EMD UK supports project to offer free online dance and yoga programmes via easily accessible platform
Synergy Dance® Outreach (SDO) has been supported by EMD UK to develop and launch a national all-inclusive online platform offering free, easily accessible dance and yoga programmes for all ages. The project, designed to minimise the impact of COVID-19 on activity levels of people from under-represented groups, was made possible by receiving funding of £17,000 from Sport England’s Tackling Inequalities Fund. This amount was allocated from the £20m which had been assigned to the Tackling Inequalities Fund by the National Lottery.
Founder of SDO, Rachael Hurton, is rightly proud of what they achieved in recording 174 online classes and keeping within budget. She has written a guest blog for us to explain the vision behind it all and how they are transforming lives –
Synergy Dance® provide innovative dance and yoga activities in schools and leisure centres, serving both mainstream and the special needs and disability community. At Synergy, no one is left behind.
Synergy Dance® Outreach – the charity arm of Synergy – was set up to meet local need and create positive change, removing barriers to enable people experiencing disadvantage or marginalisation to improve physical and mental health and wellbeing through accessible, inclusive and fun dance, fitness, yoga, singing and related activities. Our beneficiaries include older people, adults, those with special educational needs and other disadvantaged people, children and young people. Inclusivity is vital to us and we aim to ensure that neither finance, fitness, ability, disability nor family circumstance are barriers to participation.
When COVID-19 forced a national lockdown, here at Synergy, we carried on and did not stop in an effort to continue to reach our service users who needed our activities even more. Funds were down, but that didn’t stop us, and we also wanted to keep our loyal team of talent in work and they all rose to the challenge of online delivery.
As weeks became months, and COVID-19 remained a high risk, I wanted to provide an all-inclusive online platform to host a diverse programme of online dance and yoga classes. I wanted it to be something completely new to minimise the impact of coronavirus on the activity levels of people from under-represented groups, ensuring that the participation gaps did not widen during this period. I was keen to address inequalities in health and fitness uptake.
The lessons are new, fun, and tailored to each type of group. The platform includes courses for children, teens, adults and the elderly – who may choose from a wide range of activities and courses to keep fit, social and active for five main categories:
- Special needs including autism and cerebral palsy
- Visually impaired and blind
- The disability community
- Long term health conditions
- The elderly
Our dance and yoga programmes are free for all ages via an easily accessible online platform. There is a variety of classes to choose from, including our bespoke brands seated Para Stars Dance™ and ParaStars Yoga®, and we innovated a new style of delivery with Synergy Audio Yoga™ and Synergy Audio Dance™. We had already built a platform for mainstream activities, funded by Synergy mainstream, which reached global audiences during the first lockdown.
You can view a taster of our platform and vision, incorporating our #TogetherWeCan campaign, here: https://youtu.be/p9sX5iid5NI
With the rise of our audio content, a partnership with British Blind Sport soon followed, and Synergy now provide regular audio and live content for this wonderful charity and many others, who work so hard to provide a varied programme of activities for their members.
Why do we need home-based exercise?
Our home-based on-demand exercise is especially suitable for those with disabilities, special needs, long term health conditions or for health referrals, as transport, lack of mobility and low incomes can be a real barrier to taking part.
It’s widely accepted that obesity and inactivity are on the rise. In 2017, 30% of children aged 2 to 15 were overweight or obese and 65% of adults. Many children and adults are not getting their one hour of activity a day. On the mental health side, there are increasing numbers of children and young people with emotional and behavioural disorders – in 2017, one in eight children had at least one mental health disorder, hospitals seeing an increase in self-harm, depression and other mental health admissions and CAHMS referrals. Physical health is intrinsically linked to mental well-being.
What the stats say
Not everyone is suited to team or competitive sports. Disabled people are twice as likely to be inactive as non-disabled people with 53% saying this is due to “no activities suitable for me” and 46% saying “fear of not being welcome or no suitable environment”.
- For people with disabilities, according to the charity Scope, of the 14.1 million disabled people in the UK, 8% are children, 19% are working age adults, and 45% are of pension age. Put simply, nearly 1 in 5 has some form of disability.
- For Visually Impaired people, RNIB 2020 sight loss data shows there are currently 2,140,000 people in the UK with sight loss (1,820,000 England), comprising
- 283,000 with severe sight loss (blindness) (242,000 in England)
- 477,000 with partial sight (406,000 in England)
- 1,380,000 with mild sight loss (1,170,000 in England).
- For the elderly: According to Age UK, there are 3 million people in the UK aged 60 and above– a figure set to pass the 20 million mark by 2030.
Reports suggest that loneliness and mental health issues are on the rise, which is no surprise given the necessary COVID-19 restrictions which have been enforced in the last year. Synergy wanted to encourage suitable fitness opportunities for the aging population as we felt the participation gaps were likely to widen during this period – with care home and residential Outreach activities on pause.
Most of us can just go out to exercise – walking, running, cycling etc – to keep fit at the moment – but those who are chair bound or who lack mobility, are far more restricted at this time and many have to stay shielding at home.
Research also shows the inactivity problem is worse among people with low socioeconomic status and this results in health inequalities which cost the public purse. The aim of our platform was to provide easy to access activities, with many free courses to encourage sustainable health behaviour changes – all made possible with the funding from Sport England/National lottery and partnership with EMD UK.
What does the future hold?
Our platform was designed to use technology that will enable easy onboarding of members to train and work their way through our carefully designed programmes which were created in consultation with service users to meet the widest possible spectrum of needs.
We know already from feedback and our market research that there is a growing need for the inclusive services we deliver, and research shows this to commonly be the case nationally. Our new platform enables us to support a more diverse range of needs from long term health conditions to different age groups of wheelchair users, which will make a significant difference and resilience to fear, anxiety and isolation, which is likely to be at an all-time low. Diversity of delivery has always been my vision – hence the name – Synergy.
Both our online and face to face programmes can help reduce inactivity and the consequent cost to health and social care in the UK by providing fun, online activities to do at home or in communal, face to face settings. This will help reduce the financial burden on health and social care and provide great value for money.
Our platform of classes will continue to evolve and innovate on a monthly basis – to continue to provide the upbeat and inclusive classes to motivate our members to keep fit and keep going – in what has been an exceptional year for us all.
To find out more, become a Synergy teacher, join our training programme or to book a class visit our websites:
For partnership enquiries please contact firstname.lastname@example.org