Message from the Chair
This Annual Report 2021-22 explores the impact that we are extremely proud to have made over the last year. Especially delivering through the final months of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. It showed us all how much we do together as a team and across the sectors we work within during such a challenging time. But also, how much is yet to be done if we are to remove unnecessary barriers to activity and deep-rooted inequalities for disabled people.
We continued to feel the pandemic’s impact on our work and disabled people’s lives. This was not only through our robust insight with disabled people, but through the need to diversify our activities to respond to new restrictions in our lives.
Among the highlights, we consulted and presented our latest strategy – Achieving Fairness. In this, our refreshed vision – fairness for disabled people in sport and activity.
We finished a packed year with the fantastic news that our principal funder, Sport England, would be investing in our work for a further five years. This is the longest period for their investment in our history, so gave us the vital reassurance we value as the leading voice for disabled people in sport and activity. It means we can build on the goals within our new strategy, towards our vision.
I am proud of our achievements this year, which you can read about in this report. The team continue to impress me and the board, with their knowledge and expertise. I want to thank our members, partners, and volunteers who continue to dedicate their time and energy to achieving fairness.
I’d also like to give our thanks to Barry Horne MBE, our Chief Executive, who will be retiring at the end of 2022. We are stronger as a charity because of his passion, purpose and of course, leadership for more than 12 years.
Looking ahead with our CEO
Reading through the impact made this year, I am reminded what a successful time it was for us on many levels. It gave us the solid foundations we need to develop, sustain, and grow our impact in the future.
This is my final annual report message as the charity’s Chief Executive Officer, as I retire at the end of 2022. However, I remain excited to talk about the charity’s positive future.
Firstly, I want to thank our incredibly talented staff team, board, and the many members and volunteers who make it all possible. As we explore new ideas that will take us to new audiences, with new ways of tackling inequalities for disabled people in sport and activity.
We are very lucky to have so many passionate, experienced, and highly skilled people working for us, and with us, whose efforts will enable us to keep moving in a positive direction.
Now with a refreshed vision and strategy to direct our focus, knowing our impact in greater detail is vital in our plans. Our Alliance, with a wealth of member expertise, is growing ever stronger and collaboratively, we have lots to offer. Knowing the whole story of how we collectively make a difference is increasingly important.
Our strategy will quite rightly, test us as well as others, to ensure disabled people’s real-life needs are valued and acted upon.
There is much work still to do if we are to achieve a society that puts disabled people on par with non-disabled people. We call this the fairness gap. We are determined to improve disabled people’s activity levels, just as we were seeing before the crisis that struck the world in 2020 and 2021. We must not allow this setback in progress, caused by the pandemic, to continue into the future. Disabled people remain the least active in society and were impacted most by the pandemic, which makes our work to close the fairness gap ever more important.
We will not rest until every disabled person can experience the physical and mental health and social benefits that being active provides.
Barry Horne MBE
Strategic impact and development
The last twelve months have provided big opportunities alongside considerable challenges for Activity Alliance.
During this period, the team has used their expertise to influence positive change and drive improvement throughout our networks, the sport and leisure sector, and beyond. Staff across all functions have delivered high-quality outputs and sector leading opportunities at a national and local level.
Central to this work has been two significant pieces of organisational development:
Achieving Fairness, our 2021-2024 Strategy
In May 2021, following consultation with our members and partners, we unveiled the charity’s new organisational strategy and refreshed vision - fairness for disabled people in sport and activity.
Intentionally ambitious, the strategy sets out our determination to overcome pandemic setbacks, prioritise disabled people’s inclusion in sport and activity, and close the fairness gap. The gap between disabled people’s levels of inactivity and that of non-disabled people.
This report captures many impact highlights from year one of our 2021-2024 strategy delivery, as we continue to push for inclusion to be at the heart of all plans in sport and activity.
Future impact secured with Sport England investment
In March 2022, Activity Alliance secured a long-term funding commitment from Sport England to deliver our vision and support our role as the leading voice for disabled people in sport and activity. Beginning in the financial year 2022-23, we will receive an investment of £8,444,805 (over five years) of Exchequer funding from Sport England.
Read more about the longest funding award in our charity's history below.
Embedding inclusive practice into organisations
This year, as the sport and leisure sector began to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, Activity Alliance supported many organisations to increase their commitments to inclusion. Our expertise, high-quality insight, and detailed resources have empowered them to embed inclusive practice and prioritise disabled people at all levels.
Driving improvement across sport and leisure
Our partnerships team is the driving force behind much of our work with the sport and leisure sector. Throughout the year, the team has:
- Delivered more than 20 inclusion workshops and webinars to National Governing Bodies of sport, Active Partnerships, leisure operators, universities, and local authorities.
