Paralympics legacy in balance

A year on from the 2012 Paralympics, the disability charity Scope argues that legacy ‘hangs in the balance’.

Scope has brought together a poll of a thousand disabled people, the opinions of Paralympians, experts and ordinary disabled people and big picture analysis.

According to the charity, disabled people are warning that short-term improvements in public attitudes, sport and community involvement are being undermined by ‘scrounger rhetoric’, a crisis in living standards and a squeeze on local care.

81% of disabled people say that attitudes towards them haven’t improved in the last 12 months – with 22% saying that things have actually got worse and with 84% of those that say attitudes have got worse saying the ‘benefit scrounger’ rhetoric from politicians and the media has had a negative effect on views of disabled people.

Small increases in participation in sport and the community are undermined by a crisis in living standards for disabled people. According to a recent Ipsos MORI poll for Scope, nearly one in five (16%) disabled people say they cannot keep up with rising costs of living. Meanwhile 100,000 disabled people are being pushed out of the social care system, with many struggling to get support to get up, get dressed and get out of the house are struggling to get local care.

Alice Maynard, Chair of Scope said: “The starting gun has been fired on the legacy debate. Elite sport is in great shape. But legacy is about day-to-day life too. A society that’s great for disabled people is great for everyone. So, have the lives of disabled people improved since the games?

“We’ve been speaking to disabled people and the jury is very much out. Changing attitudes is at the heart of legacy. The Paralympics were a break-through moment. Disabled people had never been so visible. Disability had never been talked about so openly. But you don’t change society in a fortnight.

“The Paralympics has inspired a small number to be more involved in sport or the community. But ultimately it comes down a simple point: if you don’t have the support you need to get up, get washed and get out of the house; if you’re struggling to pay the bills – it’s a big ask to join a tennis club.”

Sophie Christiansen OBE, London 2012 Paralympic Games triple gold medal-winning equestrian, said: “During the London 2012 Paralympic Games, Great Britain saw what disabled people could do. It was a turning point in perception. However, it was just the start. Just like not every able-bodied person is not going to run as fast as Usain Bolt, not every disabled person is going to be a Paralympian. The challenge is now bridging the gap between the disabled community and Paralympians.”