Winning the Sporting Chance category at the National Learning Disabilities Awards was a proud moment for Eden Futures.
Our support workers and service users, who were all involved in the initiative, were able to enjoy the spotlight as they collected their award, a testament to the hard work and determination of the whole team.
The judges of the Sporting Chance Award were looking for a person or team who work creatively to develop sporting activities for people with learning disabilities and/or autism to participate in and enjoy.
We immediately thought of the Doxey Diamonds, who are based in Stafford. The Doxey Diamonds is a football team formed in partnership with Powerplay League, the UKs largest provider of 5-a-side football leagues.
A relaxed game of football in the park quickly became more serious when service users told the Eden Futures team that ‘this was something they wanted to do on a more regular basis in a more official capacity.’
After support workers Josh and Jonathan did some research in the local area, the PowerPlay League appeared to be the best option for the keen football players. Following discussions with PowerPlay League, the Doxey Diamonds was formed.
The Doxey Diamonds is the only team in the league whose players include those with a learning disability, as well as the support workers who care for them.
This initiative was all about positive risk taking. Our core values include being brave in pushing boundaries, and this initiative shows what can be achieved. Service users were made aware that they would be competing against everyday people in the community and, now in their second season, they have been accepted as a reputable team.
Ryan, a Doxey Diamond player, commented: “ I enjoy getting some exercise and everyone is together, everyone helps each other. It has improved my life and social life and is good for my health. I hope to be at the top of the league in the future.”
The tailored support we provide at Eden Futures is centred on the individual, forming their care pathway. Participating in recreational and leisure activities is something we encourage every individual to do, improving health and well-being and supporting social inclusion.
This initiative certainly supports that vision. The players are taking part in physical activity that they find stimulating and fun and the benefits are there for all to see. Their confidence increases with every game they play and their fitness levels are also improving.
As well as meeting new people, they are also forming valuable friendships within their team. These individuals live in their own independent apartments, and although they are encouraged to mix with their neighbours, they don’t have to use the communal areas.
The football team brings them together and they are able to experience friendships outside of their home, while travelling to matches and at post match celebrations.
All support providers should be encouraged by the difference that sport has made to the Doxey Diamonds, and look to create similar opportunities for those they support.
The Doxey Diamonds will again be in action in the local league this season, and are looking to take part in events like the Diamond Foundation Tournament at St Georges National Football Stadium in September.
Andrew Lennox, CEO of Eden Futures, has worked within healthcare for the past 20 years holding a variety of positions in both the supply of products and services to healthcare environments, and in senior management of health and social care services. Prior to his appointment as CEO, Andrew was the Hospital Director for an acute private hospital where he delivered step change improvements in both employee engagement and EBITDA performance.