Sport at the heart of integrated community life in East Ayrshire
"It ticks all the boxes as being sociable, inclusive, and good for your physical and mental wellbeing, so it has huge health benefits."
Sport has always been a huge part of community life throughout Scotland. But in Cumnock, East Ayrshire, steps have been made to take community sport to a whole new level. Cumnock Juniors Community Enterprise (CJCE) are now the focal point of many aspects of town life, having embraced integration to champion partnership working across sectors, harness community involvement, target health and social determinants, and transform the lives of many in the community.
Since the charity were founded in 2013, the development of community sports facilities and programmes in Cumnock has been led by CJCE. The installation of an ‘all-weather’ pitch in 2015 was transformational for the town, given it created a community sports hub that could allow for sporting activity and community events to take place most days of the week. CJCE Facility Manager, Derek King, was recently invited into the East Ayrshire Council Chambers to deliver a presentation on the group’s activities.
“They were blown away by all the stuff we now do”, Derek says. “We started off with football primarily, and it just grew into so much more.”
CJCE have 575 registered players, 70 Scottish Football Association (SFA) qualified coaches, with a further 100 children aged 2-12 involved in community football classes. Derek says that access to an integrated community sports hub has encouraged collaboration and community involvement, improved mental and physical wellbeing, combated anti-social behaviour, and transformed how people in the town engage with sport, highlighting the real power of integration.
“I would say we’re the biggest community group in the area for all the different stuff we do – nobody does as many different things as us. When the schools let the kids out early on Fridays, we let them come and play football for free and it keeps them out of bother.”
CJCE work in partnership with local schools and Community Links Workers to identify children living in poverty so they can attend school holiday camps for free, which showcases the focus put on community partnership working in order to achieve better outcomes. They also have a partnership with Ayr Eagles, who play in an amateur league for men with a high BMI or are struggling with their mental health.
“We have a lot of partnerships”, Derek continued. “Most of our successful work is achieved by sharing skills with partners who have similar values and goals, with each contributing their own expertise.”
The charity ensure that people, their needs, and their lived experience are at the centre of everything they do. This approach has allowed CJCE to become truly accommodating of all ages in the community, with programmes such as walking football helping to provide health and social benefits to over 50s, as well as those struggling with their mental health.
“Many have said that since coming along to walking football, they’ve got lower heart rate, lower blood pressure, less fat, and feel more mobile. The walking football itself was pretty slow at the start – now I can’t slow them down.”
In partnership with Vibrant Communities, CJCE created ‘All Ability Sport’, which supports those with learning differences, whilst the ‘Leadership Academy’ was also created, allowing young people to gain the skills and experience they need to enhance their employability. This again highlights the importance CJCE place on joining-up with others across sectors to champion a person-centred approach.
“We’ve got a lot of partnership working with schools, hospitals and the council”, Derek says. “We support PE lessons at local primary schools and we’re in a working group supporting dementia at the local hospital. A charity partner developed a diabetes awareness course which we piloted with our Leadership group – the SFA are now rolling it out as part of coach education nationwide.”
By championing integration, CJCE have been recognised for their achievements in transforming the community. They received the Ayrshire Sportsability ‘Activity in the Community’ award, the East Ayrshire Sports Council Club of the Year, and the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, whilst they are both a SFA Disability Club and SFA Quality Mark Platinum Legacy Club.
“Everything just ties together in this model”, Derek says. “It ticks all the boxes as being sociable, inclusive, and good for your physical and mental wellbeing, so it has huge health benefits.”
You can learn more about what Cumnock Juniors Community Enterprise does for the community on their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/CumnockJuniorsCommunityEnterprise
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