Report Reveals That Disabled Children Take Part In Less Sport Than Their Able-Bodied Counterparts

The results of the first survey of young disabled people’s participation in, and attitudes towards, sport have just been revealed in a report. Young people with physical, learning, sensory, and/or multiple disabilities between the ages of 6 – 16 were surveyed.

Running throughout the survey is the fact that, overall, sporting participation rates for disabled young people are much lower than for young people in general. Although Sport England is pumping millions of pounds into improving opportunities for disabled people, this survey shows that much more needs to be done to bring sporting participation rates among young disabled people up to the same level as the general population of young people.

Another striking fact to emerge from the survey is although that aspiration to play sport is high among young disabled people, opportunities are not. “I am delighted that it has been recognized that the participation of disabled people is not as high as the non disabled population,” said Tanni-Grey Thompson OBE and Paralympian gold medalist. “We need to tackle the situation now to allow opportunities to be improved at all levels and to provide a range of sporting chances to be given to all youngsters both within and beyond the education system. I hope that this report will contribute towards improving our record in the future.”

The ‘Survey of Young People with a Disability and Sport’ identified that:

  • Over a quarter of young disabled people had not taken part frequently, i.e. at least 10 times, in any sports, either in or out of school, in the last year. This compares to 6% of the overall population of young people.
  • 10% of disabled young people had not taken part in any school sport at all during the past year.
  • Less than one hour a week was spent on PE in school lessons by 53% of primary aged and 41% of secondary aged disabled young people.
  • 36% of disabled young people had not taken part frequently, i.e. at least 10 times, in any sports in school during the past year.
  • Young people with a disability educated at special schools were more likely to participate in sport than those in mainstream schools (at least once in the last year – 93% vs. 89%, and at least 10 times – 69% vs 59%).
  • Outside of school the proportion of young people with a disability taking part in sport at least 10 times in the last year was just 56% compared to 87% of young people in the general population.

The young people surveyed offered several reasons why they did not take part in more sport.

  • Only 10% of all young disabled people gave lack of motivation or desire to do sport as one of the reasons or the main reason that prevented them taking part in sport during the past year.

Barriers to taking part in sport identified by disabled young people included:

  • Lack of money, health issues, and the unsuitability of local sports facilities were all cited by 37% of respondents.
  • Unwelcoming staff and sports clubs were cited by 21% of respondents.
  • Local sports clubs not providing for people with their disability was cited by 32% of respondents. This, coupled with the above 37% who cited the unsuitability of local facilities for their disability, demonstrates that there are large gaps in sports provision for disabled young people.
  • Discrimination from the general public or their own inhibitions was cited by 19% of respondents.
  • Lack of other people’s time, e.g. to take them to sports clubs, was cited by 21% of respondents.

Sports Minister, Richard Caborn MP, said: “The Government recognizes that more needs to be done to provide opportunities for people with disabilities, particularly the young, to get involved with sport. We believe that sport is a powerful tool for addressing many of the problems of social inclusion and the Government’s Plan for Sport makes it clear that equality for all will be at the heart of our policies for the future development of sport in this country.

“This survey reinforces the need for all those involved in the provision of sports facilities and opportunities to pay particular attention to ensuring that they are fully accessible to disabled people and that suitable provision is made to enable them to participate and realize their full potential.

“The success and popularity of swimming and horse riding revealed by the survey is a fine example that other sports should aspire to in giving youngsters a chance to play sport.”

On the positive side, the survey revealed that participation in both swimming and horse riding in school lessons was higher amongst young disabled people than in the overall population of young people. Other popular sports for disabled young people, undertaken both in and out of school, included: football, netball, cycling, cricket and basketball.

“Sport England wants to work towards eliminating discrimination and providing better quality sport for disabled people,” said Tim Marshall, member of Sport England and spokesman on disability issues.

“That is why we commissioned this first ever survey into finding out sports participation amongst young people with a disability.
“The results of the survey show that there is still a long way to go before disabled youngsters reach the same levels of sporting participation and have the same sporting opportunities as the general population of young people.

“Alongside the funding and initiatives we are already carrying out in the field of disability sport, Sport England will use these findings to continue to work alongside the English Federation of Disability Sport (EFDS), governing bodies of sport and other organizations to increase and improve the sporting opportunities for disabled people of all ages.

Presently Sport England funds the EFDS to the tune of 1million a year to enable it to increase sporting choices for disabled people across the country. Recently Sport England gave the EFDS 1 million to launch the Inclusive Fitness Initiative. This is a pilot scheme which will be putting fitness equipment for the disabled in 30 local authority gyms across the country.

“We see this research as being a major step forward on the path to improving sporting opportunities for disabled people,” said Colin Chaytors, Chief Executive of the EFDS.

“For the first time ever we have concrete figures on sporting participation rates among young people with a disability, the sports they most enjoy and the difficulties they face.

“These results are quite sobering and show that there is a lot of work urgently required to encourage disabled youngsters of the benefits and enjoyment to be gained from participating in sport. At the same time we need to do more work with those providing sporting opportunities to remove the barriers to disabled youngsters playing sport.

” As well as working with the EFDS, Sport England is also funding a sporting project for people with a disability in Kent. This is the only national pilot scheme to develop rural disability sport and offers cycling, walking, climbing, riding, archery, sailing, rowing, skiing and canoeing.

One of the underlying principles of the Sport England Lottery fund is our commitment to provide equality of access to sport for all people. Within its Strategy, Investing for our Sporting Future, Sport England pledges to ensure that all projects, where practicable, provide full access for disabled people. In addition Sport England has set itself targets to encourage projects which specifically benefit disabled people.

Following on from these headline findings, Sport England will be publishing a full report of the survey on its website in the near future. Also, later in the year the results of the first ever survey into disabled adults’ participation in sport will be published by Sport England.

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