- Supported the Premier League Charitable Trust to complete our Lead self-assessment improvement programme.
- Co-hosted a bespoke disability inclusion workshop for members of Community Leisure UK as part of their 2021-22 equality, diversity and inclusion action plan.
- Guided 62 sports clubs through the Inclusive Club Hub self-assessment improvement toolkit to improve their offers for disabled people.
- Enrolled 330 learners onto our Delivering Excellent Service for Disabled Customers e-Learning course.
Delivering inclusion in Rugby Football League
In May, we began working in partnership with Rugby Football League and International Rugby League to devise a bespoke classification system for the sport, based on Activity Alliance’s Profiling Toolkit. Alongside this, we delivered online training to new classifiers across the world on the new classification system and how to deliver more inclusive opportunities. With our support, the Rugby Football League is creating a level playing field for disabled rugby players everywhere.
New opportunities for inclusive communications
This year, we continued to experience high demand for our inclusive communications expertise. In addition to core delivery, the team explored new routes to market with commissioned services. Highlights include:
- The FA requesting our support to help them deliver their first inclusive marketing campaign. With inclusion and accessibility embedded throughout, their ‘Football Your Way’ campaign supported disabled people to feel confident and empowered to take part in football-based activities.
- Sport England approaching us for guidance on content accessibility for the CIMSPA digital marketing hub and inclusive brand development for the Tackling Inequalities Fund.
- Active Gloucestershire commissioning us to deliver an inclusive communications audit of their organisation and We Can Move brand.
- Perrett Laver asking us to conduct a communications review of their Board Diversity Toolkit.
The FA's first inclusive marketing campaign
Phil Heap, FA National Development Manager, talks about the importance of embedding inclusive communications into the Football Your Way campaign. Plus, how working with Activity Alliance led to delivering the most inclusive and accessible TV broadcast for a football event in the UK, in partnership with BT Sport, for the FA Disability Cup Finals weekend in July 2021.
Targeting and influencing the health sector
Our insight continues to highlight health professionals as the top influencers when it comes to engaging disabled people in physical activity. So, we prioritised building relationships with key strategic partners in the health sector. This year, we have:
- Established strong connections with all Office for Health Improvement and Disparities (OHID) Regional Leads through their ‘Communities of Improvement’ sessions.
- Co-delivered an online event with Versus Arthritis and OHID East and West Midlands to educate local health professionals and NHS Trusts about the barriers disabled people often experience to becoming active.
- Gained traction with Regional Social Prescribing Leads in the Southeast, Southwest, and Northeast, using our resources and expertise to influence local delivery.
In June, we collaborated with Public Health England to publish a new online resource to reduce health inequalities across the region.
Improving access to green and blue community spaces
A new venture for us this year has been our position on the Green Infrastructure Advisory Group. This role has enabled us to ensure accessibility is included in their infrastructure standards and that disabled people are included more in green community spaces. Our involvement and impact here is ongoing and will likely extend to blue social prescribing next year. We will work with key partners to ensure nature-based green/blue prescribing projects and schemes are accessible to disabled people to support their health and wellbeing.
Prioritising disabled people through our research and insight
This year, we set our sights on developing a new co-production approach to ensure disabled people are at the heart of our research and insight. Weaving co-production through our values, learnings, and practical processes has helped us to position disabled people and our partners as the trusted experts and key decision makers in all research projects.
In January 2022, we partnered with BritainThinks research agency to launch our ‘Inclusive Recovery’ research project exploring how disabled people can be included in physical activity as we recover from the pandemic. This project involved multiple co-production elements including a partner consultation, an online community with disabled people, provider survey, and a co-production workshop. We expect to release the key findings and recommendations later in 2022.
Latest national activity survey reveals disabled people feel forgotten
In June 2022, we released our latest Annual Disability and Activity Survey for 2021-22.
This year’s findings show slow progress in engaging disabled people after the COVID-19 pandemic. And, that greater effort is needed now to tackle the inequalities that affect disabled people, so no one feels forgotten in sport and activity. 1,842 disabled and non-disabled adults took part in the largest survey of its kind. This year, we added a new qualitative co-production element to strengthen the recommendations and champion disabled people’s voices through video outputs.
Turning insight into action at Nottingham City Council
Claudia Russell, Get Out Get Active Coordinator, explains how our Annual Survey insight is used to influence programming and policy across Nottingham City Council, and ensure disabled people's voices are at the heart of everything they do.
GOGA continues to deliver for participants, volunteers, and organisations
Our Get Out Get Active (GOGA) programme has continued to deliver fun inclusive activities for disabled and non-disabled people during the turbulent COVID-19 recovery period. In 2021-22, the programme has seen over 3,000 unique participants and more than 10,000 event attendances.
