Tag Archives: Paralympic Games

Paralympics Legacy – how do we keep on the right track?

I’ve just spent the weekend watching the Anniversary Games. Clare Balding and Ade Adepitan in the commentary box, Richard Whitehead’s amazing win, and Hannah Cockroft on the front page of the Metro on my commute today – it felt like a small piece of last summer all over again.

I’ve looked back at a rather excitable blog that I wrote last year, after spending the day at the Olympic Park.

I was full of Paralympic buzz, and as chief executive of a disability charity, it felt amazing to see so many people talking about and watching disabled athletes.

Research showed what we had all hoped – that, looking beyond sport, the Paralympics had the power to change attitudes towards disabled people.

But away from the euphoria of the Olympic Park and there’s another side to the story. We’ve been asking disabled people over the last few weeks to tell us whether they think the Paralympics change their lives for the better.

Many contrast the positivity of the Paralympics with how tough their life is right now.

The Government hoped more disabled people would play sport.

The jury’s out on whether this happened.

The Government points to small rise in the number of people taking up sport. But independent research shows just a handful of sports clubs had facilities for disabled people.

Disabled people we speak to echo Tanni Grey Thompson’s point, which is that if you can’t get out of the house or pay the bills, it’s not easy to play sport.

You can’t separate Paralympics legacy from the squeeze we’re seeing in local care and support. And you can’t separate legacy from the financial difficulties facing disabled people right now.

Parents of young disabled children tell us a lot that they really struggle to find fun things that their kids can do – sports or arts clubs, for example – with other children who aren’t disabled. Lord Coe, speaking on 5Live, said there was more work to do when it came to disabled children and sport in schools.

At the heart of legacy is the idea of changing attitudes.

“Visibility” is a word that I kept using last summer. The best thing for me about the Games – beyond the adrenaline and the excitement – was the sheer visibility of disabled people.

The Paralympics achieved record ticket sales, and record-breaking viewer numbers on Channel 4. Many people visiting the Games were struck by the number of disabled spectators.

The fact is that shockingly few people actually know a disabled person. So what is said publically, and in the media, is shapes attitudes towards disability.

Jump ahead one year from London 2012 and open a newspaper. We are sadly now more used to reading headlines about disabled people which include the words “benefit cheat”, than ones celebrating success.

This is even acknowledged in the Government’s recent report into legacy, which highlights that any positive shifts in attitudes during the Games are likely to have been undone by the debate over welfare reforms.

Triple gold winner Sophie Christensian has called the Paralympics a “turning point in perception.” I love this description. But now we have turned, how do we keep on the right track?

Last summer was a breakthrough moment. But many disabled people think that the buzz of last summer is well and truly over.

Legacy is a long-term project. But we need to start by making sure disabled people can live independently, can make ends meet and can live in a society that doesn’t write you off just because you’re different and need a little support to get on with your life.

I’d love to hear your ideas and thoughts – tell us on Facebook or tweet us @Scope using either #Paralympicseffect or #Paralympicsfail

Disability in 2013

The Government hoped the Paralympics would improve daily life for disabled people.

But one year on disabled people have been telling Scope that daily life is really tough.

Here are some reasons why:

Basic care

Disabled people rely on support from their councils to get up, get dressed, get washed and get out of the house. But councils have been upping the bar for eligibility, with 83 per cent of councils now setting the threshold at a higher level. According to London School of Economics 69,000 disabled people have been pushed out of the system. Support for those in the system is also being squeezed. A Scope survey found almost 40 per cent of disabled people who continue to receive social care support are not having their basic needs. Angela from Luton talks about the impact this has on her:

The Government recently committed to investing £3.8bn in social care and its Care Bill reforms are introducing a cap on costs and national eligibility to end the postcode lottery in care. But the Government has also said the plans will set as standard the higher level that most councils have moved to. Experts say this will leave 105,000 disabled people outside of the system.

As Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson said recently: “If you can’t get out of bed or get washed in the morning, then you can’t change the way people think, you can’t take part in sport and you are not going to be involved in the community.”

