possible.

Only last week research was published revealing that people seeking NHS help to lose weight during the pandemic are on average five pounds heavier than those starting the programme during the previous three years.

This extra weight, gained as people lived through the COVID pandemic, means people are at higher risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. It is estimated that weight gain of one kilogram, or 2.2 pounds, can increase your risk of diabetes by around 8%. Excess weight is also linked to a greater risk of severe Covid-19 symptoms. You are twice as likely to die from COVID-19 if you live with Type 2 Diabetes.

This is a trend we are seeing on our award winning FIT FANS programme. Men were on average 2.9 kg (6 pounds) heavier before they started the programme this summer (June 2021) than the average starting weight in the winter before the pandemic (January 2020). The same pattern is seen among women.  The average weight at the start of the programme has risen by 2.4kg (5 pounds).

FIT FANS works. The 12 week programmes offers guidance and support on eating, drinking, sleeping and being more active in daily life. Our data shows FIT FANS helps people to increase physical activity, reduce sedentary time, leading to weight loss, a significant reduction in blood pressure and improvement in self-reported mental wellbeing measures.

Our average weight loss statistics are really impressive and exceed those of many other programmes. On average women lose 3.31kg and men 5.51kg by the end of the 12 weeks.  We also have evidence that weight loss is sustained and continues to increase over the following months after the end of the course.

FIT FANS is now offered by nearly forty clubs across the EFL network.  During the pandemic, despite all the restrictions and disruption it has caused, we have supported nearly three thousand people. We are now building on the investment we have received from the National Lottery and more than a dozen local authorities across the country have now chosen to invest in making FIT FANS part of their weight management offer.

National Fitness Day has the potential to inspire but also to deter.  For many people the term “fitness” is off putting and conjures images of Lycra clad fitness instructors in exclusive gyms. We understand that, for many football fans, fitness is an elusive state and something they see on the pitch in the stadium but not in the mirror. We believe that fitness is a relative concept and is about being fit for life. That will mean different things to different people.  We know that the first steps towards being more active are often the hardest but that every little helps. We have support in place for people who want to make a change.

There’s been a lot of attention given to online initiatives to get people active and they do have their place.  However, we remain convinced that bringing people together gives the chance for people to meet people lime them.  The support and solutions they give each other are key to making change last.

FIT FANS groups go through the experience together.  They encourage and reassure each other and are the better for it.  We all need to start somewhere and FIT FANS could be the place for you.  With courses starting all over the country this month and again in January, click here for more details.

Nicol Meredith: This job found me and I was made for it

A job that was made for me and a real chance to change the opportunity for all talented girls in Football… Read more

Adrian Bradley: How Extra Time Hubs are adding life to years.

So what do you do when a pandemic comes along and your flagship service for older people, who have been advised to stay at home and shield, involves encouraging large numbers of them to congregate in a room each week? Well, you innovate and improvise. Above all, you stay in touch and help people to stay connected.

Our Extra Time Hubs are pilots of our concept for how our football club charities reach and support people in their retirement years. They are places where members come together weekly to socialise, do things they enjoy, feel better connected and move towards healthy and positive lifestyle habits.

The weekly gathering is only one aspect of the Extra Time Hub which are Funded by the National Lottery and Sport England. Think of it as a wheel with the gathering at the centre and a wide range of activity groups as the spokes. Members decide what they like to do and are helped to set up activity groups.  These could be walking, table tennis, singing, crafts or keep fit groups.  The choice is theirs.  We do not dictate. Nothing is off the agenda.

Evidence from previous infectious outbreaks and pandemics had demonstrated the mental health and psychological effects of social isolation. Anxiety, stress, fear, frustration, and boredom have all duly been accentuated by COVID-19 related restriction of movement, loss of social connections and activities, fear of contagion, and concern about restricted access to basic supplies and services. Our Extra Time Hubs have never been more important.

For Lynn in Greenwich, Lee in Derby, Avril in Wigan, David in Lincoln and many other members across the country, the sense of community and togetherness of the Hub has seen them through tough times. Members tell us they feel valued, supported, have a purpose and have something to look forward to.

We have had to redefine “come together” and our staff and volunteers have telephoned, WhatsApped, Zoomed and written to more people than before COVID-19. We have leant tablets and created online cookery lessons, craft sessions, quizzes and exercise classes.  Our eleven Hub charities in Bolton, Burton upon Trent, Charlton, Crawley, Derby, Lincoln, Northampton, Plymouth, Shrewsbury, Sunderland and Wigan have been a “lifeline” for many.