Alongside this, we have focused on driving organisational improvement and sustainability with the release of two new resources for partners and wider audiences.
Empowering organisations through inclusive volunteering
In December 2021, GOGA launched a new Volunteer Management Toolkit in partnership with Volunteering Matters. The Toolkit features a roadmap and resources on how to deliver an inclusive and accessible volunteer journey. Topics include creating positive volunteer opportunities, recruitment, recognition, safeguarding, and measuring volunteer impact.
Highlights from our other programme delivery include:
- Supporting England Cricket (ECB) to deliver an inclusive cricket pathway for disabled players at a club level. More than 300 club coaches received specialist training as part of our Inclusive Activity Programme this year.
- Providing free access to our Inclusive Activity Programme eLearning module for 50,000 volunteer coaches and sport and activity professionals, as part of Sport England and CIMSPA’s ReTrain to ReTain initiative.
- Producing the first impact report for Sport England’s Secondary Teacher Training Programme to consortium partners and supported Sport England with legacy planning and partner recruitment.
- Teaming up with Sure to create an inclusive coaching module for their global Breaking Limits Programme. The module aims to equip coaches with the skills to empower young people with the confidence to overcome barriers and achieve more in their lives.
Creating an inclusive pathway for disabled cricketers
Edgar Herridge, National Disability Cricket Manager, talks about how our Inclusive Activity Programmes supports England Cricket's inclusion strategy and their plans to ensure cricket is a game for everyone.
Empowering the education sector
This year, Activity Alliance has created several resources and tools to empower the education sector to embed inclusion into all aspects of PE and school sport. We have collaborated with national education partners to provide the training, support, and confidence teachers and school staff need to include all pupils.
In September 2021, we supported Sport England to create inclusive content for Studio You – a free online video platform designed to engage less active girls aged 13-16 in PE lessons.
In February 2022, we teamed up with Home Nation Disability Sport Organisations to create fun filled inclusive activity cards for schools.
New Inclusion 2024 education hub to improve future PE experiences
Leading up to its launch in May 2022, we worked on a new online inclusive education hub as part of Youth Sport Trust’s Inclusion 2024 programme. Funded by the Department of Education, the hub allows teachers to self-assess their school’s approach to inclusion and provides a personalised report, with advice and useful resources to improve their inclusive PE delivery.
Activity Alliance events showcase inclusive opportunities for disabled people
With the pandemic backdrop, we continued to deliver a mix of in-person and virtual events across the organisation. We transferred our inclusive events expertise into the digital environment and delivered several accessible online events to our stakeholders, including staff away days, regional member forums, and our Annual General Meeting. We also provided expert delivery support at the Virgin Money London Wheelchair Marathon and both the Manchester Half and Full Marathon.
The Home Office commissioned Activity Alliance for the second time to manage and deliver the inclusive element of their annual staff sports day. Working in partnership with Brighton and Hove Albion, Boccia England, and Metro Blind Sport we delivered an inclusive experience for over 3,000 disabled and non-disabled staff members.
National Junior Athletics Championships 2021
In July 2021, we delivered the National Junior Athletics Championships in partnership with British Athletics and England Athletics. 80 of Britain’s best young para-athletes took part in the event at Coventry Athletics Track. Each year this event provides a fantastic platform for young disabled athletes to showcase their sporting talent. We were delighted to hold this prestigious annual event once again following the restrictions to sporting events.
Changing attitudes towards disabled people in sport and activity
At Activity Alliance, we believe tackling inequalities for disabled people in sport and activity starts with changing people’s attitudes and perceptions. This year, we have used our leading voice to promote disabled people’s rights and highlight the attitudinal barriers that prevent many individuals from being active.
Who says campaign highlights need for societal change
In March 2022, we launched phase two of our popular awareness campaign ‘Who says?’, following a lengthy delay due to the pandemic.
Phase two focused on changing attitudes towards disabled children and young people in sport and activity. We commissioned four short films to shine a light on some of the negative perceptions that can impact disabled child’s opportunities to be active.
Each film featured straight-talk and upbeat insight from a mixture of disabled and non-disabled children and adults on what the perceptions mean to them. As well as highlighting the urgent need for change, the campaign also provided resources and guidance on how to call time on these negative perceptions and improve opportunities for disabled children and young people.
Who says? phase two had a significant social impact across the sport and leisure sector. We saw spikes in our monthly social media activity and engagement with many partners supporting and sharing campaign content. A few of our top social media engagements included support from UNICEF UK, England Football, TV presenter JJ Chalmers, and CBeebies presenter George Webster. In the 4-week campaign period, both our campaign page and videos were viewed over 500 times.
Raising our profile to fight for fairness
This year, we have worked hard on enhancing our brand visibility and credibility through media positioning and increasing our public affairs interaction. With support from media agency Run Communications we have:
- Delivered a programme of media and brand personal training for staff to increase confidence and message delivery when undertaking media spokesperson duties.
