Effective implementation of inclusion for volunteers 2. 2.

Author: Treasa Rice

Keywords: inclusion, volunteers, Raising Awareness, Barriers


There are around 11 million disabled people in the UK. Only two in ten disabled people in England are currently active. A lack of knowledge and awareness of opportunities that are available to disabled people is a major factor in the lack of disabled people participating in sports (The Association of Paediatric Chartered Physiotherapists, 2014).

Sport Scotland (2001) outlined that some people were simply unaware of the existence of facilities or activities that could cater for the needs of an individuals with a disability. They had no knowledge of sports (at any level) that was available and that they felt they would be able to take part in. As such, they were prevented from even considering taking in sport. Sport, as an option, had no profile in the context of their life (Sport Scotland, 2001).

Women are generally less inclined than men to do sport, and ethnic minorities, people with disabilities and other socially vulnerable groups are also under represented (EU,2014).

For people with a disability sport can play a key role; both as regards its value for social inclusion and for activating health-enhancing physical activity (European Paralympic Committee, 2015).

Impact of volunteering

The Department for Social Development (2012) highlighted that volunteering is at the heart of a vibrant society where people can contribute to social change giving their time. Volunteers are central in delivering the many things we take for granted such as youth activities, sports clubs, faith based activities, arts festivals, etc.

In 2002 research for Sport England identified 5.7 million sport volunteers and the National Survey of Volunteering estimated a similar number in 1997 (Taylor et al., 2003; Davis Smith, 1998). The Active People Survey conducted by Sport England in 2005-06 suggested a lower figure – more than 2.7 million (Sport England, 2006).

Sport England’s 2002 National Population Survey estimated that volunteers contribute 1.2 billion hours each year to sport, with a value of over £14 billion and equivalent to 720,000 additional full-time paid workers (Taylor et al., 2003).

Volunteering in sport has an impact on clubs, members and players, the community, and volunteers themselves. Sport England notes that the community sport sector “can make increasingly vital contributions to the health of the nation, community regeneration and cohesion, community safety and educational attainment” (Taylor et al., 2003).

Characteristics of volunteering

Ibsen (1992) defined volunteering by five central characteristics:

  • Voluntary activities
    The activities are undertaken freely without physical force, legal coercion or financial pressure, and “retiring” from voluntary work does not threaten the livelihood of volunteers.
  • Which are unpaid or paid with a symbolic amount
    Volunteers may only receive reimbursement of costs connected to the voluntary work and symbolic fees for their work.
  • The voluntary activities must be carried out for other people than the family
    This distinguishes voluntary work from ordinary domestic activities and the informal care for family members.
  • For the benefit of other people
    The value that the work done by the volunteers has for other people is a constitutive element of volunteering.
  • And have a formal character (organized or agreed)
    Volunteering can take place in a voluntary organization, but it can also be performed outside of the voluntary organizations as long as it is “agreed’ upon between the person(s) doing the voluntary work and the person(s) benefiting from it. Ordinary helpfulness of a spontaneous and informal character is, however not considered volunteering.

Benefits of Volunteering

Gaskin (2008) highlighted that volunteers are the lifeblood of sport in local communities; the presence of volunteers in clubs and groups enables them to function successfully and to exist at all. Volunteers keep clubs and groups going, and provide good quality services for members and users. The opportunities that they provide enable people to have fun, make friends, improve fitness and health, and develop confidence and skills. Volunteers themselves benefit from a sense of satisfaction and the social aspects of their volunteering.

Implementing inclusion as a volunteer

Youth Sport Trust – Lead your generation – An Inclusive Future

The Youth Sport Trust (2013) developed training courses for volunteers who work with people with disabilities or additional support needs in their local communities.

They use the STEP Model, developed by Black and Stevenson (2011). This can be used to change the way an activity is delivered so it can be made in one or more STEP areas (Space, Task, Equipment, People).

STEP Model (Black & Stevenson, 2011)

Space examples:

  • Increase or decrease the size of the playing area.
  • Use zoning. e.g. where children are matched by ability and therefore have more opportunity to participate.

Task examples:

  • Break down complex skills into smaller component parts if this helps to develop skills more easily.
  • Ensure there is adequate opportunity for players to practice skills or components individually or with a partner before including in a small-sided team game.

Equipment examples:

  • In ball games, increase or decrease the size of the ball to suit the ability of the participants, or on the kind of skill being practised.
  • The use of bell or rattle balls can assist the inclusion of some players.

People examples:

  • Match players of similar ability in small-sided or close marking activities.
  • Balance team numbers to the overall ability of the group.
  • Youth Sport Trust (2013) provides some top tips for volunteers to ensure they are implementing inclusive practice:
  • Focus on the participant is able to do – don’t worry about the detail of their impairment. Take the time to get to know what the participant can do and plan activities around this.
  • Ask – don’t be afraid to ask the individual what works best for them and involve them in the planning stage of the activity/session.
  • Sometimes things don’t work – don’t be worried if something doesn’t work – not everything you have planned will work. Keep communication open with participants during the session and adapt when necessary.
  • Use appropriate language – aim to always give short, clear instructions and provide a demonstration where possible.