At the same time parents of disabled children have also been raising concerns about the difficulties they face when it comes to finding the right kind of support, services and activities for their children.

Paying the bills

Life becomes more expensive and you’re more likely to be on a low income if you are disabled. Living costs are spiralling and income is flattening for everyone. But recent research showed just how tough things are for disabled people. Fifteen per cent of disabled people – over double the rate for the public (7%) – use loans to make ends meet.

What’s the Government’s response? It is taking away £28bn of financial support, sticking with both the broken system for deciding if disabled people are entitled to out-of-work support and the discredited Work Programme, which has failed to help disabled people find work.

Attitudes

Most non-disabled people don’t get a chance to speak to disabled people, so disabled people feel strongly what’s said publicly is crucial in shaping attitudesDisabled people, charities and the Government all saw the Paralympics as an opportunity improve hardening attitudes. Scope’s chief executive Richard Hawkes describes last summer was as “a breakthrough moment”.  He says “disabled people had never been so visible. Disability had never been talked about so openly”. Surveys in the aftermath of the games pointed to an improvement in public attitudes. But, as the Government’s own report found, there are increasing concerns that this is being undermined by negativity around benefits.

We want to know what you think. What is your life like in 2013? Respond below, on Facebook or tweet us @Scope.

Disabled people discuss the Paralympics Effect

What difference did the Paralympics make to the lives of disabled people? Did it change attitudes? Did it increase opportunities to play sport or volunteer?

We’ve heard from famous former Paralympians Tanni Grey-Thompson and Ade Adepitan.

Scope’s also been asking disabled people, their friends and family to say if they thought that the Paralympics has made the country a better place for disabled people.

#ParalympicsEffect

Martyn Sibley, co-founder of Disability Horizons, is travelling in his wheelchair from John o’Groats to Land’s End to celebrate the Paralympics effect. He said:

“I was spellbound by the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and it wasn’t just the sport… it was the electricity in the air, it was the collective community consciousness and for me it was about the big bright light put on disability never before witnessed in the four corners of the UK.”

Marie Andrews, 30, from Milton Keynes volunteers two days a week at a centre for integrated living where she gives advice to disabled people. She agrees that the Games changed the way people think:

“I’ve noticed a shift in attitudes since the Paralympics. People in the street are not staring as much, they’re not as judgemental. I think the Paralympics helped the public realise that just because someone is disabled, it doesn’t mean they can’t achieve. They are seeing disability in a new light. Don’t get me wrong, I still get looks but it’s not nearly as bad as it used to be.

John (via Facebook):  “Yes, I strongly agree. It’s great how much things have improved for us”

Shaun (via Facebook): “I think it’s definitely improved and people are actually offering more opportunities.”

Siobhan (via Twitter): “Loving that since the Paralympics, I know all the athletes performing at #Lyon2013”

‘Not sure’

Jane Jones from Cornwall, is the mother of a Jacob who is disabled:

“I feel that while the Paralympics gave families of disabled people hope and inspiration, since then the steady decline of funding and respect for disabled people from many places has made it harder to cope.”

Mandy (via Facebook): “I feel it did make a difference at the time but the attitude is swiftly changing back due to poor reporting making people with disabilities look like ‘scroungers’, or worse. Is this what the government wants?”

Pauline (via Facebook): “the attitudes of many have changed I think on a practical level access, facilities etc there has not been a lot of change and there needs to be more done”

Jenny (via Twitter): “Paralympics showed us great achievements but #ParalympicsFail as gov and media give  -ve  scrounger image”

Lizzy (via Facebook): “The Paralympic Games really excited my son he wants to compete but in our area there is no sports for disabled people let alone disabled children. Our local swimming pool is not very accommodating either.”

#ParalympicsFail

Ian Macrae, editor of Disability Now:

“The thing about the Paralympics always was that they happened in this bubble of hyper reality.  Real life for disabled people was never going to be like that again.  So now here we are with people under threat of losing their social housing homes, others left stranded on a work programme which doesn’t work for them, people dreading the all-too-real eventuality of losing a disability benefit.”