Our experiences over the past 15 months have led us to reflect and to add even more flexibility to our model. The Hubs will not be limited to who can join us in person.  Members can take part from their own homes or from residential care settings.  Realising and embracing that means we can aspire to our Extra Time communities growing exponentially. We are no longer constrained by room sizes and transport links.

Extra Time Hubs are about people helping each other.  They are about building a social network, a community, of members who have one thing in common – the desire to connect. They are places of sharing.  They are places of kindness.  They are places of fun. We were asked at the start of our Extra Time Hubs journey what the signs of success would be.  Beyond membership numbers, survey results and health outcomes, our answer was laughter.

Still hearing laughter, in the midst of all that we have gone through, is our greatest achievement.

So we approach the future, and life beyond the pandemic, with renewed optimism and ambition.  We want to have 72,000 members at our 72 charities in a decade.  Who is to say we won’t?

Dominik Stingas-Paczko: Celebrating 10 years of NCS and its wider impact

The EFL Trust is soon to be celebrating 10 years of delivering NCS (National Citizen Service). Since the first pilots were delivered in the summer of 2011 with only a handful of Delivery Partners involved including Community Organisations at Barnsley FC and Sheffield Wednesday, 600,000 young people have taken part in NCS gaining priceless life experience and completing over 15 million hours of community action raising awareness of mental health and homelessness, tackling issues such as the environment and loneliness and redeveloping local spaces for the community to enjoy.

In a recent impact study conducted by NCS Trust the outcomes of the programme showed that:

  • 70% of participants felt more confident about getting a job in the future
  • For every £1 spent, NCS gave back £3.49 of benefits to society
  • 78% of participants felt more positive about people from different backgrounds to themselves after attending NCS (2018 summer programme)
  • 23% of young people who participated in NCS during 2019 were on Free School Meals. This compares to 14% of the comparable 16-17 year old population
  • Almost two in three NCS participants say they are more likely to help out in their local area after coming on NCS.

Read more here.

We know the impact of the NCS programme has been significant, and in some cases, life changing for young people and their communities.

But the wider impact of NCS is also highly significant….

The programme has created job opportunities, upskilled our network of Club Community Organisations and allowed the EFL Trust to tackle other societal issues such as hate crime and social cohesion.

NCS has created local jobs for local people…

NCS has created jobs locally for people who have a deep understanding of both the area, the people living within it and the societal issues that they face. This summer 2021, the NCS programme alone will create in the region of 900 seasonal roles across the EFL Trust network, with the majority of these positions going to young people aged 18-24.

NCS Graduates of the programme show extreme loyalty to the principles they have learned and will often come back to the programme to volunteer or work, thus creating the next generation of youth workers. In fact, almost two in three NCS participants (in 2018) said that they are more likely to help out in their local area after coming on NCS.

A fantastic example of this is Leonie Hudson, NCS Graduate in 2014 and now full-time employee at Reds in the Community (Barnsley FC). By her own admission, before NCS, Leonie felt withdrawn, unmotivated, was unsure what to do after school and desperate to get out of Barnsley. After doing NCS, Leonie felt reconnected with her local community and was desperate to give back to NCS by volunteering on the programme. Leonie’s enthusiasm for NCS led her to be a key member of the EFL Trust’s Regional Youth Board and she was also key note speaker at EFL Trust’s NCS Conference.

Leonie believes NCS and the opportunities she has had since doing NCS have had a big part to play in her successful application to go to University in Leeds, admitting that her personal statement was almost entirely made up of her experiences through the programme.

“Not only has NCS given me five years of memories and experiences I’ll never forget, but I completely believe it got me into my dream university.”

NCS creates Community Partnerships...

NCS has also seen the development of national, regional and local partnerships across the country, some of which didn’t exist before. Our Delivery Partners have been able to strengthen their links and embed themselves in local schools beyond mainstream including special educational needs and independent schools.

The EFL Trust has been able to build a number of key partners such as those with First Group Bus Company and Northern Rail, which has allowed us to offer an even more inclusive programme as young people can now travel for free when doing NCS in Yorkshire and the Humber.

Initially piloted in Yorkshire and the Humber, these partnerships have now spread to other areas of the country, giving more young people the opportunity to do NCS. These opportunities are also now being included in other Youth Programmes delivered by the EFL Trust.

