Helping care homes - cycling in a safe environment
A group of riders from Brook Lea Care Home has been coming to the Wheels for All – Get Cycling in Sefton sessions at Litherland Sports Park since the project first got off the ground 10 years ago. They attend the sessions once a week with support workers from New Directions care and support services in Sefton, who initially learnt about the project when they read about it in the local paper. Support workers Karl, Hazel, Alison, Gaynor and Donna work with clients that have a range of special educational needs (SEN) and physical impairments.
Talking about how cycling impacts their clients, Karl explains: “The people that take part have a great time and love to use the bikes. They have such a great time that they go back to the care home and talk about the cycling and the fun they have. Then others want to come along and try it too. So they have increased the numbers of people coming along and they are different people on different weeks.”
During the sessions, the clients get some fresh air and exercise to help with weight management, as well as socialising with other people, including those without SEN. Pupils from the school next door also use the facilities at the sports park. Karl said: “It’s good for them to be around people who aren’t disabled.” This means that there is a lot of awareness raising and mutual understanding from being in the same space. The group also interacts with other riders with SEN that come from other centres.
It’s the only truly inclusive exercise in the area and they reach out to all abilities. It would be a disaster if the sessions ever stopped.
Karl, Support Worker at New Directions
For many of the Brook Lea clients, this is the only real exercise they get as they are often transported around by minibus, car and taxi. Attending the sessions is vitally important; they come even through the winter months. Karl said: “It’s the only truly inclusive exercise in the area and they reach out to all abilities. It would be a disaster if the sessions ever stopped.”
The majority of the clients want to ride, even though some had never ridden before at all. Andrew, one of their clients, learnt to ride a bike at the cycling sessions. Another client who is epileptic rides a hand cycle, which has a proper seat that he can be strapped into. That way he knows that if he fits he won’t fall. He is happy because he gets the opportunity to cycle too; he can ride on his own and loves the independence that it gives him.
The group comes along because the sessions provide a safe environment for them to enjoy some exercise in an outdoor setting. The carers feel happy about the facilities at the sports park. They are very conscious about the safety of their clients and cycling in this setting provides just what they need. Paul, who has mobility barriers, started on the wheelchair cycle but has since progressed to a trike, cycling alongside a carer. He gains independence that he would not be able to have ordinarily, but in a safe environment.
Some of the carers have trained to be helpers at the centre through the Wheels For All leadership training course. This way, they can properly support the riders in the cycling activities. This also means that they could run sessions independently of the regular sessions. They are keen to look at this so they can come more often than once a week, but need to find further funding support and transport options first.
The care home has been involved in rides and events in the past that have been arranged through the centre, such as the Liverpool to Chester ride, which the group really enjoyed. In fact, the clients love cycling so much that many of them wish they could have a trike of their own!
Wheels for All – Get Cycling in Sefton is one of over 40 Cycling UK-accredited clubs in the UK are part of the National Inclusive Cycling Network - a partnership between Cycling UK and Cycling Projects, and is funded through the Big Lottery Fund.
Case study by Jayne Rodgers. For more information about inclusive cycling in the North West, contact Jayne Rodgers.