Northern Ireland’s Disability League, which is run by the Irish FA Foundation, has been given a major boost.
Social enterprise organisation USEL, which helps people with disabilities or health conditions find employment, has become the foundation’s strategic partner for the league.
USEL chief executive Bill Atkinson said: “As Northern Ireland’s largest supporter of people with disabilities or health conditions into employment we continuously look for innovative ways to improve and enhance the services for our participants.
“We have seen the benefits of incorporating physical and social activity into the programmes we deliver across Northern Ireland so we are delighted to have become the strategic partner for the Disability League and look forward to engaging and working with all involved.”
Michael Boyd, the Irish FA’s Director of Football Development, who heads up the foundation, added: “As a relatively new charity we have a lot to offer the worlds of health, education and employability. We work with around 70,000 people on a weekly basis through our Football For All programmes, 5000 of whom have a disability.
“We have 60 staff based around the country delivering sports for all, health and education programmes.”
He said the partnership with USEL, which supports up to 1200 people every year to find or sustain employment, was “an exciting new development”. Apart from the Disability League the organisations will work together on employability programmes going forward.
The Director of Football Development added: “It will enable us to do more for people with disabilities, promoting football for all, health and wellbeing as well as new pathways to employment.
“This is a classic win-win scenario and we are very excited about formalising this partnership with USEL as they do some amazing work transforming lives in the community.”
Both organisations said they were looking forward to sharing their expertise in order to create opportunities for those with a disability or health condition through structured employability, health and social inclusion programmes.
They said the aim of the wider tie-up will be to upskill and empower, to champion ability and to create pathways into employment and a life-long relationship with physical activity and sport.
The partnership was announced as this year’s Disability League got under way at the Zest pitches at the Valley Leisure Centre in Newtownabbey.