23 May 2017

Hounslow Hawks Football Club, managed by the Occupational Therapy Service at West London Mental Health NHS Trust and partly-funded by the trust’s charity, has been nominated for a ‘Best Inclusive Project’ FA Community Award for encouraging participation from all regardless of age, sex, race or disability, as well as for championing social inclusion schemes within the Hounslow community.

The FA Community Awards recognise and reward grassroots clubs, coaches and volunteers across the country that keep the spirit of football alive. Categories are initially judged at a county and regional level before a national shortlist is announced.

Hounslow Hawks FC provides football as therapy for service users living with a mental illness and has been running under the guidance of the trust’s Occupational Therapy Technician Michelle Nielson for 10 years. Service users receive weekly football training and attend monthly league matches, and the project aims to reduce stigma surrounding mental health, maintain psychological wellbeing and help prevent re-admission to acute services.

Michelle Nielson, Occupational Therapy Technician at West London Mental Health NHS Trust, said: “We are absolutely thrilled to be nominated and recognised by the FA Community Awards. Hounslow Hawks has been incredibly important in supporting the mental health recovery and development of our service users, who always look forward to getting on the pitch and winning matches for their team.

“This nomination has given us a huge boost and will push us to continue the fight against mental health stigma. Football has become more than just a game for our community, it is now a way to relax, develop new skills and feel less alone.”

Elizabeth Rantzen, Non-Executive Director and Chair of West London Mental Health NHS Trust charity committee, said: “It is very exciting that a project funded by West London Mental Health NHS Trust’s own charity has flourished and been acknowledged by the FA Community Awards. It proves that community-based initiatives like Hounslow Hawks FC are often the crucial thread tying physical and mental health together, which in turn gives our service users the support and motivation they need to recover.”

Over the last year, Hounslow Hawks has been receiving coaching from Brentford Football Club Sports Community Trust. The club will now be focussing on their next pilot, which is running in conjunction with Brentford Football Club Community Sports Trust, Middlesex Football Association and Hestia. The pilot will see Hounslow Hawks further its reach and welcome anyone in the community to its grounds for 12-18 weeks, offering a mix of football and socialising from 8 June at Osterley Goals Centre.

Winners for the FA Community Awards will be announced at the Middlesex FA Annual Presentation Evening on Friday 26 May.