Charity Awards 2024

Brain Injury Matters (NI)

Using cycling to benefit brain injury survivors

Pedal Power is a physical activity programme for acquired brain injury survivors in Northern Ireland, run by Brain Injury Matters (NI), partnering with Sustrans NI.

Brain Injury MattersThe project gives individuals the opportunity to interact and socialise within their local community along local greenways through the medium of cycling on a side-by-side bicycle.

For a lot of people, acquired brain injury can cause difficulties with cognition, physical activity and movement, emotional and behavioural effects, social interactions, and communication. Research has highlighted the benefits of exercise after brain injury. Pedal Power helps to develop participants’ motor skills, offers visual stimulation, reduces the feelings of isolation and loneliness, and gives them a sense of belonging.

The idea for the programme came about in February 2019 following a number of taster sessions with Sustrans NI. After consultation with service users, a plan was put into place. Funding was secured in June 2019 and weekly sessions commenced in August. By March 2022, there had been 43. While Covid meant that activity was suspended for 18 months, funders were happy for funds to be held until it was possible to get back up and running.

Six service users can attend at a time, and a total of 20 adults with an acquired brain injury have taken part, as well as a team of six volunteers and three staff members trained to pilot the bike. A new tricycle has been added and the charity is now considering joining forces with a local able-bodied cycling club to become its para-cycling team. And, local health and social care trusts have agreed to fund the project through direct payments from this year, meaning it will become self-funding.

Another positive lesson learned is that a strong partnership with another organisation helps when applying for funding and also provides better governance around a project.

Awards judge Kris Murali said the charity was making a “significant difference” for its service user cohort.

Sarah Ellis said that the project’s strength lay in its wider impact among the staff and board and its integration into partner organisations’ structures. “If you’re building a programme, that’s a really important aspect of a project’s scalability and longer life,” she said.

CCNI Reg no. NIC103691