wheelchair archers and coaches

Paralympics is a chance to shine light on disability sport, say Sport England

August 26th 2021
Vicky Sartain

Sport England’s aim is for all disabled people to feel they have access to opportunities to enjoy sport and physical activity.

More than 70% of ParalympicsGB’s 227-strong squad are set to begin their medal hunt at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games having directly benefited from Sport England’s investment of National Lottery funding into their sporting careers. Via the charity SportsAid, Sport England has helped 166 athletes, guides, pilots and competition partners on their path to Tokyo.

Of those 166, nine have been recipients of Sport England’s Backing the Best fund, an investment that began in 2015, and is managed by SportsAid on their behalf. Its intention is to help those who would otherwise be hindered by financial costs from progressing through their sport’s development system and fulfilling their potential.

Inspiring the nation

In a blog first published by Inside the Games, Sport England’s chief executive Tim Hollingsworth, said: “More than any other sporting event, the Paralympics has the potential not just to excite, but inspire; to show us all not just the individual commitment, ambition and talent of the athletes themselves, but to challenge our perceptions of disability and of what is possible.

“That inspiration is much needed. The health and wellbeing benefits of playing sport and being active are central to our strategy at Sport England. Equally, they are increasingly part of the nation’s understanding of how we need not just to recover from the pandemic, but to change our behaviour as a result.”

As well as Sport England’s investment into talent programmes, which is highlighted by the number of SportsAid alumni selected for the Paralympic Games, it’s not just success in elite sport that affects participation at the grassroots level.

Tackling inequalities

As disabled people are twice as likely to be inactive than the rest of the population, with the pandemic just reinforcing existing inequalities, Sport England is continuing to focus on tackling inequalities as a key part of their Uniting the Movement strategy.

Tim said: “Lots of factors come in to play when considering what makes it possible and desirable for someone to see playing sport as a part of their everyday lives.”

Action plan

To make it easier for disabled people to get and stay active, Sport England is continuing to work with and invest in partners with the same aim.

Their £20 million Tackling Inequalities Fund has, so far, supported 3,760 organisations working with groups disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, with 1,400 of those directly supporting disabled people and those with long-term health conditions.

They also continue to fund the Activity Alliance, as well as several other regional disability sport-specific organisations and seven national bodies.

In addition to this, Sport England has launched a partnership with British Blind Sport and the Royal National Institute of Blind People, investing £1m in the See Sport Differently programme which develops grassroots participation opportunities for blind and partially-sighted people.

They are also working with Durham University and Disability Rights UK to pilot a workforce education programme that supports social workers to promote physical activity to disabled people.

Find out more about Sport England’s work in Mapping Disability, and see their Talent Plan here.

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