Pauline (via Facebook): “No decent member of society can possibly agree with what is happening. It is undoing all the good that the Paralympics did to change attitudes. Life is so difficult for everyone it should not be made even more so for some members of our society who need and have a right to financial help.”

Helen (via Facebook): “Any positive attitudes the games produced has disappeared because of how the Government and the media are portraying disabled people as benefit scroungers and workshy within their welfare reform hype.”

Rebecca (via Facebook): “Rubbish – and given the fact that many Paralympians will face losing their DLA over the coming years, their “opportunities” are likely to decrease, rather than increase. And as for public perceptions – seeing superhuman paralysed people or amputees running/swimming etc, just made many people say “well if HE can do that, why can’t you…?”

John (via Facebook): “My sons special needs school has lost its sports field don’t get me started in this subject, I only have to walk into Starbucks to find teenagers mocking my 13 year old son with regards to his disability.”

Paula (via  Facebook): “No definitely no improvement. I was told by someone that being disabled I should look to the Paralympics to see what I could achieve if i tried. My husband can ride a bike but he’s no Chris Hoy…..”

Loretta (via Facebook): “No attitudes haven’t improved. Sport is still extremely exclusive. My son has no provision to play tennis competitively as he has cerebral palsy and autism. Advice from the LTA is to put him in a wheelchair so he can play wheelchair tennis as they don’t cater for other levels of physical impairment!”

Scope wants to know what you think. Leave a response below, let us know on Facebook or tweet us @Scope using either #Paralympicseffect or #Paralympicsfail

Government reports on Paralympics legacy

Paralympic Opening Ceremony
Paralympic Opening Ceremony (Photo credit: MegMoggington)

The Government has today published its assessment of the financial and social impact of London 2012.

The £9.9bn boost for the economy has grabbed the headlines.

But the report also looks at Paralympics legacy.

The Government previously outlined the three things it wanted the Games to do: change attitudes and improve participation in sport and community engagement.

The report says in big letters: “The Games improved attitudes to disability and provided new opportunities for disabled people to participate in society”

David Weir
David Weir (Photo credit: The Department for Culture, Media and Sport)

But the Telegraph spots a note of caution in the detail: “While the Paralympics improved public attitudes to disabled people, this has been undermined by the debate over the government’s welfare reforms, the evaluation suggested.”

Meanwhile the Sun asked Paralympian David Weir what difference the Games made to his life. “I live in the same council house with three kids,” he said.

These concerns echo points made by Scope Chief Executive Richard Hawkes in the Independent yesterday: “If the Government really wants to honour the legacy of the Paralympics and change things for the better, it has got to stop fuelling that narrative and demonising benefits claimants… you can’t have the Paralympics every day. But we should aspire to make the atmosphere of positivity towards disability a part of everyday life”.

Over the next couple of weeks Scope will be bringing together disabled people to say what they think about the Paralympics Effect. Watch this space.

So what exactly does the report say about the impact of 2012 on disabled people?

Here are the key points

The report says the Games “were a unique opportunity for sharing positive messages about disabled people, which led to an up-swell in positive public attitudes and perceptions of disabled people”.

There are some good stats on Channel 4’s coverage:

“More than 500 hours of coverage were broadcast across all platforms, 350 hours over the stated target and four times more than from the Beijing Paralympics in 2008. It included 16 hours of live coverage every day and 1.3 million live streams online. The coverage reached an unprecedented share of the audience, and achieved record viewing figures. Almost 40 million people – more than two thirds of the UK population – viewed the Paralympic Games on TV.[1] Overall, 25% of all TV viewers watched Channel 4’s coverage every day. Peak viewing levels reached 11.6 million for the opening ceremony – Channel 4’s biggest audience in more than a decade – and 6.3 million watched Jonnie Peacock win Gold in the T44 100m, the largest rating for a single Paralympic event. Channel 4 also ensured that 50% of on-screen talent for Paralympic broadcasts were disabled people.”

