Cash boost welcomed for disabled sport

IT may only be £125,000 spread across Scotland, but a cash boost for disability sport from the Scottish Government has been welcomed in the Borders as a positive move, writes Mark Entwistle.

Scottish athletes in the Paralympics – a squad that included three Borderers – won a total of 11 medals and following that success, the Government has launched a drive to make sport and PE inclusive for all Scottish children.

The £125,000 will go to Scottish Disability Sport and pay for both PE and classroom teachers across Scotland to get access to training which will provide them with the knowledge, skills and experience to fully include disabled young people in PE and sports.

Betty Scott, who took over as chair of the Scottish Borders Disability Sports Group in June, welcomed the cash as a move by the government to acknowledge the difficulties faced in opening up opportunities for children with disability to become involved in sports and physical exercise.

She says the statistics of how many disabled children have no access to sport whatsoever are “absolutely shocking,” and blames a lack of financial resources, facilities and quality training to ensure teachers, coaches and disabled people themselves are comfortable working with each other in sport.

“This is the 21st century, and still many children watch from the side of the tennis court, the sports field or the swimming pool, while their friends play and learn,” she added.

“It doesn’t take a psychology graduate to work out how that makes some people feel.

“The Paralympic Games have opened eyes across the UK to the importance and value of disabled people in our lives and communities.

“I hope that we might now witness a sea-change in culture and attitudes towards people with disabilities across Borders communities in the wake of the Paralympics.”

Mrs Scott, also chairperson of Ettrick and Lauderdale Sports Council, hopes the newly-announced funding is only the beginning. “On its own £125,000 will not achieve a huge amount spread across Scotland - and you have to hope that it is not just a cheap effort by the government to curry favour on the back of a popular sporting event – but as a starting point for improving the access to sport and exercise, and more fruitful lives, for disabled people, this announcement is very welcome.”

And she heralds the appointment of world championship gold medal-winning badminton player, Alan Oliver, as the group’s development officer, as a significant step forwards.

“Plus, with the Olympics and the Paralympics, and now the Commonwealth Games to come in Glasgow in 2014, hopefully all this added interest will see a lot more media coverage of Paralympic sports,” she added.

On the subject of Paralympic sport, tomorrow sees Tweedbank sports complex host the Borders Sport & Leisure Paralympic Multisports Festival.

Running from 10am – 12.30pm, it will see 50 disabled children from across the region enjoying a taste of seven different Paralympic sports.