Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) has launched a report into the impact of lockdown on its members. COVID-19 has forced the closure of all RDA groups around the UK, leaving many disabled people unable to access regular exercise and social activities. The report shows significant negative impact on physical and mental wellbeing, confidence levels and social skills.
Over 3000 members of the RDA community took part in the study, including disabled participants, family members, carers, teachers and RDA volunteers. Among participants, 80% said that being unable to access RDA has had a negative impact on their physical wellbeing, 77% say the same is true of their mental wellbeing, 59% have noticed a drop in confidence 51% say it has affected their social skills.
Paula Thomas rides at Penniwells RDA in London. “Before lockdown, going to the yard was my only outlet for physical activity and social interaction away from my home and full time work. I now work from home, home educate my daughter and have lost my main outlet of enjoyment. I have no form of physical activity. I feel like my motivation has ebbed away and truly miss the camaraderie of the whole team. It shouldn’t be underestimated what impact the necessary closure of RDA establishments has had on its riders, staff and volunteers. It is so much more than a riding stables and has had a far reaching impact on us all.”
As well as the significant impact on physical and mental wellbeing, the report also highlights the invaluable role played by RDA groups in helping their communities through lockdown. With many RDA members – including volunteers – reliant on RDA for a socialising and friendships, groups around the UK have been adapting their activities to help members stay in touch.
Zoom quizzes and photos of the horses might seem like just a bit of fun, but the report shows that these connections make a real difference in how people are coping with the current situation. Over 70% of participants said their RDA group had been important, quite important or vital in helping them during lockdown.
The study also asked members about their concerns about returning to RDA activity when the time comes. Over a quarter of participants and their support networks do have some worries. These range from personal concerns about fitness and confidence levels, to the practicalities of social distancing and hygiene.
RDA UK carried out the research in order to understand how prolonged closure would affect its community, and also to help with the support and preparations for restarting activities when possible. Right now, only a handful of RDA’s 500 groups have been able to reopen, offering riding activities only to those who do not require any additional support.
With many groups struggling financially without regular income or fundraising events, RDA is launching a second phase of nationwide fundraising. The ‘Resilience’ campaign reflects the differing needs of groups around the UK: those in immediate financial risk, those adapting their services during lockdown and those planning for restart.
Read the report here.
For more information and to donate to the campaign visit rda.org.uk.