News release – Football league tackling mental health issues wins FA award

News release – Football league tackling mental health issues wins FA award

Creative Support’s Social Inclusion Football League has won ‘Project of the Year’ in the first ever Lancashire FA Annual Awards.

Hosted by Old Trafford Stadium Announcer, Alan Keegan, the gala celebration was held to honour and thank all those who have helped football flourish throughout Lancashire.

The ‘Project of the Year’ award was presented to Paul Hardman, Debra Gago and Cathryn O’Meara from Creative Support’s Blackburn Social Inclusion team during the event at Bolton Whites Hotel.

The concept of the League began in 2009 when Creative Support was awarded the Social Inclusion Contract by Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council and Paul, who is a mental health practitioner, set up a weekly, inclusive football session.

The weekly sessions became more and more popular and Paul decided to add a competitive element by setting up a friendly five-aside between Creative Support and the James Street Project in Darwen. That first match was a huge success with both teams bringing along a crowd of supporters.

“I really felt we were on to something with the football sessions. I could see the benefits around both physical and mental health, social interaction and peer support. Our CEO, Anna Lunts backed us with funding so the weekly sessions could grow into the league we have now, providing competitive football for community groups and people affected by mental health issues, substance misuse, homelessness, unemployment and social isolation,” said Paul.

“It is a real boost that the FA has recognised the league in this way and the important role football can play in improving lives through encouragement, hope and a sense of belonging,” he added.

“Along with our Board of Trustees, I am absolutely thrilled that commitment shown by Paul and our team in Blackburn has been recognised by the Lancashire FA. This award is a testament to their belief in the league and their hard work and determination to make it such a success,” said Anna Lunts, Creative Support CEO.

As well as hosting peer support courses, coaching qualifications and community events, the Social Inclusion Football League has also created two peer-led projects – Blokes United and Girls United. These two groups offer football and social opportunities in an inclusive and supportive environment for those experiencing social isolation or the early signs of depression and anxiety.



Creative Support’s Paul Hardman (centre back row) with Blackburn Social Inclusion Team Leader Debra Gago (next right) and Support Worker Cathryn O’Meara (next right) pictured with players, volunteers, other nominees and representatives from European Communications who sponsored the award.



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Sally Wheatman

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Telephone 0161 236 0829



Notes to Editors:

Creative Support Limited is a Registered Society under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Act 2014, providing a range of person-centered services for people with mental health needs, learning disabilities and other support needs. Founded in 1990, Creative Support has gained an excellent reputation for its dynamic approach, strong values, and commitment to quality. The organisation is one of the largest national not-for-profit providers of prevention and care services in the country, working in 70 local authority areas, employing 5,600 staff and supporting 7,000 people.