24 July 2013

A sporting victory for social inclusion

The Salisbury Saxons - Wiltshire early intervention's very own football team - have been honoured by the Wiltshire Football Association.

Salisbury SaxonsThe Saxons - made up of service users, their siblings, plus the odd staff member - were awarded the 'fair play award' at last Wednesday's final of the Wiltshire FA social inclusion league cup, in which they have been playing for the last six months.

Twelve teams took part in the league, each representing organisations involved with socially excluded young people. The Salisbury Saxons is the only mental health team in the league and the only one without input from semi-professional players.

The league brings young people together, builds their confidence and encourages them to join a local mainstream football club, all with the aim of helping them to move on and become more independent. The Saxons won the fair play award for consistently playing football with the best spirit, lending players to other teams and embracing social inclusion.

Adam Greaney, Wiltshire football development officer, commented, "AWP's early intervention service has ticked all the boxes on what this league was designed to do. I have been really impressed with the improvement of their play and they were one of the only teams to beat the eventual winners. That was an amazing achievement as the winning team plays football everyday".

Simon Hall, Wiltshire early intervention team manager, said, "Over the six months of the league the Saxons have had 20 players as, during that time, many have been able to start or return to studies, employment or voluntary work. This really highlights the benefit of taking part in this kind of project.

"Individuals who have been really nervous about starting voluntary work have met other players taking part in the same voluntary projects and have lost their concerns, knowing there will be familiar friendly faces when they start their placements. A few of our players have even returned to mainstream clubs they previously belonged to, which is incredibly encouraging.

"Phil Enness and Rik Stout from Wiltshire early intervention led on this project and linked it with our vocational programme, led by Paul Graves. The Beechlydene ward team were great, working proactively with us to support inpatients linking in with community services. And we couldn't have done it without Nando Rossi from the recovery team, who contributed his level 2 coaching knowledge and led all the drills, warm up and warm down routines. Nando brought along recovery service users, who integrated really well and grew in confidence. Some have since started college courses and one has been asked to join a number of other teams!

"The future is bright: we're building stronger links with Wiltshire FA with plans for a female only football fitness programme in Salisbury as part a new social inclusion initiative."

Photos are on Facebook of the Salisbury Saxons in action at the league final in Chippenham on 17 July.

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