The Billy Project – What We Do
The Billy Project is a local project which is based at the award winning Unit 2 Fitness for Women Gym in Blackburn, Lancashire. The project offers a wide range of fitness activities which are targeted at inactive and vulnerable women based within the local area. We work with several referral partners such as Creative Support, Sliding Doors, The Wish Centre, Personalising Freedom, One Voice, Humraaz and many other local services to ensure that the Billy Project regularly reaches out to women who are currently already accessing services within Blackburn and Darwen.
The initial aim of The Billy Project was to provide a fully funded gym service to vulnerable women who were struggling with issues surrounding deprivation and poverty. Since 2016, our service has evolved and now works with our service users to tackle many more social issues such as loneliness, reducing isolation, the promotion of integration between communities, inactivity, obesity and helping to improve poor mental health. Our project workers have also undergone further training to help safeguard those who are vulnerable, reduce reoffending and prevent crime. We work closely with many other local organisations to provide referrals and signpost to other local services.
Our service also helps to empower and protect vulnerable women by providing emotional support and working in alignment with Blackburn with Darwen’s recommended safeguarding policy. We believe that the work that we undertake with the women who attend the project extends further than the individual themselves. Our service users report that the improvement in their overall health, esteem and wellbeing also helps to improve other aspects of their lives too, such as family life or having the confidence to apply for further education or a new job.
How did the Billy Project start?
The project itself is named after Billy Procter who was the father of the projects founder, Leanne. Despite winning his battle with lung cancer, Billy continued to suffer poor health and struggled with several disabilities. With very few services to assist him, Billy was housebound and completely reliant on family and friends for day to day care and emotional support. When Billy sadly passed away in 2015, Leanne began to think about other vulnerable members of the community who didn’t have the same level of support that Billy had, and the Billy Project was born!
The project began with just two project leaders, Leanne Procter and Nichola Whittle, both of whom are qualified gym instructors and personal trainers. Nichola also has a degree in sports and is an exercise referral expert. Nichola also has over 12 years’ experience of working with women with long term health conditions and disabilities. The project runs Monday- Wednesday 11am-5pm but can also be accessed outside these hours. Service users who are referred to The Billy Project receive a full gym induction which includes health and safety in the gym, a bespoke exercise and training plan and a dedicated personal trainer. The project also monitor weight and measurements if requested.
For service users with additional needs such as a learning or physical disabilities, The Billy Project can offer one to one support. We have fully trained staff who can provide the specialist training required for disabled service users. Unit 2 Fitness for Women, the base for The Billy Project, offers a fully accessible gym with equipment that is adjustable to suit all physical abilities. The gym is also fully wheelchair accessible. However, it is important to note that Unit 2 Fitness for Women is a separate entity to the project and has no affiliation with it.
As work with the project increasingly evolved from funded gym membership to face to face peer support, safeguarding and emotional support. It was clear that our vulnerable service users needed a service that offered a more holistic approach to deliver an improvement in overall wellbeing and health. Therefore, The Billy Project staff undertook several different training courses in order to better support the overall needs of our service users. These courses were provided by Blackburn with Darwen Council and covered supporting those with alcohol and drug abuse issues, supporting sex workers, recognising domestic violence, training those with a learning disability and safeguarding.
At the Billy Project, we believe that integrating women in a positive, empowering female environment has a positive impact on their attitude towards others. This is then taken home and passed down to children, family members and friends. Through the work that we do with our service users, women are interacting with people that they wouldn’t ordinarily meet in everyday life.
Many of the referral partners that we work with cater specifically for those with learning disabilities too. To help provide educational opportunities for those with disabilities, we are committed to ensuring that we provide specialist easy-read learning materials during our fitness courses and learning support for participants. We have enlisted to help of a trained easy read specialist to provide these resources.
The Billy Project also offers tailored health plans and meal plans for those with disabilities. Again, these can be provided is easy read format for those who require them.
Nichola, our trained nutritionist can offer bespoke meal plans and exercise packages for those who have specific health conditions to ensure that their specific health requirements can be met.
How to refer to the Billy Project
If you would like to access our services, or you know someone who would benefit from the Billy Project. You can contact us by completing a referral form. All of the information we receive is treated with the strictest confidence and in line with GDPR.
Some of our supporters
We have been lucky to receive funding from excellent organisations which has enabled us to continue the work that we do. The Billy Project would like to thank the following organisations for the support that they have offered us.