Q&A with our National Sport Manager

How did the Sport England funding come about?

Our sport & physical activity programme started in 2014 and has been growing ever since. We have worked with Sport England over the last five years supporting more people with complex needs to be active. This recent funding has come about following our work to date and our ambition to reach more people with complex disabilities who currently aren’t able to access opportunities due to a number of limitations with provision, society, and perception to name a few.

What do you mean by people with complex needs?

Complex disabilities, or complex needs, are descriptions used if you are living with two or more disabilities and require high levels of support with aspects of your daily life. You may need support from a range of health and social care services.

You may have complex needs from birth, or following illness or injury, or they may develop as you get older.

Over half of all people with complex disabilities miss out on participating in sport and physical exercise. Why do you think this is?

This research comes from Sport England’s annual ‘Active Lives’ Survey and it suggests that over half of people with complex disabilities are doing less than 30 minutes of exercise each week. here are a number of factors that can contribute to this such as the activities themselves not being inclusive to meet people’s individual needs, accessibility of venues, lack of confidence in the workforce to deliver adapted sessions, and perceptions that individuals, support staff and family members may have about what is possible for that individual. Our programme aims to break down those barriers, and provide environments where people have the time and space to be active in a way that suits them.

A man throwing a ball towards a girl who is holding a cricket bat and has stumps behind her.
A girl is batting in cricket and ready to hit the ball.

How will the funding enable you to create lifelong opportunities for people with complex disabilities to be active?

We are planning to grow our provision to more areas of the country expanding from three regions to five over the next three years. We will scale up our training to empower and instil confidence in the workforce to deliver high quality sport and physical activity sessions. We will work with all age ranges from 5 to 50+ to provide opportunities to be active at any stage of people’s lives.  We are leading the way on innovative solutions to being active through our sensory sport initiative, enabling people to access sport and physical activity in a more meaningful and engaging way tailored to the individual.  We will build on our learning and insight across the sports and health sector and continue to growth the breadth of partners we collaborate with to make this a reality.

Can you give us an idea of the type of sport sessions you currently offer and where these sessions typically take place eg leisure centres, community halls?

To date we have delivered a variety of sessions, many of which are chosen by individuals themselves. We’ve got regular sessions in cycling, climbing, dance, football, swimming, martial arts, table tennis, and yoga – just to name a few!

These primarily take place in leisure facilities, community settings, or within supported services.  We work with a number of partners who support the delivery of these sessions across our regional areas of focus.

Sense and Sport England funding video

How many people with complex needs currently take part in your programmes and how many more people will this funding allow you to reach?

To date we have supported 2,060 people and delivered over 1,700 sessions.  Through this funding we hope to reach an additional 2,500 people with complex disabilities across more areas of the country!

How can the wider sport and physical activity sector better support and provide opportunities for those with complex disabilities to get active?

The sector has a role to play in ensuring that people with complex disabilities aren’t left out – it’s about recognising the individual needs that people have, and helping to break down societal barriers that exist in relation to what is possible.

There are some wonderful examples out there of connections that are made between disabled and non-disabled people through participating in sport and physical activity – we’d love to see more of this in our local communities!


Partnership is a critical factor that supports our work, and we are always keen to hear from people who would like to collaborate – fill in the form below or email Sense.Active@sense.org.uk and we’ll get in touch with you.



Alissa Ayling

Author: Alissa Ayling

Alissa is the National Sport Manager at Sense

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