A name-check for Scope research:

“Research by the disability charity Scope found that 62% of disabled people believed the Paralympics could improve attitudes towards disabled people. Independent media analysis showed a major improvement in the way disability was covered in the press in the year of the Paralympics, with a peak in the level of coverage of disabled people which used positive and empowering terminology.”

But the report offers a bit of reality check too:

“How long the uplift in public attitudes will last is more questionable. Stakeholders broadly agreed that the improvement in attitudes was at risk of being a relatively short-term improvement and that developments and press coverage since the end of the Games, especially in early 2013 around the context of benefit reform, had affected public perceptions. Encouragingly, rolling survey evidence still being collected[2] shows that even by March 2013 a quarter of people were still saying that the Paralympic Games caused them to have a ‘much more positive view’ of disabled people.”

It then looks at volunteering:

“The Games also opened up a range of volunteering, cultural and sporting opportunities for disabled people that did not exist before. Participation in volunteering by disabled people increased year-on-year to 2012, compared to 2005/06, and 4% of Games Maker volunteers had a disability.

And sport:

“Participation in sport and recreational activity[3] by disabled people also increased by 4.2 percentage points in 2012 from 2005/06. This was in part driven by legacy programmes such as the Inclusive Sport Fund, which is investing over £10 million of National Lottery funding into projects designed to increase the number of disabled young people and adults regularly playing sport, along with opportunities offered by the School Games, Sportivate, Inspire projects and Legacy Trust UK. The School Games national event in May 2012 in the Olympic Park involved 167 disabled athletes (11.6% of the total) and all the facilities in the Olympic Park have been designed to be accessible to disabled participants and attendees.”


[1] Channel 4 (2012) The London 2012 Games. Brought to you by Channel 4. Based on three minute reach of TV coverage over duration of the Paralympic Games.

[2] Games-related questions commissioned by Department for Work and Pensions were asked in five waves of the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Opinions and Lifestyle Survey from November 2012 to March 2013.

[3] Based on 1×30 minutes of moderate intensity sport in the last week including recreational cycling and walking as measured by Taking Part.

It’s time to re-open the debate on attitudes to disability

XIV Paralympic Games
One year on from the Paralympic Games – have attitudes changed?

This week the Minister for Disabled People, Esther McVey published her plans for “further lasting change to attitudes and aspirations”.

In a couple of months we will be marking the one year anniversary of the Paralympics; a whole year since Lord Coe said we’d never look at disability the same again.

If we want to make this a better place for disabled people we have to start by improving public attitudes to disability.

Disabled people tell us that attitudes continue to be an issue

It’s all about visibility. Most non-disabled people don’t meet disabled people, so what gets broadcast is crucial in shaping attitudes.

The Minister told parliament she wants to “harnesses the inspirational power of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games – aiming to deliver further lasting change to attitudes and aspirations”.

She is right that the Paralympics were a break-through moment. Disability has never been talked about so openly; disabled people have never been so visible. Positive portrayals of disabled people out-weighed the benefits scrounger rhetoric. Polling straight after the games showed an impact on the public’s view of disability.

You don’t change attitudes in a fortnight

Lord Coe recently told the Lords that you have to talk about legacy in terms of ten years. However one year on it is the right to time to start asking where things are at when it comes to attitudes to disability.

Jack Carroll came second in this year’s Britain’s Got Talent (Photo credit: University of Salford)

Over the last year, parts of the media have built on the legacy of visibility. We’ve seen mainstream films tackle disability and sex. We’ve seen channel four stick to its commitment to disability programming and pushing through disabled. We’ve seen a young man with cerebral palsy finish second in Britain’s Got Talent.

But elsewhere we’ve also seen a ramping up of the ‘benefit scrounger rhetoric’ and the on-going misuse of welfare stats. We’ve seen a councillor in Cornwall compare disabled children to deformed lambs, which should be put down. Glastonbury 2013 may have been the best yet, but recent research showed that festivals are less than committed when it comes to giving disabled people the chance to attend.

Scope wants to know what you think

Do you think attitudes to disability are a problem? Have you seen them get better or worse in the last year? Comment below, tweet us or let us know on Facebook.