Inclusive Volunteering Programme Empowers People with Disabilities at 2023 Allianz Para Swimming World Championships

PEOPLE with learning disabilities and autism from Tameside have been part of a life-changing Inclusive Volunteering programme at the 2023 Allianz Para Swimming World Championships in Manchester.

It is the latest in a series of Inclusive Volunteering schemes run by social care charity Community Integrated Care at major sporting events in partnership with Sport England, having also taken place at UEFA Women’s Euro 2022, Rugby League World Cup 2021 and the World Gymnastics Championships. So far more than 650 people have taken part, with 96 percent reporting that it has given them new skills, confidence and ambitions

This week in Manchester, more than 30 people supported by Community Integrated Care have enjoyed unique personal development opportunities. Ahead of their Inclusive Volunteering, those involved took part in a wide range of experiences inspired by the event to help them prepare for the big event, including a media masterclass, an employability session and a photography day around Manchester city centre. This provided them with vital experience that they then used to put their talents to action.

Inclusive volunteers in Manchester

James Duckett, who is supported by Community Integrated Care and has volunteered at the event, said: “It has been incredible to be part of the 2023 Allianz Para Swimming World Championships. Inclusive Volunteering has given me the chance to try things that I never imagined possible. Since being part of the programme, I’ve had a go a presenting on camera, commentate on famous swimming moments with a professional mic, and tried photography for the first time, walking round the city of Manchester to capture this ‘place of greatness’.

“I’ve never done anything like this before, and I’ve been so excited to attend the event, to watch the swimming and put my skills and new found confidence into practise. I would like to say thank you to everyone who has made this possible.”

Moss Side Leisure Centre – Community Integrated Care
Photography – Jason Lawton (via Nick Harrison)

There are many barriers for people with disabilities to enjoy sport and culture, as evidenced in research carried out by the Office of National Statistics. NHS Digital also found that only 5.1 percent of people who have learning disabilities have access to employment and work. Volunteering provides vital purpose, social and economic opportunities, bringing people into the heart of their communities to support a life of greater independence and opportunity.

Community Integrated Care Sports Inclusion Specialist Kurtis Marsh explained: “The main outcomes that we’re looking to achieve from our Inclusive Volunteering at the 2023 Allianz Para Swimming World Championships are building confidence, developing independence and personal skills, improving social connections and making friendships. It will present new prospects, goals and ambitions for our volunteers to kick on and perhaps do more volunteering or find employment in the future.

Moss Side Leisure Centre – Community Integrated Care
Photography – Jason Lawton (via Nick Harrison)

“We also want people to become more physically active and make a strong connection between the event and staying fit and healthy. We want our Inclusive Volunteers to be inspired to visit their local swimming pools and become regular swimmers themselves.

“Above everything we hope they have had an amazing time and for this to be a really positive live experience. Being able to access these kind of events is once-in-a-lifetime stuff, and it helps all of those involved to live their best lives possible.”

Marsh saw the Inclusive Volunteers grow in confidence in the build-up to this week’s Manchester event, as they learned the skills needed for sports commentary, have enjoyed workshops with leading photographers and artists, and produced clips for social media outlets. The volunteers also developed creative and self-care skills with a leading makeup artist.

Marsh added: “These skills are all transferrable into other volunteering opportunities, and helped at the Para Swimming, where most of the roles have been supporter-facing. The main outcome we wanted from these activities was to build confidence and develop communication skills, and we certainly saw that.”

The ground-breaking Inclusive Volunteering model leverages the excitement of major events to provide education, development and ongoing mentoring to people who access support in their daily lives – enabling them to grow in independence, skills, and social connection. The partnership with the 2023 Allianz Para Swimming World Championships marks the first time that the programme has been delivered within a Paralympic sporting environment.

Katie Chapman, Event Director at the 2023 Allianz Para Swimming World Championships, said: “We are delighted to be partnering with Community Integrated Care in delivering their Inclusive Volunteering Model.

This is a true win-win project.

“It creates a much-needed platform for local people who access care to discover vital new opportunities, whilst also adding real vibrancy to our spectator and athlete experience in the projects that they are delivering.”

John Hughes, Director of Partnerships and Communities at Community Integrated Care, added: “The Manchester 2023 Allianz Para Swimming Championships powerfully present a message of inclusion, opportunity, and hope for all, so offer the perfect backdrop for this programme.

“Our Inclusive Volunteering Model changes lives. It responds to some of the biggest challenges that are faced by disabled people – including a lack of access to vocational opportunities and support to enjoy physical activity. It gives participants support, direction and experiences that enable them to imagine and achieve a new future.

“We are truly grateful to our partners at British Swimming, World Para Swimming, Manchester City Council, GLL and Sport England for their vision and support. It has been a joy to see how excited our participants are to share their talents at this spectacular event.”

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