Spirit of 2012 funds Inclusive Futures, a leadership and volunteering initiative which is delivered by the Youth Sport Trust and is based in nine host cities across the UK. Young volunteers in each city are guided by a Volunteer Coordinator and each city organises training camps and activities throughout the year, as well as identifying local volunteering opportunities. The project aims to change behaviour and attitudes among young people on issues related to ability, access and equality in sport.
We caught up with the Chair of the Youth Sport Trust, Baroness Sue Campbell, at the Inclusive Futures National Camp to find out how this project challenges perceptions of disability, why it's so important and what it's really like to wear those robes in the House of Lords...
Thanks very much for talking to us Baroness Campbell. Firstly - what exactly is Inclusive Futures and why is it important?
"Inclusive Futures is based in nine host cities across the UK and is a unique leadership and volunteering programme which aims to give young people aged 14-19 years old - with and without disabilities - the opportunity to work alongside each other to support and deliver physical activities in schools and communities. As part of this, the programme aims to promote inclusion and increase participation in physical activity, while empowering young people and developing their life skills. The young people, by working together, aim to influence and increase the capacity of local providers to deliver a fully inclusive physical activity and sport opportunities that benefit and engage all young people in their communities."
"In the first 18 months of the programme over a thousand volunteers were recruited and we reached an additional six thousand participants through the programme's involvement in major and regional sporting events. It has had a huge impact on participants, with 84% of volunteers reporting increased happiness as a result of attending the Inclusive Futures National Camp and over 70% saying they 'strongly agreed' that they were more likely to participate in volunteering in the future. It is an important programme as it challenges perceptions of disability, increases participation of young people in sport and encourages more inclusive provision for disabled people."
WATCH: Video - Inclusive Futures, A Year of Success
Sounds like its getting a really positive response! How did you become involved yourself?
"I am the Chair of Youth Sport Trust and we are proud to deliver this programme, along with with the support of our partners in each of the host cities and Spirit of 2012. In 2015 we commissioned a YouGov survey of disabled people. Over half (58%) of the disabled people surveyed reported that they think they could develop a sense of belonging in their community through volunteering, but more than half (63%) felt there are fewer opportunities for disabled people to volunteer in sport than for non-disabled people."
"More pertinently, 90% reported a belief that there are many barriers preventing people with disabilities from volunteering at sporting events, such as poor facilities. In addition to the physical barriers, there’s also the attitudinal barriers that disabled people face. I believe that Inclusive Futures is playing an important role in overcoming the barriers that make it more difficult for disabled people to volunteer – lack of access, poor facilities, and lack of knowledge about opportunities – as well as creating a real shift in empowerment and positive perceptions through providing opportunities for disabled and non-disabled people to volunteer alongside each other, in an equal environment."
You've touched on this already, but what benefits do the young people get from being involved in the project?
"The project aims to impact on young people in a variety of ways and independent external evaluation indicates that it is having success in creating a positive change in the perception of disabled people in communities; unlocking the potential of young people to be agents for change; increasing the number of people volunteering in their communities; enhancing young people’s life and employability skills and empowering disabled people to be more integrated in society."
What’s been your own highlight so far?
"The headline event for the project is the delivery of this residential National Inclusive Futures Camp, where 120 Inclusive Futures volunteers from across the UK are given the opportunity to undertake a range of high quality leadership and volunteering workshops, focused on the aims of the programme. Youth Sport Trust has a twenty year track record of hosting Leadership Camps at Loughborough University. The camps aim to develop young people as confident young leaders and support them to learn more about themselves, helping them to be the best they can be both in life and in sport. Our camps have engaged thousands of young people over their lifetime, giving the young people attending them the opportunity to develop personal skills, leadership skills, friendships, confidence and compassion. It was my privilege to host the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as working alongside the volunteers to support them on a personal journey over the three days. I was thoroughly inspired by so many of the young people who showed courage in facing their fears, compassion with others, and collectively started to build and experience the sort of world they want to live in. Taylor McTaggart is just one of the Inclusive Futures volunteers who inspired me over the three days."
…and what’s the biggest challenge for Inclusive Futures?
"The biggest challenge is ensuring that all disabled volunteers have high quality volunteering experiences, which can sometimes prove to be a challenge. To try to overcome this, we are working in partnership with English Federation of Disability Sport to create an inclusive volunteering tool kit for the host cities and volunteers to support them to advocate and influence positive volunteering opportunities for disabled people."
Do you have any advice for young people considering getting involved in Inclusive Futures?
"Rather than taking my advice, I think it is more appropriate to hear what Taylor says: 'Being part of the initiative completely changed me. It built my confidence as a leader and gave me a voice... now I lead a boccia club at my school, volunteer at sports event in the community and teach different inclusive sport activities including table hockey to the elderly. All this has been possible because I believe in myself. I hope when people read this, they feel motivated to achieve something for themselves. I want young people with disabilities to realise they have choices. Sport can help you do that and has definitely helped me. Being involved in Inclusive Futures has completely changed me and I would encourage all young people to get involved. Give it a go, be part of something special. Anyone who lives with a disability knows that it can be trying at times, but the difficulties you face along the way, will only make you stronger. Be proud – be brilliant'."
Thanks so much for taking time out from your day job and being a Member of the House of Lords to talk to us – speaking of which, don’t those red cloaks get really hot in the summer?
"The red robes are only worn on formal occasions - but yes, they are warm!!"