Calls to improve sporting opportunities for children with disabilities

One in two (50%) parents with a child with disabilities say their child does not feel comfortable taking part in sports with other children, according to a report by Variety, the Children’s Charity.

The report, ‘Sporting opportunities for children with disabilities: Is there a level playing field?’ analysed data from parents and staff collectively working with over 9,500 children in the UK. It also found:
  • Only one in five (19%) surveyed say their child plays sports with their friends.
  • Fewer than one in 10 (9%) respondents say their child takes part in sport through to a specialist club.
The report found two major barriers - social stigma and cost. The findings showed:
  • Over one-third (36%) of parents reported that their child had experienced negative social attitudes to their health problem or disability in relation to sport.
  • 4 out of 5 (76%) Special Educational Needs schools surveyed said facilities or equipment were a barrier to children participating in sports.
  • Two-thirds (66%) of mainstream schools said transportation was a barrier.
These barriers are having a profound impact on children with disabilities. Almost three-quarters (72%) of schools and children’s groups surveyed said that a lack of participation in sport contributed to social isolation, lack of confidence and reduced life experiences among children with disabilities. Teachers have reported how this lack of participation in sports lessons has a knock-on effect to a child’s confidence and their wider educational attainment. Variety released the report ahead of the World Para Athletic Championships to highlight how children with disabilities across the UK are being left behind when it comes to participating in sports and call for change. Sarah Nancollas, chief executive of Variety, said: “Whilst we were aware that many of these children faced barriers accessing sports. I am disappointed at how extensive this issue is. Variety has taken the first step in shining a spotlight on this issue and we’re calling for our peers and political stakeholders to consult with us so, together, we can level the playing field so all children with disabilities across the UK have a chance to participate in sports.”
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