Sports partnership aims to break down barriers

Leyland-based Lancashire Sport Partnership (LSP) is a strategic organisation which works with partners to encourage people to be more active, for the benefit of individuals and the wider community, linking with national governing bodies, local authorities, colleges and schools, as well as directly with coaches, clubs and volunteers.

Established in 2001 by Sport England, the organisation, which is one of 45 County Sport Partnerships (CSP) across the UK, aims to help at least 55,000 individuals of all abilities to be active by March this year.

In-line with LSP’s overall objective, the team is currently working on launching a disability awareness campaign to both encourage people to participate in sport and to advise organisations how they can make their facilities more accessible.

“The Sport England Active People Survey released this year showed that just 16 per cent of disabled people in Lancashire participate in sport, a figure that stands below the national average,” Paul Blythin, relationship manager at LSP.

“It’s important that we address the issue and my mission is to create more opportunities that give everyone a fair a chance every day.”

Before joining LSP, Paul worked in the sports performance industry in America and gained his undergraduate degree in sport and fitness management at Troy University, Alabama.

He has previously worked at the Hurlingham Club, in London, as well as for British Cycling.

Paul, who joined LSP in 2014, says: “My day-to-day role involves working with a whole host of groups and organisations to try to increase the number of sport and physical activity opportunities for people with disabilities.

“My duties vary from providing advice to facilitating access to funding for clubs or organisations that require financial assistance to make costly adaptations or send staff on specialist training courses.”

Just recently, LSP introduced the Galloway’s Society for the Blind to the game of Boccia – a precision ball sport similar to the principle of bowls.

Paul adds: “We provided the necessary equipment across four of their centres in Lancashire as well as trained the staff and volunteers to look after everyone who takes up the sport.

“Another project that we recently completed was for Blackburn Youth Zone where we launched a wheelchair basketball team by facilitating the funding for sports wheelchairs. It was exciting to introduce a provision that wasn’t previously available in the area.”

To support the disability awareness campaign, the team at LSP is currently working on a video to demonstrate how only small adaptations are actually required for sports clubs wishing to make their facilities more accessible.

“We’re always looking for new ways that would enable us to engage as many people as we can.

“The disability awareness video that will underpin our campaign will feature climbing, wheelchair basketball and table tennis through which we hope to encourage sports clubs across the county to take greater initiative to break down barriers and become more inclusive.”

Preston-born Martin Heald, 25, works as a project support officer for LSP. “I’m very involved in sports myself so it was an exciting opportunity for me to join Lancashire Sport Partnership as an apprentice four years ago.

“Since then I’ve progressed through the ranks and I’m now working on supporting the roll-out and management of numerous projects.”

Martin, who lost his leg to cancer nine years ago, is also starring in the video. “I found sport to be the perfect opportunity to get me out of the house and, after a bit of searching, came across a small amputee football league in Preston. I decided to give it a go and have since had an opportunity to play football for Great Britain.

“My day-to-day job is also underpinned by the overall objective to raise awareness of sport opportunities available to everyone, regardless of their abilities.”