An Evaluation of the Challenge through Sport Initiative

Buffin, Jez and Reeves, Matthew orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-3903-2910 (2018) An Evaluation of the Challenge through Sport Initiative. Documentation. UNSPECIFIED. (Unpublished)

Full text not available from this repository.

Official URL:


The Challenge through Sport Initiative (CSI) is an ambitious and innovative project designed to encourage active and healthier lifestyles for adults recovering from drug and alcohol misuse. Funded through Sport England as part of its
Get Healthy, Get Active work programme, CSI is managed and co-ordinated by Active Lancashire (formerly Lancashire Sports Partnership).

An evaluation of the project was undertaken by the University of Central Lancashire. The evaluation ran from June 2015 to June 2018. The evaluation collected data from participants in the project at baseline registration, and three months, six months and twelve months follow up using a questionnaire derived from the Single Item Sport England Measure , the Short International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ) and the Cantril Self -Anchoring Striving Scale.

2628 people registered with the project and completed a questionnaire to provide baseline data. The large number of participants that the project managed to attract and engage is evidence that the project managed to successfully overcome many of the barriers commonly experienced by programmes with similar objectives. Follow up data was successfully gathered from 982 of participants at three months and from 1053 and 753 participants at six and twelve months

The project attracted a good spread of participants across all age groups, although the profile of those engaged in the project is slightly younger than that of those who are engaged in drug and alcohol treatment services. This suggests that the project may have something unique to contribute to the successful earlier engagement and retention of younger substance misusers in treatment. The gender and ethnicity of participants who engaged in the project is similar to the profile of those
engaged in drug and alcohol treatment services.

12.2% of participants reported having a disability, although it is likely that this figure is under -reported. Most participants had left school either without any formal qualifications or with less than 5 GCSE’s, CSE’s or ‘O’ -levels. The project was successful at retaining participants from a wide variety of housing situations in the programme (including people who were homeless). Thus 2% of all participants who registered for the programme were homeless at baseline and homeless partic
ipants made up 1.9% of those who completed 12 months.

Participants who were retained, even for three months, were active more often and at higher levels. Between to 39.5% and
51.6 % of participants were active at baseline and this proportion rose steadily over twelve months. At three month follow up the proportion of participants who were active had risen to 68%. At six months the proportion had risen to 71.7% and at twelve months the proportion had risen to 80.1%.

Levels of activity for the cohort as whole also rose steadily across the twelve months. While the proportion of participants classified as having low levels of activity fell from 38% to 12.2% at twelve months, the proportion of participants reporting high levels of activity rose from 31.2% to 47.7% and the proportion of participants reporting moderate levels of activity rose from 30.7% to 42.6%. 90.3% of participants were moderately or highly active at twelve months. While participants with low or moderate levels of activity at baseline were supported to achieve higher levels of activity at three, six and twelve months, participants with high levels of activity at baseline were supported to maintain these levels.

The proportion of participants who had participated in sport within the last seven days increased sharply from 43.3% at baseline to 79.6% at three months, 87% at six months 88.9% at twelve months. The self-reported wellbeing and life satisfaction of participants improved over time. The mode score for wellbeing at baseline registration was 5. The mode score for wellbeing at twelve months was 7. Those with the lowest levels of activity at registration appear to have benefited the most. The mode score for those with low activity levels at registration was 4 at baseline and 7 at twelve months. The mode score for those with moderate activity levels at registration was 5 at baseline and 7 at twelve months. The mode score for those with high activity levels at registration was 6 at baseline and 7 at twelve months. The proportion of participants not working at all fell from 54.3% at baseline to 39.8% at twelve months. This was mainly due to the increases in the proportions of participants who were in part-time work or who were volunteering at twelve months. The proportion of those working part-time rose from 6.6% at baseline registration to 12.6% at twelve months while the proportion of those volunteering increased from 8.1% to 22.2%.

A major feature of the project was the encouragement of participants in to volunteering and employment. As one of the workers put it: “One of the great successes of the project for me has been the way that we have seen people develop from participants, to becoming volunteers and then paid support workers. We know of 80 people who have gone on to gain employment. Some of them are only part time hours. But still that’s 80 people. And that’s just the ones that we know about.”

The project has had a wider impact in building recovery capital by encouraging and facilitating contact between participants and Lancashire User Forum, providing a structure for users in recovery and putting such people in touch with other people who they recognised as ‘like them’ and who they could see were doing well. The proportion of participants who had been in contact with Lancashire User Forum during the last six months rose from just 13.2% at baseline registration to 30.6% at twelve months. Along with a range of other indicators this can be used as a proxy for measuring increased recovery capital in terms of peer and social support.

Five case studies provide illustrative examples of other ways in which the recovery capital of participants has been enhanced. The male in case study one describes a number of services and agencies that he has made contact with through his work as a volunteer with CSI. He describes how his confidence has improved. Not only has he seen benefits in his own life, but now he has started to help other people. He is more active and has a wider pool of people and services that he can draw on. He is illustrative of the way that CSI has both reached out to potential participants in other projects and has helped to sign-post people in to services for support.

The male in case study two describes how being involvbed with CSI has helped him to re-connect with his estranged son. Like the male in case study one, he has a wide pool of support that he can draw on now, including a range of both professional and peer support. The male in case study three has managed to re-establish a relationship with his partner and son. He finds that the structure of the programme, having something to do and meeting new people has helped him to avoid relapse.

The woman is case study four describes how CSI has re-connected her to the world around her and has drawn her out of her ‘methadone treatment bubble’, where she had been stuck for several years. Getting involved in the project has helped her to build her confidence. She no longer feels that she us useless. She has met new friends and now has a sense of belonging.
The female in case study five has also grown in confidence. Becoming involved in CSI has given her a sense of purpose and value in life. She can see how being valued has helped her own recovery and how it can help other people too.
Such ‘visible recovery’ has long been recognised as a significant factor in promoting and sustaining positive change for problematic drug and alcohol users.

One of the key ingredients in explaining the success of the project is role of the support workers and, through this, the focus that the project had on building relationships with people. Support workers played a critical role in reaching out to participants, giving encouragement and facilitating project activities. They also acted as a source of advice and support for participants experiencing problems and were often able to help participants sort problems out or sign-post them in to other services. It is also crucial to acknowledge the importance of the infra-structure that sat behind the support workers. CSI employed a full-time project co-ordinator, whose role extended far beyond simply co-ordinating the day-to-day activities of the team. Her role was critical in providing both practical and emotional support to the team around a wide variety of issues. Many of the volunteers and support workers had not worked before and needed high levels of support to enable them to grow and develop in their new roles. This might extend from something as basic as being able to log on to a computer or knowing that it was important to ring up and tell someone if they were going to be off sick, through to helping someone deal with complex welfare benefit difficulties, family problems or full blown relapses.

Repository Staff Only: item control page