Sports sector 'needs to do more' to get disabled people active
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Sports sector 'needs to do more' to get disabled people active

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The sport and physical activity sector needs to step up its game if it wants to help increase the number of disabled people taking part in activities.

New research shows that the sector could play a key role in getting disabled more active – but that it needs to improve awareness and access to facilities and services.

The research was based on an evaluation of the Get Yourself Active programme, a four-year initiative run by Disability Rights UK and funded by the National Lottery through Sport England.

It showed that the vast majority of disabled people (75 per cent) are simply unaware of what facilities are available to them, while one in five (21 per cent) said the cost of activities was a barrier for them to take part.

Inaccessible facilities – cited by 18 per cent of respondents – was also among the issues cited as things that got in the way of getting active.

“The benefits of sport and physical activity are well documented," said project coordinator Leanne Wightman from Disability Rights UK.

"However, there is a significant knowledge gap about these benefits as well as how and where you can get involved.

"This new research identifies some of the ways the health and social care and leisure sectors can better work with disabled people to improve access to local knowledge and provision.

“The research also suggests that regular physical activity could mean people are less likely to make demands on hard-pressed social care and health services.

"We do need more research on this, but the combination of benefits suggests that supporting disabled people to be more active doesn’t just improve the quality of life of disabled people; it also takes the pressure off the statutory sector.”

Tim Hollingsworth, Sport England Chief Executive, added: “The results of this research are welcome but not totally surprising.

"We know that too many disabled people face significant barriers in reaching these benefits and are twice as likely to be inactive compared with non-disabled people. Sport England is determined to turn this picture around.

“To do that the whole sector must take on the challenge to think differently about the services they provide and the way they provide them, putting disabled people at the heart of decision making, all while ensuring they have consistent information and support from health and social workers, to access the clear benefits of regular sport and physical activity.”

The Get Yourself Active project saw disability organisations working with a range of local organisations – including health and social care professionals and sport and leisure providers, as well as with disabled people directly – to create sporting and activity opportunities for them.

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The sport and physical activity sector needs to step up its game if it wants to help increase the number of disabled people taking part in activities.
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