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Club that helps youngsters with learning disabilities to bounce back

When Emma Colverd’s basketball fan daughter was unable to find a place to play after moving to London in 2016, her mum launched the inclusive Safe Haven

26 October, 2018 — By Suzie Barrett

Safe Haven Basketball, for young people aged between 12 and 25, is based in Warrington Gardens, close to Warwick Avenue tube station

EMMA Colverd’s daughter Grace first discovered a basketball while living in New York.

She had joined a basketball programme especially for young people with learning disabilities on the Upper West Side. Much of the organised sport enjoyed by most teenagers had been out of bounds for her.

But when the family came back to London in 2016, she found she had no club to join.

So Emma decided to start up Safe Haven Basketball for young people aged between 12 and 25.

Emma said: “I had to think about it because that wasn’t something that I had intended on doing. But then I just thought – why not?

“To double-check that I was right, I phoned up the inclusion officer at Basketball England at the time and asked him if I was mistaken. And he said, no there wasn’t.”

The Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities estimates that there are approximately 1.5 million people in the UK living with learning disabilities.

People can have mild, moderate or severe lifelong, learning disabilities which have a significant impact on their lives.

It means they find it harder than others to learn, understand and communicate.

Emma said: “There are lots of issues for young people with learning disabilities participating in sport because they need support at a level which the mainstream club is not able to or comfortable offering.

“Now that isn’t universal but it is a fairly common theme.

Emma Colverd

“The mainstream clubs tend to be very focused on performance and that can be an issue for some young people. Not all, but some.

“For young people with learning disabilities, in general, they tend to need support with access in terms of a family who’s prepared to spend their time finding the clubs.

“Then, of course, there is a lack of clubs and there are transport issues; unless you’re an independent traveller – which a lot of young people with learning disabilities are not – you won’t be able to get there.

“It kind of takes a village approach to help young people have access to clubs that are suitable for them. But that shouldn’t make it impossible.”

The club, based in Warrington Gardens, close to Warwick Avenue tube, aims to provide people with an opportunity to socialise, develop confidence and improved mental health by increasing fitness and reducing isolation.

Three years on, Safe Haven has been granted £2,500 from the MyWestminster fund which has already awarded more than £123,000 to 19 different organisations that have applied for support.

The fund has £500,000 and applicants can apply for up to £10,000.

Emma said: “All of my players and volunteers are so pleased that we’ve managed to get this funding and we are very grateful for it.

“We really appreciate Westminster’s generosity and interest.”

Safe Haven will use the money to widen its reach and to support current activities in the hope of eventually becoming self-sustaining.

Emma, as the manager, would also like to see the club develop a relationship with Special Olympics so that the players might have the opportunity of partici­pating in basketball teams in the Liverpool 2021 Special Olympics.

Not only has the club enabled the members to improve their basketball skills but also to increase their fitness, develop teamwork skills and consequently reduce social isolation.

Emma said: “Social interaction through physical interaction. There is a reduction in social isolation and there’s a real improvement in people’s mental health as a consequence. Overall health – mental and physical – is improved by any sport.”

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