EMD UK supports Dancing for Health CIC project to help Tackle Inequalities

EMD UK has been supporting more organisations with their projects to help tackle inequalities.  Sport England’s  Tackling Inequalities Fund (TIF) was made possible by National Lottery funding.  The funding enabled us to work with some of our partner organisations to support their projects linked to the Fund’s objectives – to help to reduce the negative impact of coronavirus and the widening of the inequalities in sport and physical activity.

One such project was set up by Tracey Barnes of Dancing for Health CIC to support people with long term health conditions and/or disabled people, with access to seated online exercise classes.  The project has helped widen reach by offering the sessions to participants in South Yorkshire, as well as Derbyshire, and aims to continue to keep the target groups active as restrictions ease and they build confidence to return to in-person activity.

The dance exercise programme also allows time before and after the online dance class for social engagement with the rest of the group to help participants increase their physical, mental and social well-being.

We were intrigued to find out more about how the project came about.  Tracey had been a dance teacher for a number of years, concentrating on technique and posture.  Two events inspired her to consider reaching more people who could benefit from her dance classes.  In particular, one of her class participants was a cancer patient who enjoyed the classes and when introduced to partner dancing found that as the weeks went on he was able to do more physically and attain his goal of learning to dance.  Secondly, Tracey herself sustained a back injury which caused her chronic pain and realised that certain dance movements would aid recovery.

Tracey then considered how her dance classes could help more cancer patients and their families and worked with the NGS Macmillan Unit at Chesterfield Royal Hospital, Weston Park Cancer Hospital and St Lukes Hospice in Sheffield to develop the concept.  A cancer diagnosis can lead to strained relationships between couples or increased stress levels in the patient, the carer and the bereaved.  A university study found that Tracey’s Dancing for Health classes helped reduce those stress levels and gave the carers a useful role in helping to support the patient.

Tracey’s programme is designed to improve the mobility of people with long term health conditions.  In her first year she delivered beginner and intermediate partner dance classes, including some 1-2-1 assisted classes. She also developed some seated dancing sessions for those with more challenging mobility issues. At the beginning of the pandemic TIF funding enabled her to continue to support her existing clients with a new online seated dancing programme.  She initially delivered 12 weeks of online classes reaching an average of 12-15 per class.  Additional TIF funding secured through EMD UK has enabled her to now expand her target audience and support groups in assisted living, people on their own and with their carers, the disabled community and also people in care homes.

Tracey is rightly proud of the feedback she has received, including from one of her participants who has had three strokes and, through these sessions, has gained enough movement back in her left arm to enable her to play the piano again.

Another lady was referred to Tracey through the social prescribing channels. She had lost her husband to Covid and was struggling with depression and adjusting to being alone after 35 years of marriage. She told Tracey –

‘Losing my husband to Covid has been a lot more difficult than you could imagine. Everything in my life has changed, it has affected everything I do. The daily news about Covid has also emphasised my grief and been a constant reminder which I can’t get away from, that my husband died because of Covid.  At first, I wasn’t sure about joining the seated dancing, but I found Tracey and the other participants very friendly and welcoming and now I look forward to the sessions each week.  I like the dancing, the music and having a chat with everyone.  It’s really enjoyable, the sessions have been really valuable during these difficult times. I feel more confident and I’m maintaining my fitness levels, which I’m very pleased about.’

Tracey herself is full of enthusiasm for her classes.  ‘It’s so rewarding when you are making a difference to people’s lives by providing a service which really benefits them.’

Her future plans include engaging with local councils and groups to extend the areas covered.  She hopes to train others in the Dancing for Health partnership and seated dancing techniques, as there is a high demand for these classes.  Tracey also wants to continue her online classes, including a free, one-hour class on Thursday afternoons which is as popular for the social interaction as it is for the dancing!

You can learn about our completed TIF projects here.

You can find out more about Dancing for Health CIC here