We started 2021 with the grey cloud of the pandemic looming large over us, a lockdown which kept us apart from others, except for virtual connections (for those of us who were lucky enough to have them). Physical activity thrived for a lot of people, and exemptions in the regulations allowed travel for those who didn’t have accessible spaces on their doorsteps. All this was positive, but our insight was telling us that 70% of disabled people (who responded to our survey) were doing less exercise during the pandemic than prior to it. In a pandemic which disproportionately impacted disabled people, it was a bleak picture in physical activity (including sport) as well.
But we need to be able to see the silver linings around this cloud, so with the support of our partners, Spar and Admiral, and funders we provided activities in as many different formats as we were able; and working alongside Welsh Government athletes who were likely to be selected for the Paralympics or Commonwealth Games were supported to continue their training in a heavily regulated and safe bubble. The year got brighter and there were significant successes and learning for us to take forward.
The Get Out, Get Active programme provided a calendar of virtual activity and sport sessions, hosted by instructors who delivered inclusively;
Virtual Spar insport Series events attracted, through an innovative portal alongside a huge array of resources to support teachers towards the new physical literacy informed curriculum, in excess of 470 education staff registered, with 1,058 children/young people benefitting from the sessions. Resources were developed in partnership with Welsh NGBs and organisations involved with insport NGB or insport 3rd Sector;
As the schools started to go back some local authorities were allowing sport development teams to go in and deliver, and Admiral Play Together sessions were facilitated to 587 children (since May 2021), providing them with inclusion awareness and opportunity to think about playing together throughout their school day and beyond).
The Paralympics Games took place in Tokyo behind closed doors and saw 21 athletes (7 first-time Paralympians) from Wales travelling to compete as part of ParalympicsGB. After a mesmerising 10 days they brought home 14 medals (4 Gold, 3 Silver, and 7 Bronze) with 12 sports competed in, and media coverage which brought many of the events into our homes.
Education and Training opportunities were delivered through 47 virtual classrooms reaching 564 learners; and a new Virtual Learning Environment for UK Disability Inclusion Training is being used so that learning becomes more accessible and deliverable in partnership with other organisations.
The National Youth Board continued to air their fantastic podcast series #justask and saw a change in host from James Ledger (T12 sprinter (athletics)) to Jack Wilson (SU5 para badminton player). Each of the 12 episodes addressed a different topic relevant to young people through conversations with disabled young people involved through the disability sport pathway.
insport programmes have continued to make great progress with virtual panels enabling 10 organisations (2 with an initial Gold presentation) to make progress from one level to the next; this means there are:
27 NGBs working with us on insport NGB
7 Third Sector organisations working with us on insport 3rd Sector
489 clubs across Wales involved with insport Club
and all 22 Local Authorities working with insport Development
A virtual Awards in April which celebrated everything that people have achieved, with John Harris being recognised for his lifetime achievement within disability sport, as an athlete, inspiration and advocate for inclusion and opportunity.
So, in a year of adversity, there have continued to be some incredible achievements, stories of inspiration and impact, and delivery of inclusive opportunities. Next year, even given that we are heading into another period of uncertainty, our learning will take us into 2022 with a new, more accessible website; a virtual learning offer which will be of benefit to all partners; a Winter Paralympics Games, a Commonwealth Games, and a Deaflympics; and hopefully being able to add the face-to-face opportunities back into the range of opportunities being provided by partners. And in a changing community landscape we will be working with partners to invest and support differently into delivery.
One thing is certain, DSW’s commitment to supporting the sector and the delivery of inclusive opportunity is unfailing.
Wishing you all a very happy, healthy and safe Christmas, and looking forward to a great 2022.