Menu Close Log in

Mencap and Sport England join forces for Round the World Challenge

Mencap and Sport England have joined forces in a partnership to enable people with a learning disability in England to get active. The Round the World Challenge, was launched on 29th January 2019 at Kensington Sports and Leisure Centre in London, it is a £1.7 million programme with Sport England contributing £1 million of National Lottery funding. It aims to reach over 4,000 people in 27 communities across England.  

People with learning disability holding their Round the world challenge certificatesParticipation in sport and physical activity is exceptionally low for people with a learning disability - with Sport England’s Active Lives data showing that 43.1% of adults with learning disabilities are inactive compared to the national average of 25.2%. 

You are also twice as likely to become obese and five times more likely to be morbidly obese, dying on average 17 years earlier, if you have a learning disability.

To turn these figures around, Sport England and Mencap are launching the Round the World Challenge which hopes to inspire and assist people with a learning disability to get active in a way that is flexible, fun and empowering. Participants will take part in a variety of activities including zumba, boccia, walking rugby and more traditional sports like football, cycling and tennis.  Participants then register the time spent on any type of exercise each week and this is converted into miles. This can be either 20, 40, or 100 hours depending on how far someone wants to go ‘around the world’. 

The sessions will be guided by specially trained staff and volunteers to ensure those who take part feel welcome, are encouraged to try new activities and inspired to continue being active.  

People with learning disabilities can face greater challenges in getting active, including being unable to find sports centres or having low confidence following bad experiences of sport in the past. The scheme has been designed to be inclusive and is working in partnership with a range of local sports providers to ensure that many of the sessions will take part within existing sport centres.

As well as the health benefits of increasing physical activity, research has shown that getting people with a learning disability involved in sport can help boost confidence in other areas of life, including securing employment, reducing loneliness and building friendships and playing a full part in their communities.  By week 20 of a pilot scheme, none of the participants said they felt worried, sad or unhappy. Sue Wignall, a member of Mencap Liverpool, lost seven stone, trained as a run leader with England Athletics and now leads a running club every Wednesday evening.  

Vijay Patel, who took part in a pilot scheme said: 

"Taking part in Round The World Challenge has made me so confident and helped me get a paid job.  I feel so much fitter and I’ve made loads of friends.  I now play in a 5-a-side Football team where I am the top goal scoring striker!  Thank you to players from the National Lottery for giving us the money to help more people like me get involved."

Sports Minister, Mims Davies, said: 

"Everyone should be able to enjoy the benefits that sport and activity bring. Creating an inclusive and accessible environment is key to ensuring that disabled people have equal opportunities to participate. I am delighted that Mencap and Sport England are investing National Lottery funding to grow this important partnership and help more people with learning disabilities get active"

Tim Hollingsworth, Chief Executive of Sport England said: 

"Sport has such a powerful role to play in building confidence, overall health, employability and strengthening communities.  So, it is unacceptable that people with learning disabilities are more than twice as likely to be inactive."

"Sport England is determined to play its part in reducing this gap and we believe our unique partnership with Mencap, supported by National Lottery funding, will go a long way in doing just that. We must make sport and physical activity an attractive and accessible lifestyle choice – through traveling Round the World for example – so many more people with learning disabilities can lead active lives."

Jan Tregelles, Mencap Chief Executive, said:  

“This unique partnership between Mencap and Sport England offers the chance for people with learning disabilities to become more engaged with other people and social activity, something Mencap strongly believes in.  Exercise is for everyone and can have positive benefits including extended social interaction.  Thank you to Sport England, the National Lottery and Garfield Weston for their generous support.” 

Find out more on Mencap's website.