- Published several thought-leadership articles to boost Activity Alliance’s positioning during key sector and societal events/moments.
- Secured national and regional media coverage for our strategy launch in May 2021 including Sky News Breakfast and The House (politicshome.com).
Our public affairs activity included a strong response to the government’s National Disability Strategy, and a supportive response to a House of Lords committee report calling for a long- term cross-government national plan for sport, health and wellbeing. As we begin to grow our policy and public affairs work, targeting key influencers through consistent and coherent responses will become an increasing feature of our activity.
Championing disabled people's voices
On International Day for Disabled People, 3 December 2021, we curated a series of blogs and social videos highlighting the fight disabled people face for fair access to sport and activity every day. Alongside this, Our Chief Executive penned a passionate blog calling for more commitment, more investment, and more action from all parts of society.
Staff wellbeing and organisational culture are central to our success at Activity Alliance. This year, we have focused on ensuring we stay connected and supported as colleagues, as an organisation, and as an alliance.
After the end of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, we listened to our staff team about how and where they wanted to work moving forward. We developed and implemented remote working guidance with a wide range of staff support mechanisms, and the team responded with great positivity. Our new ways of working have provided colleagues with the opportunity to rebalance their professional and personal lives following the challenging pandemic period.
Activity Alliance membership
Activity Alliance is proud to be a membership organisation. Our members are organisations and groups who share our vision and work to ensure that disabled people can live active lives. With their support and expertise we are building a powerful collaborative movement for change.
This year, we have focused on supporting our existing members on their Activity Alliance membership journey, following commencement of a new membership programme in 2020/21. In addition to this, seven organisations signed up as members, committing to support our vision of fairness for disabled people in sport and activity. We now have nine full member organisations and 50 associate member organisations within the new programme. We have also engaged a cohort of regional representatives to strengthen our connections and networks. These valued roles help us to widen our reach and support organisations to prioritise disabled people at a local level.
Moving forward, we will continue to review and develop our membership programme and member engagement opportunities to ensure it is fit for purpose in terms of our Governance and our role as sector leaders.
Thank you to all Activity Alliance members and regional representatives for their commitment and contributions this year.
The value of Activity Alliance membership
Tim Shephard, Association and Events Manager at Dwarf Sports Association UK explains the value of being an Activity Alliance full member.
Diversity and inclusion in the workplace
As the national charity and leading voice for disabled people in sport and activity, we believe Activity Alliance should be reflective of the people within our communities. We are committed to championing equality and diversity in all aspects of employment and in the services we provide.
This year, we continued to prioritise the diversification of our workforce. We successfully delivered several inclusive recruitment campaigns that resulted in higher levels of disabled people applying and being selected for employment with Activity Alliance.
Activity Alliance diversity profile
We use the social model of disability in our approach to all work. However, we know that some definitions used for protected characteristics can challenge this model, in particular the disability definition. The social model emphasises that it is society and barriers created by society that disable people, not a person’s impairment or condition.
We recognise this difference in our diversity profile by presenting two figures for disability. Figure one presents the percentage of people with an impairment and/or long-term health condition. Figure two presents the percentage of people with a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on everyday life. Figure two aligns closely to the definition of disability under the Equality Act 2010.
These are the findings from our recent equal opportunities survey with employees and Board members.
Activity Alliance diversity profile - (percentage of total number)
- Figure 1: People with an impairment, long-term health condition or illness - 51% in 2022 (44% in 2021)
- Figure 2: People with a physical or mental impairment that has a 'substantial' and 'long-term' negative effect on their ability to do normal daily activites - 23% in 2022 (16% in 2021)
- Figure 3: Female - 67% in 2022 (69% in 2021)
- Figure 4: Lesbian, gay, bisexual - 13% in 2022 (14% in 2021)
- Figure 5: From an ethnically diverse background 14% in 2022 (9% in 2021)
A full breakdown of Activity Alliance's income and expenditure for the year end 31 March 2022 is available in our Annual Trustees' Report and Accounts document.
Annual Report 2021-22 accessible formats
Here you will find a summary of our annual impact highlights for the year 2021-22 in various accessible communication formats.
British Sign Language translation
This video provides a summary of our annual impact highlights in British Sign Language. It also features captions and an audio voiceover.
Easy read summary
We have also provided our annual impact summary in easy read format. Easy Read uses pictures to support the meaning of text and give the essential details without a lot of background information.
Activity Alliance Annual Trustees' Report 2021-22
You can view our full Annual Trustees' Report and Accounts for year ended 31 March 2022 in PDF format by clicking on the blue banner below.
This report is also available in Word format. Please email us if you need further support.