Our partnership with UK Parliament has not only given young people a wider knowledge of UK politics but it has also has opened doors for the EFL Trust to engage with MPs across the country and in doing so making them aware of the wider work done by the CCO network.

NCS has promoted growth…

The EFL Trust, supported by NCS Trust funding and funding from a variety of other organisations, has grown from an organisation of only 10 in 2008 to over 60 in 2021. Many EFL Trust team members who began their journey with the EFL Trust working on the NCS programme have now gone on to play significant roles within the wider organisation and bringing with them a flair for change and a firm belief in the power of young people in our communities.

Claire Streeter joined EFL Trust in 2019 as an NCS Performance Managing Partner in Yorkshire & the Humber. Claire has been involved in NCS for 8 years starting as a volunteer in 2013 with MFC Foundation’s (Middlesbrough Football Club) summer NCS programme. As a result of Claire’s volunteering and enthusiasm Claire was appointed as Project Worker with MFC Foundation, leading her to become their Social Inclusion Manager supporting over 500 young people through the NCS programme in Middlesbrough. Now working within the EFL Trust, Claire is using her wealth of experience to support other NCS Delivery Partner to offer young people an unforgettable experience on NCS. Claire is also a key member of the EFL Trust Staff Advisory Forum and has assisted in shaping EFL Trust’s new equality, diversity and inclusion approach.

NCS Tackles Key Societal Issues…

The work done throughout our network for NCS assisted us to secure some regional Government funding for the MHCLG (Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government) Faith, Race and Hate Crime project, aimed at bringing communities together and encouraging understanding and cohesion. The programme, named ‘Communities United’ aims to increase community cohesion by bringing people together to increase understanding of the local community and cultural differences and similarities. This programme has since engaged with 73 families across the North West increasing positive attitudinal change in social cohesion (16% increase), social trust (11% increase) and social capital (25% increase). The families that participated were from different ethnic backgrounds, sharing different beliefs and they all came together to successfully deliver a social action project in their community.

Overall, the development of and improvement of infrastructure both within our CCOs and within their teams has undoubtedly been significantly improved by the decade of NCS within our network. The requirements in terms of governance structure and staff training to ensure that teams are perfectly placed to deliver on the programme have led to significant developments in staffing particularly across the network and also within the EFL Trust.

With such strong teams, the resultant negotiating power of the organisation to ensure funding filters to EFL communities most in need has been a powerful model and given that over 10 million people live within a 10-mile radius of an EFL Club – many in deprived areas with over 70% of individuals claiming Universal Credit – the impact is significant.

The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has been particularly significant for our nation’s young people and as we emerge from the pandemic, the current Government review of youth services is both well timed and vital.

As we celebrate ten years involvement with NCS, we look to the future with optimism, knowing that our learnings and organisational improvements over the past decade place us in the strongest position possible to support the young people of our country as we emerge from the pandemic and for them, in turn, to support their local communities.

 

Dominik Stingas-Paczko, Head of NCS

Adrian Bradley: Tackling COVID-19 related Loneliness

2020 and 2021 have obviously been particularly challenging years. The EFL Trust and our network of 72 club community organisations have adapted existing programmes and launched new support services to respond directly to the pandemic.

With the support of funding from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, we’ve been able to reach and support 35,000 older people at risk of chronic loneliness.

People in the clinically vulnerable groups who were ‘shielding’ particularly needed our support. They were likely to become isolated and to suffer the effects of deteriorating mental wellbeing. Anxiety, stress, fear, frustration, and boredom have all been accentuated by COVID-19 related restrictions of movement, loss of social connections and activities, fear of contagion, and concern about restricted access to basic supplies and services.

Many club charities developed a telephone support offer during the initial lockdown period.  Many then experimented with remote delivery, often online but also group telephone calls and deliveries of resources to people’s homes to enable them to participate in activities from home like arts and crafts packs, exercise equipment and plants and seeds to grow. This actually meant they were able to engage with people who may previously have struggled to access face-to-face support.

We know from our data that we have made a difference. People overwhelmingly reported feeling less anxious, less lonely and felt happier about life as a result of the phone calls, socially distanced visits or postal support they received.

A football club charity is not always the organisation people think of to ask for help. However, the last twelve months prove that the magnetism of football works successfully in this context and we have been particularly successful with reaching older men.

