In a social workers’ role supporting Disabled people, do we acknowledge the barriers Disabled people face whilst trying to get active? Are we doing enough to dismantle those barriers, and equip ourselves and our profession with the confidence, knowledge and skills to do this effectively? Sadly, the answer is no, or, not yet, as has been identified through the research and co-production groups within the Moving Social Work (MSW) programme here at Get Yourself Active.
However, in an exciting move, the MSW programme is entering its second stage of funding, and I’m lucky enough to be starting in this new position as the MSW programme manager to help guide this change in the social work sector.
My name is Amarjit Randhawa and l work with Disability Rights UK (DR UK) as the Moving Social Work Programme Manager. Prior to this, l worked as a Social Worker for nine years within Local Authorities, progressing overtime to more senior positions.
In these roles, I worked in different communities, supporting people over the age of 18 who might have needed social care support or Care Act assessments, alongside work with other healthcare professionals and those in Housing and Advocacy services.
A priority for me was ensuring each person got the support they wanted and needed, which was at times challenging given limited resources, funding and high caseloads. Unfortunately, these kinds of restrictions can sometimes mean Disabled people and others being supported in the social care system do not get the care they deserve – which includes the opportunity to partake in physical activity without exclusion.
Regardless of any challenges, l always considered it to be a rewarding career and a privilege to meet and learn alongside the people l supported, all in the hope that these relationships will have had a positive impact on their everyday life. Recently, l came to the realisation that l wanted to work towards wider systemic change as opposed to change at a local, individualised level. It was time for me to take on a new challenge!
This position as MSW programme manager is one l am sure will grow and develop as the programme progresses. Moving Social Work is a co-produced programme, aimed at skilling up professionals in the social care sector to actively prioritise the needs of Disabled people, as voiced by Disabled people themselves. Too often, physical activity is seen as a luxury Disabled people cannot access, when the truth is, lower rates of activity speak to the exclusion of Disabled people throughout wider society – and that includes in the social work sector.
The overarching aim of this programme is to create and co-produce resources for the education of training and practicing social workers, all with the overarching outcome of better support for Disabled people being active when completing Care Act assessments.
We don’t want social workers to have a ‘one size fits all’ approach and instead want to support them in considering how Disabled people can be excluded from physical activity, why this activity can lead to more fulfilling quality of life, and how our role as professionals should be to remove those systemic barriers. Social workers should be confident having these conversations, both with Disabled people and other health and social care professionals. After all, Disabled people are the most likely to be in contact with health and social care services – it is time we worked to make these interactions something universally positive, especially for Disabled people who can end up being let down by the system.
Phase 1 of the MSW project was completed towards the middle of last year, with a focus on gaining in-depth research and input from the co-production group which consisted of Disabled people, carers, care workers and social workers. It was paramount to us, especially with DR UK being a Disabled people led organisation, that Disabled people and their lived experiences were not just reflected, but prioritised.
To date, the programme has delivered training to over 400 social work students, and over 100 social workers through Continued Professional Development (CPD) training. The positive results of this research and training evidenced that Moving Social Work upskills and empowers social workers to promote physical activity in an accessible and disability-inclusive way in their daily work.
We are now moving to Phase 2 where we will be looking to re-engage with the co-production group and develop a professional steering group. This group will consist of key health and social care professionals to now consider how implementation of the training could be best developed and scaled. We will also be looking to identify a pilot site to be the first in implementing this learning and practice, whilst measuring their outcomes. We will then work to take learnings from the pilot and scale the programme up to a national level.
Get Yourself Active has undertaken so many great pieces of work in relation to physical activity and the importance of dismantling these barriers for Disabled people. One example that comes to mind is The Social Work Guidelines, which is an important guide for socials workers and how we approach disability. MSW is looking to build on this work further.
This is an exciting project to be working on and l feel fortunate to have the opportunity to be a part of it. The opportunity to dismantle the social and structural barriers Disabled people face, whilst engaging in co-production at every level of the project is very exciting. Let’s get started!
The Government has released its Disability Action Plan (DAP), claiming to take action across widespread policy areas to ‘improve Disabled people’s lives.’ They have included some commitments involving physical activity, but none tackle the root causes that are excluding Disabled people from being active ourselves.
England Football Learning has launched a new free online module, with its ‘Introduction to Coaching Disabled Footballers’ module aiming to help existing grassroots clubs become more confident and inclusive coaching Disabled footballers.
Disability Rights UK is launching our report into the delivery and impact of Sport England’s Together Fund, showing the vast and long-lasting impact this fund has on smaller organisations supporting Disabled people getting physically active across the country.
Moving Social Work, a co-produced programme designed to encourage social workers to speak about physical activity with Disabled people, has been awarded a second stage of funding.