December 5, 2017
Make volunteering in sport more appealing for disabled people, new research finds
New research released on International Volunteer Day (5 December) will enable providers to improve their volunteering opportunities, especially for disabled people. The report, ‘Encouraging disabled people to volunteer in sport’, explores the barriers to volunteering and the drivers that could improve its appeal.
The English Federation of Disability Sport (EFDS) alongside the eight National Disability Sports Organisations and Sport England commissioned the project. It aims to understand more on volunteering in sport, as well as to improve the quality and number of opportunities for disabled people. The researchers involved almost 1,500 disabled and non-disabled people in the report and compared the differences in perception and experience of volunteering between the two audiences.
The findings guide providers on how and when disabled people volunteer generally and the extent to which they volunteer in sport. They highlight the different ways in which disabled people commonly volunteer and their interest in sports volunteering. These can help providers to encourage and support more disabled people to volunteer in sport.
One key finding explores the reason disabled people may not volunteer in sport. It shows the impact disabled people’s low participation in sport has on volunteering. Disabled people who volunteer in sport are twice as likely as non-disabled people to have taken part before. This suggests that the sport sector is not something that appeals to disabled people who have not been part of it previously. Concern about the need for volunteers to be frequently involved (at least once a week) arose in responses. Disabled people can be fearful of regular commitment due to fluctuating health problems.
Other key findings included:
Barry Horne, Chief Executive of EFDS, said:
“We know that volunteers are vital in sport and active recreation. Not only do they help to boost the number of activities available, but develop leaders and role models in sport. Disabled people offer useful skills that can be extremely valuable and it is a missed opportunity not to draw from their lived experiences.
“It is clear in these findings that the knock-on effect of the low numbers of disabled people taking part in sport, is that there is less appeal in sports volunteering. We hope more providers improve their opportunities to all volunteers, but crucially work towards engaging and retaining more disabled volunteers.”
Phil Smith, Director of Sport at Sport England, said:
“The contribution of 6.7 million volunteers in sport is immense. It helps individuals get more active, it benefits local communities, and it can do wonders for the volunteers themselves. However, as this new report identifies, there’s a lot to do to make the experience more attractive to disabled people. We need to work on attracting more disabled people to volunteering in sport and activity and ensure they have a great experience when they do get involved. We hope that the whole sport and physical activity sector embraces this challenge.”
International Volunteer Day (IVD), mandated by the UN General Assembly, is held each year on 5 December. It is viewed as a unique chance for volunteers and organisations to celebrate their efforts, to share their values, and to promote their work.