Active Nottingham’s Ken Martin Leisure Centre (part of Nottingham City Council) in Nottingham has become the first leisure centre in the country to achieve the Quest Tackling Inequalities in Leisure Standard, demonstrating its commitment to tackling inequalities.
The Tacking Inequalities in Leisure accolade was bestowed on the centre as part of its Sport England Quest assessment, which measures how well a facility is operating and how effective organisations are across a range of areas.
First established more than 20 years ago, the renowned Quest award has evolved over the years to keep pace with the ever-changing sport and leisure industry, now including aspects such as the Tackling Inequalities assessment and an Exercise on Referral Standard. Still the sector’s best-known improvement programme, its rigorous assessments challenge even the very best leisure centres in the UK.
Councillor Pavlos Kotsonis, Nottingham City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Leisure and Culture, said: “I’m thrilled that our efforts and the ongoing work at Ken Martin Leisure Centre have been recognised with the Tackling Inequalities in Leisure Standard. This is a fantastic achievement and a testament to the dedication and hard work of our team. As a service, Active Nottingham is committed to providing accessible leisure facilities and I hope this encourages more local residents with disabilities and those with long-term health conditions to be active.”
Ken Martin Leisure Centre was recognised for working hard to ensure all demographics of the local community are welcome and find the centre accessible, which includes partnering with trusted local organisations, such as housing associations, primary care networks, social prescribing teams and mental health services.
The Sport and Physical Activity team have also been working with the community to help remove any barriers to access through campaigns such as Get Out Get Active, This Girl Can and the Disability Sport Insight and Participation project, which invited people living with a disability to try the facility for free in exchange for honest feedback.
Kirsty Worthington, General Manager at Ken Martin Leisure Centre says: “As well as proactively researching the demographics of our area so we can anticipate some of our community’s needs, we take a more holistic and individualistic appreciation of their requirements by working with partners, such as My Sight Notts, Disability Direct and the Women’s Centre, and local projects, including community-based sports groups, to directly engage with people living in the local area.
“This includes attending local meetings and events, such as community fun days, inviting groups to attend the centre and help alleviate first-time visit anticipation, as well as offering virtual tours and subtitled centre walk-through videos on our website and social media, so people know what to expect in advance.
“The area around the centre has some of the highest levels of deprivation across the UK, experiencing a number of health challenges. Added to this, the area has a mixed population of ethnicities, including new and emerging communities, a large proportion of families and single-parent families, as well as a significant population of older people. We need to offer programmes and activities that truly cater for everyone.”
Some of the activities that ticked the boxes for the Tackling Inequalities in Leisure Standard assessment team include Swim for Health, a 50+ morning and line dancing classes, which all attract a diverse attendance, as well as low-intensity mental health mindfulness classes, which enable customers to learn mindfulness meditation practices to help relax, reduce stress, slow down and live their life in the present.
Along with Active Nottingham’s other leisure centres, Ken Martin also boasts CredAbility accreditation; an independent quality mark run by disabled people, and the CredAbility Access Card, a national scheme that commits organisations to providing a quality service to people with a disability. The CredAbility Access +1 card scheme also allows holders to gain free access for essential companions or carers at Active Nottingham leisure centres.
Kirsty explains: “The CredAbility Access Card acts as evidence that someone needs support to use our services or is eligible for our offers. Not only does it mean we discreetly know they are entitled to concessionary prices and may require individual help, they know we are a verified accessible venue with their best interests at heart.”
Sarah Maxwell, Head of External Accreditations at Right Directions, which manages Quest on behalf of Sport England, says: “We were truly impressed with the investment Ken Martin Leisure Centre has made around inclusivity for its local community. For instance, the video on the Swim School is one of the most inclusive videos I have seen as an Assessor, with information being available in picture, sound and caption formats for members of the community, users and coaches.
“All the evidence, which includes investment in Disability Training Scenario Videos and Unconscious Bias Training to help prepare staff for their roles, demonstrates the centre and organisation are quality, not quantity, driven, with a focus on individual opportunities and thought, without taking a ‘blanket approach’ to their customers’ needs.”
From living in a tent in the woods to being employed by the City Council as a Fitness Advisor, life really does begin at 40 for Tony!
Tony who has been profoundly deaf since the age of seven, was referred to Nottingham Community Housing Association through the Deaf Society two years ago. His Support Worker Pete explains, “Through no fault of his own, Tony found himself living rough after being kicked out of his shared housing by his housemates. Pete worked alongside Tony to make sure he was receiving the right support and ended up getting sole tenancy of the property. “It meant I could see my daughter again”, says Tony.
Although Tony is no stranger to a gym, having trained on and off throughout his life; the experience of homelessness left him feeling defeated.
“When the opportunity came up to access the leisure facilities in a free three month trial, it was like a light bulb moment for me. I suffer from anxiety when I’m out and about so I started to use the sauna to wind down or would let off some steam in the gym where I’m surrounded by my medication – my dumbells!
“My dad was diagnosed with Cancer and I lost him in October. I’ve learnt how to talk about my feelings and share my own experiences of mental health disorders and cancer with others – so I’ve also gained some counselling skills too!
“I trained to become an instructor a while ago but missed out on a qualification by a couple of points. When the Instructability course was mentioned to me, it seemed like another chance and meant I could transform my troubles from grief into drive.
Tony admits it was difficult to go back to a learning environment when he started training at Clifton Leisure Centre but found it helped his mental health and built his confidence. “Putting yourself in uncomfortable situations helps you to grow mentally, which is just as important as physical fitness.
“I had a great tutor who waited for me to write up my notes and gave me visual handouts to help with the learning process so it was a bit of a blessing.
“After I finished my training I had a three month placement as a volunteer but there was no guarantee of a job at the end of the 12 weeks, so I could have stopped, but I continued to volunteer.
“I’m on the payroll now but I still keep my voluntary shifts – I’m paid spiritually for that!”
“The best thing about it is I can go up to and talk to anyone now, that wouldn’t have happened before. I’ve got disabled clients being referred to me. Being able to relate to and help others – it makes everything I’ve been through all worth it.”
Tony is also having a huge positive impact on others. When the Instructability scheme reopened, he referred people to it who he thought would also benefit. “Rob doesn’t like new environments and would have panic attacks”, Tony explains, “so I would help diffuse situations when I realised he was about to have an attack by taking him outside and getting him to breathe to open up his airways.”
He is also getting some sign-ups from patients being discharged from Highbury Hospital. “One of the guys I’ve been helping is thinking about becoming a Personal Trainer.”
Tony cites the support he’s received from the team at Ken Martin as being a key part of his success.
“The team have been really understanding and have allowed me to swap shifts when I’ve needed to because of my mental health and were really flexible in allowing me to complete my 1-2-1 in house qualification.
“It’s very difficult to see an opportunity when you are depressed or get anxious,” says Tony. “But there’s lots of things you can do. Talk to people around you, you might find someone in a similar boat. Walking can help by giving you thinking space. Oh and anyone with a dog, it’s like a gym on legs!
“Finding a gym buddy will help motivate you but group activities is another option worth trying. Classes get your endorphins going and you push yourself a bit harder. I think routine is important, but don’t beat yourself up. Plus, sometimes it’s just about coming along, just being here is an achievement.
“People can have a negative view of the gym but Ken Martin and other council leisure centres are so friendly. We even adjust the music to make sure we cater for different groups depending on the time of day.”
Tony added, “For some it’s a social experience, others it’s a lifestyle choice. Whatever the reason, it’s important to look after your heart and general well-being and just be happy.”