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Merton Mencap has been shortlisted alongside Street Tag and Bexley Mencap
Merton Mencap has been shortlisted alongside Street Tag and Bexley Mencap

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London Sport Awards 2021 nominees: Tech and Digital Award - Merton Mencap

MERTON Mencap’s set of innovative initiatives throughout the Covid-19 pandemic have seen the charity nominated in the London Sport Awards. 

Merton Mencap, who help people of all ages with learning disabilities and autism, is one of the final three nominees for The Tech and Digital Award, in association with Sport Tech Hub and Loughborough University London – set to be announced at the Guildhall on December 6.

The origins of Merton Mencap date back to 1946, with registration as a charity coming in 1964. The group aim to increase their users’ opportunities and choice through promoting their inclusion in their community. 

Mencap is an independent charity and raises all its own funds, with 25 clubs run for people with learning disabilities and autism in Merton. 

The charity turned to new creative methods to keep its users connected during lockdown, with Merton Mencap TV racking up 800 views since its launch in June 2020. 

And Peter Boucher, one of those who filmed the on-demand fitness videos to keep people moving, said: “One of the things from Merton Mencap is for people to be as independent as possible to help them to actually be participants within their social areas. 

“To be able to do different kinds of activities, it’s also a way for adults and carers to get a form of respite and support with the people that they’re actually caring for. 

“Merton Mencap tried to keep their one-to-one and face-to-face activities, but when that wasn’t possible, they started to devise online activities for their customers and clients just to remain involved and to be visual with those that they’re working for and to be still part of the community with their peers. 

“A lot of them were sports – they developed the sports programme so they could do on demand fitness when they liked, for when they wanted. It was really important to keep people active and remain positive throughout this pandemic.” 

Over the last five years, the annual London Sport Awards, in association with the City of London Corporation, has grown to become the biggest celebration of grassroots physical activity and sport in the city.  

And this year’s showpiece event will once again recognise, celebrate and shine a light on the stories of the incredible individuals, groups, and organisations for their outstanding work across the capital, helping Londoners of all ages and backgrounds to be physically active.

Another of those responsible for the filming of Merton Mencap’s morale-boosting fitness videos during lockdown was Radek Switalski.

And he said: “We’ve been running the weekly online activities since the pandemic started in early spring last year.  

“So, we started in April 2020, and we carried on until summer 2021, the situation changed dramatically, so we had to do something to adapt ourselves to the situation that was going on. 

“We came up with ideas to provide online activities to stay in touch with our service users, members, parents and carers – it was a really successful project.” 

Since the summer, members have been able to return to face-to-face classes, something which Alex Davey, who helps run the in-person fitness sessions, is delighted to have back.

He added: “Our members are really pleased to be back and seeing each other in person, everyone is having fun doing the activities. 

“All the staff are really pleased to have them back and it’s been really good because the group have been able to access the online sessions as well. 

“Everyone has worked so hard and been so creative. It means a lot for everyone’s hard work to pay off.”

Words: Tom Masters (Sportsbeat)

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