Working towards better support for volunteers with a disability

Cerebral Palsy Sport worked with the  Activity Alliance (formerly English Federation of Disability Sport) and the other National Disability Sports Organisations (NDSOs) to understand how to better support people with a range of disabilities to volunteer.

The final report has been published which hihglighted the need to make volunteering in sport more appealing for disabled people.

New research released on International Volunteer Day (5 December 2017) 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.

Activity Alliance ( formerly The English Federation of Disability Sport) 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:

  • There is a desire from disabled people to volunteer, but they are more likely to have negative experiences. Almost half (47 per cent) of disabled people currently volunteer generally compared to just over a third (34 per cent) of non-disabled people. Almost half of disabled people have had a negative experience when volunteering (48 per cent) compared to a third of non-disabled people (33 per cent).
  • Despite disabled people’s higher level of interest in volunteering in society generally, this is not reflected in their level of interest in volunteering in sport. Levels of volunteering in sport for disabled and non-disabled people are the same (21 per cent).
  • Disabled people are much more likely to recognise and experience barriers to volunteering. Their concern is in relation to the impact their impairment will have on their ability to volunteer. In addition, providers of volunteering opportunities feel that they lack the skills and ability to support disabled people fully in their volunteering roles.
  • There is often a mismatch between the expectations of providers and volunteers about what the roles entail and too often organisations give insufficient thought to the distinctive needs of volunteers as opposed to participants. This plays a significant part in creating a negative experience for disabled volunteers.
  • Providers do not routinely ask or capture whether volunteers have impairments or long-term health conditions. This means providers’ awareness of disabled volunteers and their needs is low, and they are less confident in how to support disabled people.

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.”

A copy of the report can be downloaded here: Encouraging more disabled people to volunteer in sport REPORT FINAL

A copy of the Executive summary can be found here: 18123 EFDS Exec Summary Infographic_Accessible