Wakefield-based Open Country, which enables people with a disability to access and enjoy the countryside, has been awarded a £25,000 grant to develop and extend its services to support people during the recovery phase of the Covid-19 crisis.
The charity has secured a Health Inequalities Grant from the West Yorkshire & Harrogate Health & Care Partnership which was launched to help reduce the gap in health equalities across the area. Open Country will be working across the Wakefield district on a project to tackle social isolation among adults with learning disabilities, autism, and/or mental ill health.
Ella Dixon, the Project Officer for Open Country’s Wild About Wakefield project, explains: “This new funding will enable us to reach out to isolated people at a time when they need us the most. We are developing both virtual and face-to-face groups over the next 12 months as restrictions ease, including online and outdoor exercise classes with local experts Vibe Fitness and virtual ‘Wild Things’ nature sessions.
“When guidance allows we will develop a face-to-face ‘Trailblazer’ group which will carry out access and nature project group work in the countryside. As well as the obvious benefits of increased physical activity, the project will help to improve the wellbeing of our disabled members and will enhance local outdoor spaces in the district.”
Online sessions will include: Boogie Bounce, BADASS (a combat workout), Spin, Yoga and Wild Things. Trailblazers will be a face to face group meeting weekly (dates tbc).
Boogie Bounce (with Vibe Fitness) – Mondays at 12.15pm starting 17th August – 12 week online course.
Badass/Combat (with Vibe Fitness) – Wednesdays at 12.15pm starting 19th August – 12 week online course
Spin (with Ella from Open Country) – Wednesdays at 9am starting 19th August – 12 week online course
Yoga (with Vibe Fitness) – Fridays at 10am starting 21st August – 12 week course
Wild Things virtual class (with Ella from Open Country) – EITHER 10am – 12pm or 1.30pm – 3.30pm every Friday from 21st August – 12 week course (times tbc).
All classes are an hour, except the Wild Things (2 hours with break)
Open Country, based out of Thornes Park, normally runs weekly activities including tandeming, countryside walks, conservation work parties and wheelchair friendly outings. All of their activities were cancelled at the start of lockdown and so the charity developed a number of befriending services to ensure their members were well supported both practically and emotionally.
This new project will be delivered alongside Vibe Fitness and the Wakefield & Five Towns Recovery College. The partners have worked together previously, but this project will be on a much larger scale and for a longer period, enabling more people from this target group to live longer, healthier lives. The team will also work alongside local care groups, other charities and Wakefield Council to ensure the project reaches those who would benefit from it the most.
Ella continues: “This will be a truly community-led project, working with organisations who are experts in their fields. It is a really important project for the district, supporting the wellbeing and physical health of marginalised Wakefield residents after what has been a very isolating few months. Providing a stimulating way of engaging with the natural environment is a great way of giving people a real sense of achievement.”
According to the ONS, more than a third of disabled adults say they spent too much time alone since lockdown, compared with a fifth of non-disabled adults. The research, conducted in late April, also showed that more than twice as many disabled adults (8.3%) as non-disabled adults (3.6%) said they often or always felt lonely.
Open Country will also be looking for volunteers to support its members to achieve the most from the project. These volunteers will help out on virtual classes or when guidelines allow, they will help enable members to gain confidence in outdoor practical sessions across the district.
To find out more about Open Country’s Wild About Wakefield project, visit www.opencountry.org.uk/wakefield-project