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Government ignores disability in £1 billion youth sport strategy

Government ignores disability in £1 billion youth sport strategy
12th January 2012 developer

The government has failed to explain why its new youth sport strategy contains almost no references to disabled young people.

The £1 billion, five-year Creating a Sporting Habit for Life strategy was launched this week by culture secretary Jeremy Hunt as part of efforts to ensure a “legacy” of mass participation in sport from the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The document says about £450 million will be awarded to sports governing bodies for their “whole sport plans” – their four-year strategies – to ensure they are focused on ensuring a “sporting habit for life”, with about 60 per cent of this money aimed at young people from 14 to 25.

It also includes £50 million plans for every secondary school in England to host a community sports club, with another £50 million to boost sports provision at further education colleges and universities.

And there will be £10 million to allow school sports facilities to be opened up to wider public use.

But – with the exception of a section on the new School Games, which were launched last October – the strategy mentions disabled young people just once, demanding an increased participation by disabled people as one of the outcomes required from sport governing bodies in return for their funding.

A Department for Culture Media and Sport spokesman said there would be “disability elements” in the contracts drawn up by Sport England – which is delivering the strategy – with individual sport governing bodies such as the Football Association and Lawn Tennis Association.

He said these governing bodies would receive £450 million and “will have to invest some of that into disability”.

He said: “The details are still to be worked out on a sport-by-sport basis. They will be very much part of the contractual agreement with the national governing bodies. The devil is going to be in the detail.

“Disability is very much a part of it. There will be stretching targets for sports to engage with disabled people and bring more disabled people into sport.”

He stressed that Hunt was “absolutely crystal clear” that disability “needs to be at every level” of the School Games.

But the spokesman was unable to explain why there was so little mention of disability in the strategy itself.

A spokeswoman for the English Federation of Disability Sport (EFDS), the strategic lead for sport and physical activity for disabled people, declined to comment on the strategy’s failure to say more about disabled young people.

But she said EFDS would “support Sport England by working with our partners to ensure disabled young people are engaged in every aspect of this strategy”.

EFDS welcomed the strategy’s emphasis on encouraging all young people to take part in sport between the ages of 14 and 25, the new inclusive School Games, and the need for governing bodies to increase participation rates of disabled people in sport.