Access to IT and the confidence or know-how to use it were a barrier for some people, but have not stopped us. Several of our club charities have loaned IT equipment and provided IT clinics or support over the phone. Retaining digital provision into the future will help to ensure there is a service for those who are anxious, nervous or not able to return to face-to-face activities.

Our next challenge is to emerge from the pandemic by helping clients to move from dependency on individual phone calls and visits to taking part in group sessions once they feel comfortable (whether they be online or face to face).

Our Extra Time Hubs are a key part of our ambition, an expanding national movement in which we bring people together in their retirement years to socialise, do things they enjoy and feel better connected. The effects of being physically and socially active can be profound.

We warmly welcome last week’s publication of Emerging Together: the Tackling Loneliness Network Action Plan. We have been delighted to be part of the government’s plan to tackle loneliness during COVID-19, working together with over 80 organisations from across sectors.

The plan, published on 8th May, sets out the actions that members of the Network and government are taking forward to support a connected recovery from Covid-19. Key actions include:

  • Bringing together funders interested in social connection to share learning and look for opportunities to align and join up funding.
  • Creating volunteering opportunities that build connection, particularly for people experiencing loneliness.
  • Exploring a range of opportunities to tackle digital exclusion.

We have big plans for the role we can play in the lives of older people and we intend to take the lessons we have learned during the pandemic to create a brighter future beyond it.

 

Adrian Bradley

Head of Health and Wellbeing

Adrian Tallon: This year has impacted the opportunities and aspirations of our nation’s young people

After such an ‘unprecedented’ year that has impacted the opportunities and aspirations of our nation’s young people, the roadmap out of lockdown was welcome news…with the end of the restrictions hopefully now in sight.

The good news of a ‘way out’ has been offset by some stark data that has been released recently showing that young people are still faring worst, and facing a slow recovery.  With this in mind, it has been great to see the appetite of our network of Club Community Organisations (CCOs) to take this challenge on by offering Kickstart and Traineeship opportunities – key elements of the Government’s ‘Plan For Jobs’ – along with the CCOs offer of study programmes, apprenticeships and Higher Education.

This month’s report by Youth Futures Foundation found that young people have been particularly hard hit by a slowdown in hiring since last year.  The rollout of the Kickstart Scheme, which funds job placements for 16-24 year olds for 6 months, will help combat this issue and EFL Trust are working with over 70 Football Club Community Organisations to offer 650 funded placements across England and Wales through the Scheme.  Earlier this month, we ran workshops with our network of Kickstart employers, and it was great to hear the wide range of roles that are being planned for young people across the Football Clubs and the Community Organisations, including within the media and marketing teams, academy operations, community coaching, grounds keeping, youth work, and much more. Our first Kickstart placements are up and running and already we are hearing about how well-supported the young people feel, and how excited they are for the six months ahead.

To underline our commitment to supporting youth employment, the EFL Trust are proud to have signed the Good Youth Employment Charter; a pledge that we will follow the principles of good youth employment, including providing opportunities and developing talent, and we urge all of our partners on the Kickstart Scheme to do the same. A special mention to Sheffield Wednesday Community Programme for being the first to do so…

While there are some great opportunities for young people closer to the job market, it’s vital that those who were not engaged in education or employment before the pandemic hit are not left further behind due to the growth in youth unemployment numbers. Last week we were delighted to announce our Youth Futures Foundation funded ‘EFL Trust – Training Ground’ programme, which will support these young people to overcome the barriers they are facing, through a programme developing their physical activity, mental health awareness and resilience, and building the skills that they will ultimately need in order to move into good quality, sustained employment or further education.

February’s Labour Market Statistics briefing note from IES identified growth in employment in the Health and Care sector, and the EFL Trust have been working closely with NHS Employers and a number of individual NHS Trusts to create employability programmes focussed towards roles where there will be vacancies, preparing young people to work in the sector. Although in its infancy, this partnership work has the potential to be really powerful, with the EFL Trust and its partner Club Community Organisation engaging with stakeholders across the community to recruit participants on to an employability programme with jobs in mind. With programme delivery launching in March and April, I’m looking forward to seeing some impactful provision and powerful individual success stories.

While the challenges are clear to see, we are grateful to partner organisations that are supporting our plans over the coming months, including DWP and Youth Futures Foundation and most of all to the delivery staff within Education & Employability departments at our CCOs who are going to be delivering these programmes at as high a quality as ever.

