At the 2017 ukactive National Summit, then Minister for State for Disabled People, Work and Health Penny Mordaunt MP, announced plans for a new cross-sector initiative which will provide disabled people and those with long-term health conditions better access to physical activity opportunities.  The Minister quoted official figures that showed that “disabled people are twice as likely to be inactive than non-disabled people, are more likely to be socially isolated and lonely, and more likely to be unemployed”.

The importance of this agenda is why the Inclusive Fitness Working Group was created in late 2016.  Formed of key cross sector representatives across the fitness industry including strategic leads in disability (English Federation of Disability Sport), mental health (Mind) and long-term conditions (Richmond Group), workforce training (YMCAfit and Ad-Lib Training), operator management (Fusion Lifestyle) and County Sports Partnership (London Sport), the group’s aim was to develop a model of cost effective health intervention of inclusive delivery best practice which could be replicated across the UK.  At the same time, the English Federation of Disability Sport had also secured the opportunity to embed the Inclusive Fitness Initiative (IFI) Mark within the Quest for Facilities Award, a Sport England recommended Continuous Improvement Tool for leisure facilities and sports development teams.   

Launched in 2003, the IFI was the first scheme of its kind to support fitness facilities to become more welcoming and accessible environments to disabled people.  It aimed to drive real change by addressing inclusion, including assessments of staff training, fitness equipment, accessibility of facilities, sports development and marketing engagement as well as raising awareness of the benefits of exercise for disabled people.

 L-R -  Alex Gibbons (Inclusive Fitness Working Group Chair, London Sport), Chris Jones (Fusion Lifestyle), Tara Quinn (Southwark Council), Michelle Roberts (Richmond Group), Huw Edwards (ukactive), Dawn Hughes (EFDS), Rebecca Bridges (taking photograph! Ad-Lib Training)    

L-R -  Alex Gibbons (Inclusive Fitness Working Group Chair, London Sport), Chris Jones (Fusion Lifestyle), Tara Quinn (Southwark Council), Michelle Roberts (Richmond Group), Huw Edwards (ukactive), Dawn Hughes (EFDS), Rebecca Bridges (taking photograph! Ad-Lib Training)    

The Inclusive Fitness Working group wanted to maintain the aims of the original, pioneering IFI Mark but clearly the sector had changed significantly since its inception in 2003.  The emphasis then was on the Disability Discrimination Act and physical access auditing, today operators are more aware of the importance of data, user engagement, partnerships and online activity.  As a result, the group decided the new Quest module would reflect these priorities and also promote, highlight and share existing good practice across the sector.  The group would additionally aim to identify and influence operators to go through the accreditation, and so set about writing the criteria for the new module.

 So how is the new Quest GPlus37 Engaging with Disabled People and People with Long Term Health Conditions module different from the original IFI Mark?  The original Mark looked at five areas, the new Quest module looks at ten; there is a broader accreditation encompassing focus on user led delivery e.g. providing the customer with a voice and getting them involved in what is being delivered in their facility and asking an operator to look at how inclusive and representative its entire workforce is; the new module covers all areas of the facility, not just the gym and now explicitly includes long-term conditions and mental health.

The Quest module was launched on 1st July 2017 and to date 25 sites have booked to go through the new accreditation.  The Inclusive Fitness Working Group continues to meet to review headline results from these assessments to ensure the module is fit for purpose and has welcomed key industry figures to its meetings to input and influence to ensure the module reaches its full potential.  The group hopes that the module is just the start of influencing the content of other schemes to be more inclusive and its long-term ambition is that inclusion is integrated and mainstream enough so that it isn’t necessary for separate modules to exist, making that cultural shift and achieving our goal of more disabled people and those with long term health conditions taking part in and enjoying the benefits of physical activity. 

To get involved or to find out more about how Ad-Lib Training can support your centre with inclusion and specialist populations programmes, email info@adlibtraining.com

For more information about becoming an IFI Mark facility through Quest please contact Sam Hart or call 01582 840098.

A big thank you to Dawn Hughes (National Partnership Advisor - Leisure Sector) from the English Federation of Disability Sport for contributing to this blog.  You can find out more about EFDS at www.efds.co.uk or follow on twitter @Eng_Dis_Sport

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By Rebecca Bridges

You can chat to Rebecca or any member of the Ad-Lib team by emailing info@adlibtraining.com to find out more about inclusion and specialist populations programmes.

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