Disabled people have been disproportionally impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, accounting for two-thirds of deaths and huge reductions in welfare support. Exactly when public health officials are urging regular physical activity, disabled people have become further excluded – with reduced access to indoor leisure facilities, disabled people more likely to be shielding, more likely to be experiencing financial hardship and more likely to be suffering declining physical and mental health. It is time to put a spotlight on the serious issues disabled people and their families/carers are facing right now.

We share Activity Alliance’s serious concerns about the potential long-term damage on disabled people’s lives as we re-build from the pandemic. Before the Covid-19, disabled people were twice as likely to be physically inactive compared to non-disabled people. Activity Alliance’s results show how the pandemic is not only widening these existing inequalities in sport and leisure but creating new ones too.

The benefits of being active are clear and for too long, people with the most to gain have been the least active. Working collaboratively with Activity Alliance and other partners, we want to help tackle these inequalities and level the playing field. Through our Changing Sports and Changing Places inclusion models, supported by Sport England, Spirit of 2012, St James Place Foundation, local authorities and National Governing Bodies, we are working at local and national level to upskill and connect community sports organisations to make the inclusion of disabled people in sport and physical activity the accepted norm and not an ad hoc exception. 

Mark Hardie, CEO Access Sport reflected on this latest research:

“Access Sport strongly supports the Activity Alliance and Sport England’s call for greater priority for disabled people and we believe that now is the right time for a reset of national ambition for disability inclusion in sport and physical activity. Through events of the past year people are becoming increasingly aware of exclusion and of the converse hugely positive power of access to local activity. With Sport England’s new “Uniting the Movement” strategy we have seen the determination to work together at community and strategic level to make sport accessible to all.”

Whilst the doors may have been shut at our partner community clubs during national Lockdowns, they have not stopped connecting and supporting their disabled members and families. From Zoom sessions with Basil Brush to equipment deliveries for Winter Warriors, we have reached over 2000 disabled young people and their families to provide much needed support during this time. We have also seen more clubs wanting to become inclusive and more inclusion focused volunteers stepping forward; we have created new opportunities to link with disabled young people and their families at home as well in the community and at school and we have witnessed a strong move towards greater cross sector collaboration.

In December we launched the Life Changers Fund – we want to raise £500,000 to give 5,000 disabled children the chance to get active. We are working even harder to support clubs to recover and reinvent as inclusive community clubs – with the ambition to create thousands of new opportunities each year for disabled children and families. Thanks to Jingle Jam 2020, we have already raised an incredible £141,000 for our Life Changers fund.

The full report, including alternative communication formats: www.activityalliance.org.uk/annual-survey