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Blog: “Learning is essential to shaping future work”

Activity Alliance enables organisations to support disabled people to be active and stay active for life. So, this year we are sharing great stories from both sides – how organisations are working to make active lives possible, and the direct impact their work is having on individual disabled people. Today, we hear from Simon Hall, Physical Activity Policy and Delivery Lead for the West Midlands Combined Authority. He talks about how West Midlands is leading the way on getting more disabled people more active. 

Simon smiling to camera in his offices.

Hi, I’m Simon Hall and I am the Physical Activity Policy and Delivery Lead for West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA). In a nutshell WMCA work on many projects to deliver our vision of a more prosperous West Midlands.

One of the ways we are working to achieve this is through the Include Me West Midlands programme. With the support of Sport England, Activity Alliance and other organisations we have a collective aim in getting more disabled people and people with long-term health conditions more active.

Launched earlier in the year, it builds on from the ambition - set out in Mayor Andy Street’s Renewal Plan - of West Midlands being a centre of excellence for disabled people.

Include Me West Midlands sees us leading the way on understanding barriers to physical activity other regions face. We know that many barriers and challenges faced are not just in the West Midlands. Equally, not all our solutions can work nationally.

We have a challenge on our hands given that 50% of West Midland’s disabled adults are doing less than thirty-minutes of exercise a week. A number of complex and varied barriers across the region also impacts people’s ability to be active. This includes physiological barriers, limited inclusive activity offers and environmental barriers.

Through Include Me West Midlands we are working on a number of priorities to promote and support physical activity and wellbeing across the region to break down these barriers. Through the programme’s consultation period we found out access to transport was one of the biggest barriers to getting active. Collaboration with our Transport for West Midlands team sees us trialing a behaviour change project to help produce more accessible ways of using transport.

We also found out that disabled people do not feel encouraged by their healthcare professional to take up activity. Our partnership with NHS Health Education England West Midlands sees us training healthcare professionals to embed physical activity as a referral choice for their disabled patients.

Other priorities include our Citizen’s Network and improving the confidence of the sport and physical activity workforce. You can read more about our priority areas on our website. But at the heart of all of this is the Include Me West Midlands pledge. The pledge brings organisations together committed to improving the understanding of the barriers faced by our residents.

Earlier I spoke about the ambition for West Midlands to be a centre of excellence for disabled people. For this to happen it’s not just about the work we do, but how we do our work. It’s important to trial and test what works in our region through monitoring and evaluation, and scale up the approaches that do.

Include Me West Midlands is all about making a positive difference to disabled people and people with long-term health conditions. The community of learning and collaboration is essential to this and to shaping our future. It also gives us the opportunity to look at our collective approaches, not just the sport sector, in influencing change of policies and practices.

If you’re a West Midlands organisation wanting to get involved then please make your pledge via this link. A member the team will get in touch.

To find out more about Include Me West Midlands, please visit the WMCA website. Follow the conversation with #IncludeMeWM.