A University of Brighton (UoB) independent evaluation of the Compass Card Project in Brighton & Hove and West Sussex highlights health and social benefits for disabled 0 to 25s, as well as savings on leisure. Social, physical and mental health impacts were all felt to be important by parents and young people who were surveyed or interviewed as part of the study.
Run by Sussex-based charity Amaze, the Compass Card provides discounts at more than 300 venues across Sussex and is free to 0 to 25s with significant additional needs living or going to school in Brighton & Hove or West Sussex. To get a card, families need to register on the ‘disability register’ for Brighton & Hove or West Sussex. The registers are held by Amaze and collated, anonymised data from the registers helps to plan services in the two local authority areas.
The UoB evaluation used focus groups with parent carers and young people, a survey (completed by 469 families), one to one interviews and a secondary analysis of surveys conducted by Amaze.
Well used and valued
The evaluation found the Compass Card is well used and well valued. 93% of survey respondents said fun and leisure was extremely important or very important; 96% said they’d recommend the Compass Card to family and friends; half said they use the card at least monthly and a quarter used it at least weekly; 81% said they’d access fewer leisure activities if they were without it.
“The Compass Card gives my child the opportunity to enjoy outings and activities I’d never even think of trying and really significantly improves their quality of life” said one parent.
What people value most
Asked what they thought were the most important things about having a Compass Card, saving money came out top at 77% while 58% valued the extra things that come with the card like free tickets, free Compass Days and theatre offers. But there were lots of other things families thought were important too. 63% valued the fact that Compass Card venues have a better understanding of special educational needs and disabilities, 57% said they felt more welcome at Compass Card venues, 54% liked not having to explain the Compass Card holder’s additional needs, 40% thought getting news about leisure through the regular Compass e-newsletters was important, 37% valued being on the Compass disability registers because it helped shape local services and in West Sussex 14% cited being able to use the Compass Card as a library card.
It’s worth mentioning the disability registers that underpin the Compass Project. As mentioned above, 37% of survey respondents thought this was important. “They give me so much I get a breakdown by age, ward, sex, condition so I have enough” said one organisation that benefited from data, while a parent commented “Our children should become identified and we would be forgotten otherwise.”
Importantly, the savings on the Compass Card also means families can do more things together and try new things out. 87% of survey respondents said the card allowed the whole family to do more things together, 64% said Compass Card holders were able to try new activities and 58% said they could do more of their usual ones. 87% of surveyed families said having a Compass Card made them more aware of activities they hadn’t known about before.
Engaging with leisure activities brings wider benefits for Compass Card families. 71% said it helped the whole family feel a better sense of belonging or feeling part of the community, 71% said it improved the card holder’s mental health, 66% said it improved or maintained the physical fitness of the card holder, 64% said it improved the card holder’s confidence and 54% said it helped them with social skills. As one young person observed, it’s more than the activity itself: “I like to be active. Doing the Compass Card activity is fun, but it also gets me out to go there, so I get a walk to the activity and I get to do the activity.”
This quote from a parent carer brings the social benefit of the card into sharp relief. “We live in a world where disabilities aren’t included sometimes …the Compass Card, it allows people to be accepted.”
Impact on parent carers
Just as there were benefits for the whole family in having a Compass Card, parent carers also benefited directly. 80% of those surveyed said the card had increased their own confidence about using leisure facilities and 70% said it helped improved their own sense of belonging or feeling part of the local community.
If you’d like to read the University of Brighton’s full report, you can see it here.