As Community Integrated Care concludes its fifth anniversary of working in rugby league, the charity is proud to announce a long-term extension to its role as the Official Social Care Partner of the Rugby Football League.
Since 2016, Community Integrated Care has pioneered many innovative programmes with the sport, at a local and national level, that promote the health, happiness and inclusion of people who access support, and help impact paid and family carers.
This work was taken to new levels in 2018, when the Rugby Football League and Super League allied with the charity to become the first governing body and topflight league with a dedicated Social Care Partner. Followed by the creation of the world-first Community Integrated Care Learning Disability Super League and the Rugby League World Cup 2021 Inclusive Volunteering programmes.
Ian Toole is just one example of how the partnership has had a life-changing impact on people with learning disabilities and autism.
Just over a year ago, Ian knew little about rugby league and had certainly never played the sport.
Fast-forward 12 months and the 45-year-old is now an integral part not only of Widnes Vikings’ Learning Disability Super League team, but also the club’s match day operation and office staff, through his volunteering role achieved through the charity’s Inclusive Volunteering Programme.
Set up by Community Integrated Care, the Learning Disability variant of rugby league has provided immeasurable opportunities to the learning disability community, creating a supportive and inclusive programme which enables players to flourish in all aspects of life.
It has given more than 300 people who have learning disabilities or autism the chance to play for the clubs that they love, enjoying a specially accessible and adapted form of Rugby League.
Ian shared how the sport has played a key role over the past year in building both his friendship groups and his confidence.
“I love my team-mates, they are good to me,” Ian explains. “I have made lots of friends, and some from other teams as well. I feel good when I put the Widnes shirt on. It makes me feel happy and proud.”
Ian’s support worker Sara has seen first-hand the impact that his involvement in rugby league has had on him over the last year.
She explained: “Ian’s journey began due to attending the Community Integrated Care and Widnes Vikings multi sports club on a Thursday. Seeing how much Ian appeared to love rugby it was suggested to myself about Ian coming along to the Learning Disability Super League training session and see if Ian would like to join the team if he enjoyed it.
“Ian picked up the game quite easily and he has now taken to watching rugby more. I get a lot of job satisfaction from seeing Ian achieve these great successes. I love to see the progress he has made and how much he has shone since joining the LDSL, not only on the pitch but off it as well.
“It is vital for Ian and other to have these opportunities, and to live their best life possible – because why shouldn’t they? They should be able to lead an active life and achieve things like everyone else, regardless of disabilities.
“I for one have had some choked up moments, especially when the Widnes and Leigh fans cheered them after they had finished playing their match at half-time. It was such an amazing moment to be a part of.”
Future plans for the partnership include a major education project to promote inclusive attitudes in young people, new community projects to support people living with dementia, and the development of new sports and social opportunities for people who have learning disabilities and autism.
Find out more about Community Integrated Care’s partnership extension with the Rugby Football League and the opportunities available for people with learning disabilities here or contact Community Integrated Care on firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.