We believe, more than ever, that our network have a key role to play in the ‘roadmap’ back to normal – remember that? – and tackling the youth unemployment challenge head-on is first on our list.

Louise Williams: The EFL Trust is proud to be part of tackling the nation’s obesity crisis

We know that in the UK, 63% of adults are overweight and that countries with high levels of overweight people, such as the UK, have seen the highest death rates from COVID-19 and we are encouraged to hear the announcement that the Government will be investing £100 million into tackling obesity and supporting people to lose weight.

The last 12 months have been a difficult time for those who are overweight. The emerging evidence that obesity and excess weight is a major risk factor of serious illness or death from COVID-19 while many weight management services were forced to stop, gyms and leisure facilities closed, and community support facilities temporarily paused has created an ongoing issue for individuals, local communities and the NHS.

At the EFL Trust, we recognise this and as part of our ‘Stronger, Healthier, More Active Communities’ strategy we pledge to support people to adopt a healthy lifestyle, access the support they need, and enhance the quality of life for those living with health conditions such as obesity and obesity-related conditions like Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease.

One of the ways we are currently achieving this is through our EFT Trust FIT FANS Programme. Currently being delivered across almost half of the EFL Trust network, FIT FANS uses interest in football to attract adults aged 35-65 to a 13-week healthy lifestyle programme delivered by coaching staff at their local professional football club charity. Despite the disruption of the past 12 months, we have seen some staggering outcomes in terms of improvements in weight loss, physical activity, diet and psychological wellbeing.

  • Over 1,600 individuals have accessed the programme
  • Average weight loss for males in our first cohort was 6.2kg with 17% moving to the BMI weight classification below, significantly reducing their risk of obesity related conditions
  • These results were also reflected in the female cohort where we see 24% achieve a clinically significant weight loss of at least 5% of their starting weight
  • Inactivity in males shifted from 42% to 15% and in females from 47% to just 13%.

It is an aspiration of the EFL Trust to see this programme delivered across the whole of our network, which will enable us to reach millions of people who would benefit from making a positive change towards a healthier lifestyle and decreasing their risk of poor health and in turn reducing the burden on our NHS and health services.

The next cohorts of FIT FANS is due to commence this spring, to find out if your local club is involved or to find out more about the programme please visit https://www.efltrust.com/fitfans/

 

Jack Beetham: My apprenticeship at the EFL Trust has been life changing

‘Build the Future’ was the theme for National Apprenticeship Week last week, encouraging people to consider how apprenticeships help individuals to build the skills and knowledge required for a rewarding career.

The Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills, Gillian Keegan opened up the week saying, “Apprenticeships are a fantastic way to learn while you earn, opening up new and exciting career paths that can transform lives.”

This has certainly been the case for me.  Before I started at the EFL Trust in 2018,  I was doing a BTEC in Business Studies at Cardinal Newman College and had no idea what I wanted to do…. I was just living for the weekend. I felt lost and this lead to me going down all the wrong paths in life, I was slowly going off the rails and as a result my mental health was suffering massively.

I had reluctantly applied to University, knowing I wouldn’t have enjoyed it, just because it seemed the ‘normal’ thing to do after college. Thankfully I saw the opportunity at the EFL Trust as Apprentice Administrator and was successful with my application. The Administrator apprenticeship was absolutely perfect for someone who wasn’t quite sure what they wanted to do yet. The role involved such a variety of work across all departments and so I developed a huge range of skills and got a really good understanding of how the organisation works. As my apprenticeship was coming towards an end, an opportunity came up in the Marketing team, as they were looking to take on an apprentice. I had done lots of work for Marketing and I really enjoyed it and so I jumped at the opportunity when it came up!

When I started at the EFL Trust, what stood out straight away was how nice and friendly everyone was, I felt part of the team straight away and this helped me settle into working life perfectly. Going straight into working life in an organisation like this gave me purpose each day and really helped me to establish routine with my life and fitness. This massively helped me with getting my life back on track! Not only did the routine help, but being around such genuine people all day in a professional but friendly environment really helped me mature and grow so much as a person. I really would say my apprenticeship has been life changing. I dread to think what my life could be like now had I carried on living the ‘student life’ over the past few years!

I feel that in school and college young people are pushed towards the standard University route. If anyone is not sure what they would like to do in life, I would urge you to avoid following a set path just for the sake of it and look into an apprenticeship at an organisation like the EFL Trust!