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Community Access Programme

The Edinburgh Leisure Community Access Programme (CAP) has a clear vision ‘to promote positive partnerships to create opportunities for everyone to get active, stay active and achieve more’ with a focus on those least likely to participate in sport and physical activity.

***PAHA Award Winner 2014***

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How It Started

Edinburgh Leisure recognised that there is significant potential in their facilities, partnerships and technical expertise and at the same time, limitations with the capacity to deliver physical activity by some of the individual groups working with those hardest to engage across Edinburgh (given the population size and range in demographics.)

Being aware of this issue Edinburgh Leisure drew together partner organisations to scope a solution. This process focussed on encouraging and supporting partners to deliver activities and take responsibility for barriers.

Collaborating with over 250 organisations provided the innovative scheme that met these needs and served their purpose.
The scheme delivers:

• provision of free leisure cards to all organisations who sign up to the scheme

• subsidised facility visits

• staff training opportunities to improve confidence and competence to include physical activity in their projects

• a dedicated Community Inclusion Officer to provide support, advice and management of the scheme

• an individual referral scheme for people who leave support agencies to support independent living

The programme continues to go through a process of innovation as they take community involvement in annual evaluations and the development of pilot schemes with individual organisations.

Partners Involved

The CAP scheme has been implemented as a core Edinburgh Leisure service since 2006 and is not reliant on external fundin. It is valued by the organisation as a key tool in engaging hard to reach communities.

The scheme directly contributes to the organisations purpose: “...To make a positive difference to communities by creating opportunities for everyone to get active, stay active and achieve more.”

In the 2013 evaluation survey for the scheme key support can be seen from organisations involved themselves:
• 90.8% reported the CAP scheme making a positive difference to their service users/clients
• 92.2% reported that CAP helped them deliver physical activity effectively

Partnership is core and essential to the delivery of the CAP scheme. Organisations, staff and service users are consulted annually to influence the design and delivery of the programme.

In 2012 the World Leisure Organisation also recognised the scheme as best practise by awarding it the World Leisure International Innovation Award at the World Leisure Congress.


The CAP scheme has been designed and implemented to reduce the financial barrier of accessing sport and physical activity and therefore reduce the unequal access of these services.

The scheme has also been essential in the design and delivery of products for those on the lowest incomes.
Every May the Community Inclusion Officer runs a series of Community Roadshows meeting directly with partner agencies to support the development of their physical activity programming. This has led to events such as the Young Carers Family Celebration Day and a series of tasters for the BME community.

In 2006 a significant expansion of the scheme made it open to community based services within NHS and City of Edinburgh Council. The expansion of activities to include racket sports, football and golf were also requested. These changes provided a huge shift in the activities on offer and the number of organisations who could be involved.

Further recommendations were taken in 2011 to implement an individual referral form with a sole aim of supporting independent access to physical activity and leisure. This has been successful with over 4,500 referrals made since Jan 11.

The CAP scheme works directly to increase physical activity opportunities for those who are least likely to participate in sport and physical activity. However, the programme has a far wider scope then purely increasing physical activity.

By partnering with NHS and local voluntary services who provide support across many health outcomes, such as alcohol and drug dependency, mental health and physical conditions, CAP is a tool for wider health rehabilitation planning.

VOCAL (Voice Of Carers Across Lothians) is one organisation that have fully evidenced the benefit of CAP. A pilot was run with VOCAL to individually refer carers to receive leisure cards and promote independent access.

Results and Impact

The project set out with clear objectives:
• To engage as many community organisations as possible
• To increase activity levels for those facing health inequality
• To provide access to our facilities for those on the lowest incomes
• To assist personal recovery, independent living and employability

Partner organisation membership to CAP has grown from 133 in 2007 to 267 in 2012.

In the 2013 evaluation survey for the scheme key support can be seen from organisations involved themselves:
• 90.8% reported the CAP scheme making a positive difference to their service users/clients
• 92.2% reported that CAP helped them deliver physical activity effectively

StreetSoccer became a partner in the summer 2013 working with the CAP scheme to offer free football coaching for 45 adults referred from various agencies including employment, drug and alcohol rehabilitation and homeless hostels. 89% or participants stated that they would not have taken part in a structured coached activity due to cost.

The programme works to help reduce health inequalities in a variety of services, of the 250 agencies involved 54.7% agreed that without the CAP scheme they would not provide physical activity as part of their service.

Alongside monitoring the number of organisations involved we also track visits to activities with a total of 28,623 total visits in 2012, an increase from 23,323 in 2011.

In 2011 the individual referral scheme was launched with 4,300 people being referred since to receive their own access card. This has proven an effective engagement tool with many individuals finding an affordable opportunity to continuing with their chosen physical activity.

As stated we also consult with all of our partner agencies to identify the effectiveness of the programme:
‘One of the main problems we face for clients who have stopped using drugs/alcohol is filling the gap that substance has left. By having access to these cards we can encourage and support the client to use their time productively and attend gym sessions rather than sit in the house where they are at higher risk of relapsing’ Kennedy Walker, North Edinburgh Drug Advice Centre (NEDAC)

In 2011, 103 carers received a CAP card to use independently of a support agency. 47 of these carers participated in a review which
documented the CAP scheme to be assisting with an improvement in their health and wellbeing.

Anecdotal evidence also shows the benefit of the scheme with carers saying:
• “Since having the card, I have become a more healthy and stronger person; it stopped me getting depressed and anxious”
• “I had back surgery 3 years ago and had weakness in my legs since then swimming and occasional aquafit sessions have greatly improved my leg weakness.”

Lessons Learned

In 2014 the scheme will conduct a training needs analysis that will highlight where organisations feel that they need to expand their knowledge bases. This may mean providing disability inclusion training for sport, sport leader awards or basic physical activity training.

Using these challenges as part of the planning process will allow the scheme to grow with an increase in people using the programme.

What's next for the project?

The scheme will continue to transform over the next few years, reflecting the needs of the organisations in the scheme. At the CAP conference 2014 developments will be announced such as Twilight Gym and Swim sessions, extension of the individual referral programme, and the launch of new disability training opportunities. This aims to reflect the consultation with the agencies but also to provide much need capacity into the delivery of physical activity and sport.

The scheme in partnership with Autism Initiative will be launching a brand new toolkit to help support adults with autism to be more active.

Key challenges will continue to be in the organisations capacity to use physical activity within their service. In the 2013 survey 74% or respondents highlighted that funding restricted how much physical activity and support could be delivered.

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Community Inclusion Officer


Edinburgh Leisure

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