SFC - Lyndsey BarrettSenior Occupational Therapist, Lyndsey Barrett worked in the NHS for 19 years. Towards the end of this period she began to question whether the traditional delivery methods employed by the NHS are always the most effective means of achieving positive client outcomes on a large scale.

As a keen netball player, Lyndsey was very aware that regular physical activity, delivered in a controlled, safe, mainstream, environment could provide the perfect setting to achieve positive occupational outcomes.

So, in 2015, Lyndsey joined forces with Steve Mitchell, a skills expert from the physical activity sector. Together they launched a social enterprise which places leisure activities at the heart of client interventions and proves the true value of sport and physical activity, as an assessment and treatment tool.

Today, Sport For Confidence is delivering more than 800 interventions every month to individuals with an array of special needs including learning disabilities, mental health issues, Asperger’s Syndrome, Autism, Downs Syndrome and Dementia.

The company is achieving incredible success. An independent study, carried out by Linda Agnew recently evidenced an impressive array of life changing outcomes including; Increased independence in daily tasks and routines, heightened awareness of self and health issues, team work, self-expression, enhanced decision-making, effective communication skills, reduced dependency on others and improved self-confidence. The report also explores the potential cost saving to public health of introducing Sport For Confidence interventions. The figures are truly impressive. Using the programme at Witham Leisure Centre, Essex as an example, the cost model predicts that for every £1 spent, the return is £6.74.

Sport For Confidence is currently being delivered in 4 leisure and sports venues across Essex and has recently launched at a leisure centre in Waltham Forest. Every week, 25 sessions, held across the various venues, are offering a range of sports from swimming and Boccia to trampolining and New Age Kurling. More than 500 individuals visit every month, many of whom, prior to this programme, were leading sedentary lifestyles and had never visited a leisure centre before. Attendance figures are growing month on month.

Early in 2017, Sport For Confidence was included as an example of successful, innovative practice in NHS England’s Allied Health Professionals Into Action report. This confirmed the true value of this new emerging role for occupational therapists.

Boccia England has also recently engaged the enterprise to produce an Occupational Therapists Guide to Boccia delivery. In November, Lyndsey Barrett collected an award for Outstanding Occupational Therapy Leadership and Innovation at the national OT Awards. Sport For Confidence is gaining recognition as a viable and successful alternative to traditional occupational therapy practice.

Lyndsey puts the success of the programme down to three things. Firstly, the dedication of the team. Secondly, an alignment to central government’s relatively new objectives to measure sports engagement programmes by the quality of the outcomes not just attendance figures. Thirdly, successful collaboration with partners including leisure providers, sports clubs, Clinical Commissioning Groups, Allied Health Professionals, care homes, specialist nursing teams and charities and most importantly service users.

Lyndsey’s ambition is to place an Occupational Therapist, working alongside a sports coach, in every leisure centre across the UK.