Young people across the north-west with a hearing impairment will receive support from Sale Sharks Foundation to develop key skills, knowledge and confidence through a new rugby inspired intervention funded by a large grant from West Lancashire Freemasons.
The £50,000 grant will support the ‘Breaking Barriers’ project, which will equip 60 children and young people living with a hearing impairment with the skills, confidence and knowledge to overcome inequalities they face. The Sharks Foundation will be using an inspiring rugby international who herself has a hearing impairment to help deliver the programme.
The project will include three, 90-minute wellbeing sessions from the inspiring AJ Bell Stadium (one for children of primary age, those aged 11 to14, and 14 to 18), which fuse accessible sports and physical activity with practical healthy lifestyle and social development workshops which promote improved physical wellbeing, mental resilience and social development.
Recognising the barriers young people with a hearing impairment face in securing employment, ‘Breaking Barriers’ will include an additional weekly 90-minute study-skills programme accessible to older participants that instil skills and confidence for progressing into work. This will include access to Sports Leaders UK provision and world of work sessions with local businesses.
There are well over 12,000 adults registered as deaf or hard of hearing in Greater Manchester, but almost 500,000 people in the same area experiencing some form of hearing loss, with 12,000,000 adults across the UK being deaf, or having hearing loss or tinnitus. Overall, one in five adults in the UK have some form of hearing loss.
Deaf people and people with hearing loss are less likely to be employed than the general population. Only 37% of people who report British Sign Language as their main language are working, in comparison to 77% of people who are not disabled, and people who are deaf or have hearing loss are twice as likely to experience mental health problems compared to people without it.
The program will also provide support to parents, creating a peer network that aims to improve their wellbeing and social connections. Consultation indicated that over 40% had themselves felt lonely or isolated by the pandemic. Support will be provided to build mental resilience, connect with other parents and access support from health and wellbeing agencies.
Research has shown that the programme is highly effective, with 93% of beneficiaries reporting increased feelings of ‘feeling good about myself’, 80% feeling less nervous, anxious or on edge and 93% feeling more optimistic about the future.
Assistant Provincial Grand Master Barry Jameson was delighted to visit the Thomasson Memorial School for the Deaf in Bolton to witness typical sessions, meet the staff and volunteers, and see the fun and excitement in the faces of the pupils. The grant from West Lancashire Freemasons comes through the Masonic Charitable Foundation, funded by Freemasons, their families and friends, from across England and Wales.
Phil Ball, Community Inclusion Manager, Sale Sharks Foundation, said: “We’re extremely grateful to West Lancashire Freemasons for their generous grant. ‘Breaking Barriers’ is a new project for Sale Sharks Foundation to add to the work we do around disability and inclusion. It will be of great benefit to local young people living with a hearing impairment, helping them to develop positive physical and mental wellbeing.”
Mark Matthews from West Lancashire Freemasons, said: “I’m very pleased we’ve been able to help the Sale Sharks Foundation with their hugely valuable programme of support for children and young people with a hearing impairment. It’s hard to overestimate the benefits that increased self-confidence can have on their lives and can transform their future.”