Sheffield mum hails ‘brilliant’ sport and fitness accessibility scheme

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A Sheffield mum-of-two has heaped praise on a health and fitness scheme which enables people with physical and learning disabilities, as well as mental health conditions, to take a family member, carer or friend to Sheffield sports venues as support for free.

SIV, which runs many of the sports and leisure venues across Sheffield, recently revamped its ‘Plus One’ scheme, an initiative which gives people who need additional support when using an SIV venue due to a disability or a mental health condition the opportunity to take with them a family member, carer or friend when exercising.

As a result, SIV venues have seen 686 additional attendances, by both ‘Plus One’ members and their companions, since the scheme relaunched in April.

George Flowerdew, 11, who is autistic and has a learning disability, learnt to skate at SIV’s iceSheffield through the Plus One scheme after mum Patricia was made aware of the initiative at a Sheffield Parent Carer Forum/SIV consultation workshop.

George’s mother, Patricia, said: “It’s been fantastic to do something like ice skating together, having not really had the opportunity before.

“We’ve been going to ice skating lessons at iceSheffield for nine months now, and George loves it. He loves exciting activities and everything about ice skating – even as little as the swish of the air as he glides across the ice. I feel really lucky and pleased to have been able to do this with George.

“Sometimes, physical disabilities can be slightly easier to accommodate and understand – learning disability and/or mental health difficulties can get overlooked. The Plus One Scheme is different – it caters for everybody, and has provided a real sense of belonging, both for myself and George.

“It’s great that George is out there with other young people of a similar age, he’s out in the community – and that’s a big positive for us.

“Life, when you have a disability, can end up seeming like a long list of ‘can’t do’s’ for you and your family, so it’s a real boost to add another ‘can do’ to our list!

“For other families in a similar position it’s certainly worth looking into – have a go, and don’t be afraid to ask. If you don’t ask the question, people don’t learn how to accommodate you and benefit everybody involved.”

David Bly, dry sports programme and engagement manager at SIV, said: “The Plus One scheme has proved a real success.

“It’s great to see so many people who would not normally have felt able to take part in these types of physical activity to break down barriers and get involved – and George and Patricia are fine examples of how the Plus One Scheme has benefitted hundreds of people.

“We know people with disabilities and mental health conditions can face additional barriers to getting more active, whilst the health and wellbeing of carers and families is so important and often overlooked.

“This scheme is really having an impact on improving health and wellbeing for those taking part. We hope more and more people follow Patricia and George’s example and get in touch with us.

“This is just one of the ways we’re supporting people to move more, by providing the necessary platform for people who wouldn’t normally consider doing so to learn a sport or activity – such as ice skating – from scratch.”

“Since introducing the initiative, we’ve received a tremendous amount of positive feedback from those making use of the scheme and we hope this will allow us to continue making sport and exercise accessible to all.”

For more information on SIV or the Plus One Scheme visit www.siv.org.uk or call 0114 223 3800. Alternatively, follow SIV on Twitter and Instagram @siv_social or ‘Like’ SIV on Facebook as SIV: Sports and Activities in Sheffield.