Neil Cameron Sport Works

In Conversation With: Neil Cameron, Sport Works

Since its inception in 2009, Sport Works has provided support to more than 35,000 people across the UK.

By partnering with corporate companies, it is continuing to expand its presence and impact all across the country.

Sport Works harnesses the power of sport to help people reach their full potential.

From children with disabilities to disadvantaged adults, families with financial difficulties and even care homes looking to keep their residents active – there’s no limit to who Sport Works support.

By taking a tailor-made approach to address the individual needs of their beneficiaries, Sport Works helps people reengage with education and find employment.

All their initiatives carefully consider the challenges individuals face in order to create bespoke initiatives.

Sport Works at work

We spoke to Group Director Neil Cameron to understand who Sport Works helps, how it works and how it’s continuing to support people and communities in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Who do sport works support?

“We work with over 3,000 people each year across England, with a focus on supporting some of the most vulnerable people in society, such as children living in poverty, adults with disabilities and older people with long term health conditions.  This includes people in care homes.

“We also work with young people and adults who are either unemployed or removed from mainstream education.

“NEET is an acronym widely used means ‘Not in Education, Employment or Training’ – it’s those who are at highest risk of becoming unemployed.”

Sport Works

How many people across society could benefit from Sport Works?

“I think it’s fair to say that we’re currently only scratching the surface in terms of the number of people who fall into that ‘vulnerable’ or ‘disadvantaged’ category.”

"There are a lot more people out there that we could, or should be, supporting and this the key reason why, as an organisation, Sport Works are growing our programmes across the UK"

“In particular, we know youth unemployment in certain areas of the country is still on the increase, as is within much of the disabled community.

“The Covid-19 crisis will most likely have a significant impact on the numbers of people out of work, with some reports suggesting over 1 million young people will be affected by the end of 2020.”

How do you help people get back into education or find work?

“The name Sport Works can be misleading in a way.  We’re not seeking to create the next David Beckham or Usain Bolt.

“We recognise that the learners that come to us typically struggle in a traditional classroom setting, so by using sport we are able to engage them, enthuse them and motivate them.

“Some come to us with mental health challenges, so the benefits of exercise and physical activity are really intertwined in what we deliver.

“The role of sport helps learners to channel their energy and attention in a positive, constructive way, to provide a mechanism to express themselves positively”

Sport Works trainees in action


“Sport is a great way for our tutors to build rapport and trust with a learner, before supporting them academically through a number of qualifications, in sport but also English, Maths and Employability.”

“Our efforts are ultimately focused on guiding learners towards the jobs market.

“We know sport has a unique ability to engage learners in a way that perhaps traditional schooling has failed to.”

How do you recognise that people need your help and how do you get them engaged with the programme?

“Working in partnership is key.  We are not the be-all and end-all in terms of getting a person from point A to point Z.

“It is a multi-agency approach that’s needed. That includes local authorities and social services in many instances, the care and residential homes where we work with individuals – or for younger people, schools and colleges.”

Sport Works trainees in action

“There is actually a wide network of organisations who refer learners to us.  A key part of our role is to make sure that we are visible and are known to those organisations.

“For organisations working with disadvantaged young people, for example, they need to know about the viable alternatives to traditional schooling.

“For those who are referred to us by care services we believe our role is to act as a stepping stone to support them to transition back into employment or education.”

What are the misconceptions about the people that you work with?

“I believe that, other than a very small percentage, the average person we work with is intrinsically motivated to progress in life, to get better and to contribute to society, whether that be providing the best start for their children or entering the world of work for the first time, the average person wants to do well.”

I suppose the misconception of some of the people we work with is that they may be lazy, demotivated or overly reliant on state support. But I would challenge that.

“I think the challenge is not the individual, it’s about challenging how that person views their opportunities to progress.

“It’s giving that person a pathway that reflects and respects the fact that they’ve got multiple challenges in their life, but harnesses their motivation to get on and do well.”

What is the power of sport and how does it help?

“The benefits of sport and physical activity are well known in terms of not only physical health but mental health as well.

“We know that people who regularly participate in sport have a better self-image, they’ve greater levels of resilience and increased motivation to address challenges in their life.

“A lot of the people who come to us have issues with anxiety or are clinically depressed. Just that endorphin release from going for a run or doing something physical can make you feel better. If you feel well, you’re more inclined to take action and progress in life.”

 

“As I said before, our work is not about creating the next David Beckham, it’s about helping people feel good about themselves internally, which then gives them the motivation to see past the difficulties they may be facing and look towards the future”

Team Sport Works

Looking to the Future

Sport Works has big ambitions and want to make their programmes accessible to 12,000 people every year by 2022.

In order to do this, they are currently seeking strategic, financial and operational partners to help them change people’s lives.

With a unique CSR model, corporate partners can benefit from national brand promotion, employee health and volunteering initiatives and direct access to more than 3,000 Sport Works beneficiaries.

To find out more:

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