One of the aims of Headway Portsmouth and SE Hampshire post covid was to introduce inclusive sport, exercise and leisure activities to support people with brain injury through participation and engagement, reducing frustration and anxiety and improving wellbeing and health in a relaxed and supported environment.
The aim was to support service users improve confidence, motivation, and enjoyment, reducing hospital readmission and enhancing quality of life. The group delivered weekly safe and structured activities including swimming, seated exercise classes, Nordic walking, tennis and Boccia team-based sessions.
The programme was inclusive for those who are wheelchair users, or who used walking aids. The intention was not to focus on the level of sporting skills but on engagement in activity aimed at supporting health, wellbeing, social and community re-engagement and reducing isolation.
What’s the impact?
“The project has been so successful that we have waiting lists for the activities! Tennis has been our most popular session. We have built up a strong working relationship with the operators of the leisure facility where our group is based, which has enabled us to set up all these sporting activities. We now have 2 weekly tennis sessions, running, 3 swimming sessions, a weekly tai chi session, 2 seated chair exercise classes and a gym session.
As a result of our all our hard work we were runners up in the National LTA Communities and Parks Award for all the tennis activities and in 2023 we won the Hampshire and Isle of Wight LTA Connecting Communities Award. An Annual Tennis Festival has also been created and this year was opened to other disability groups with a total of 38 attendees.
Another innovative example of this programme was a Field Gun Team Building Event in summer 2023 involving everyone at Headway Portsmouth, where the carers and family members were able to see their loved ones in a different light, creating a positive memorable event.
We have seen through physical activity there has been improvements in service users' mood as they feel more awake, calmer and more content after taking part in the activity. We have also seen a huge positive impact on individuals’ self-esteem and their perceived self-worth. This in turn has led to improved relationships with others. Staff report a clear improved posture and calmer behaviour after Tai Chi and seated exercise.
Our Service & Funding Manager has brought sport to an under-represented group and made it accessible and fun, sourcing funds from LTA, Dan Maskell Trust, South Western Railway and Sport England through Energise Me and Versus Arthritis. She has created an original programme with flexibility to expand and match the needs of service users. All staff have been included in growing this area of delivery giving them new opportunities for fresh and positive engagements.
The service manager’s vision to embed events such as field gun and tennis within wider local and national sporting events has added an extra aspect of inclusion into the local community.” (Jo Dallas, CEO Headway Portsmouth and SE Hampshire)
“Field gun was a very special day for local Portsmouth service users. Not only did they have to work hard to focus and concentrate on a difficult activity, but they did also so with a smile throughout.”
'The tennis event brought together lots of different service users from across our area. It was good to see them all interacting in new and mixed groups. They seemed to really benefit from an active and standalone larger event away from the regular groups. It was also a very even playing field for all - service users, families and staff. So it was a 'can do' moment for all. Great fun. Thanks, Headway, for this brilliant volunteer opportunity!'
“I cannot praise enough the care and dedication of all the staff who work with you who provide such an important service to patients with brain injuries and their families, thank you for being there.”Back