What is SUDS (South Gloucestershire Union of Disability Sport)?
The very first meeting of the SGSDF (as it was originally called) took place on Wednesday 1st April 1998. At the first meeting Sportability training and work with special schools was discussed. It seems our priorities have changed little since. Betty Fooks the council's Community Sports & Leisure Manager was the Forum's instigator and driving force in its early days. For Betty the Forum was not just about good PR for the council she had a genuine belief in what it was trying to achieve.
Over the next 2 years the Forum's goals became clearer.
- Raising awareness of equality issues
- Creating links
- Collating information
To this end an audit was done of all South Gloucestershire's sports clubs to see if they offered opportunities to the disabled. Clubs offering good opportunities were then helped to make links with local schools. To raise awareness of issues the leisure centres all provided disability reps to spread good practice and act as a main point of contact for users with special needs.
South Gloucestershire is lucky to have a good number of committed volunteers but even with this great resource not everyone with a special need was getting the opportunities they wanted. To address this it was decided we needed to do two things. Firstly highlight existing sessions better, secondly start new sessions were none existed.
In November 2000 the Forum held the first Access to leisure day to take these issues head on. 18 different activities and 14 information displays gathered at Bradley Stoke Leisure Centre. Over 500 people attended with many joining new clubs. A number of links made that day are still in place three years later.
Since then access events for football, sportability boccia, New Age Curling, bowls, tennis, and athletics have all taken place through the Forum with hundreds of disabled people involved. A number of coaches have also been scholarshiped specifically to work with disabled sportspeople.
Over 2002 a number of Forum members started to get concerned that everything was being driven through the same few members and others were feeling left out. This was reflected in decreasing attendance at Forum meetings. It was decided to repeat the Access to Leisure Day to re-motivate the members. As this felt almost like a fresh start for the group it was decided to re-brand the group and applying for lottery funding.
So in September 2003 SUDS (South Gloucestershire Union of Disability Sports) was born. We also successfully applied for an Awards for All Grant of £5,000 to run the access day and produce a directory of local opportunities.
SUDS has now developed an action plan through which we try to deliver our main goals.
We have attracted considerable funding (notably through the support of Bristol University and UWE's rag) to run our multi sport sessions for disabled children and their siblings. Recently we have started a scholarship scheme to support performance athletes and are developing this website to share information.
We increasingly work hand in hand with BUDS our Bristol counterparts and hold joint meetings several times a year.
A number of exciting developments may shape our future notably a potential disability academy at Filton College, an annual special schools programme nad increasing work with mainstream clubs. Developing disabled coaches and role models is also a goal. Ultimately though the future will be decided by our membership and we are always keen to get new people involved.