Paralympic dreams are being crushed due to a cut in funding says Mencap
Friday 09 May 2008
Athletes with a learning disability may never fulfil their Paralympic dreams, says leading learning disability charity Mencap. The charity is launching a campaign today to highlight the thousands of pounds worth of funding that has been cut as a result of a ban preventing athletes from competing in the Paralympics.
Julia Pepper, mother to Daniel, a world record breaking swimmer, says: "When he heard about the ban and the cut to all funding, he was shattered. He refused to talk about it for fear of being brought to tears."
"I will never forget the day Chris found out that the ban would not be lifted for Beijing" says David, father to Chris, one of the youngest athletes to compete in the 2000 Sydney Paralympic Games. "He never really cries, but that day there were tears streaming down his face. He was devastated."
The Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) must make funding available immediately in order for athletes to be fully trained to compete in London 2012.
A crucial International Paralympic Committee (IPC) meeting in October, at which the ban will be discussed, could determine the future of international learning disability sport.
Athletes with a learning disability have been unable to compete in the Paralympic Games since the Sydney Games in 2000, when organisers found that members of the Spanish Basketball team falsely claimed to have a learning disability. Despite the ongoing anger and dismay of the athletes, the ban remains until sporting bodies are able to reach an agreement on a suitable registering system.
Dame Jo Williams, Mencap's chief executive, said: "Without immediate funding, athletes with a learning disability simply will not be ready to compete in London 2012. These athletes are competing for Britain, and they should be supported to do so. Some of the athletes and most of their parents have to pay thousands of pounds of their own money and this just isn't acceptable."
"We are actively seeking the removal of the ban on athletes with a learning disability from the Paralympics and we are optimistic the ban will be lifted for London 2012. However, we strongly urge sporting bodies to find a solution, because without immediate funding these talented athletes will not be physically ready to compete in London 2012. This would be a terrible disgrace."
Dilys, grandmother to Ben, a world record breaking swimmer says: "Since Ben's funding was cut we have spent over £5,000 a year supporting him to take part in his sport. We have had to cover the cost of training, travel, event entry fees, hotel fees, kit and equipment, and the list goes on.
"It would be a tremendous shame if athletes with a learning disability were not given the opportunity to compete in London 2012. These athletes are struggling to carry on pursuing their sport. Not only can they not afford the fees, they are also disillusioned by the ban. I fear that many athletes will drop out of sport altogether and so will Ben if 2012 is not a possibility."
For more information visit www.mencap.org.uk/paralympics
Notes to Editors
For media enquiries and interview requests please contact Jenny Tudor, Mencap press office firstname.lastname@example.org, 020 7696 6950 or 07770656659. Photographs also available.
Available case studies:
- Thomas, 28, is a 100m athlete with a learning disability, ranked fourth in the world in learning disability sport. During a day out at a theme park, Thomas put his legs on the train track. He suffered no injury, however he thought that if he was physically disabled he'd be taken seriously and he'd be able to compete again. The cut to Thomas's funding has meant he has had to give up his dream of becoming of world class athlete.
- Chris, 24, is a record breaking elite swimmer. However, he has given up on his dream of competing in the Paralympics, since he is currently excluded and receives no funding - this is because he has a learning disability. Chris competed in the Paralympics in the Sydney 2000 Games at 16 and holds world records in the 200m butterfly and 400m freestyle.
- Ben, 18, whose mother also has a learning disability, has been brought up by his grandparents. They have had to move from the north of England to the south west, so they can be nearby a swimming academy where Ben can train. His grandparents are spending their lifelong savings to finance Ben's swimming career.
- Daniel, 19, is one of Britain's most gifted swimmers in elite learning disability sport. He currently holds four world and nine British records in an array of swimming events. Yet, a cut to funding by sporting bodies has left Daniel's family desperately looking to secure sponsorship from local businesses - to help fund over £5,000 a year in training fees.
- Chloe, 12, is a national record breaking elite swimmer, holding five records in the 100m individual medley and 100m backstroke. At just 12-years-old she is one of Britain's youngest athletes hoping to compete at the Paralympics in London 2012.
- Neil, 26 and Tony, 29, may be too old to compete in the London 2012 Paralympics. For the past eight years their parents have been forced to put their own life on hold, to organise countless fundraising events paying almost £10,000 in training, fees, event entry and kit.
- Clare, 28, is an exceptional short-distance runner, she has broken national and British records and been awarded over 150 medals. Clare's parents cannot afford to pay for Clare's training themselves and are having to fundraise to cover the costs.
- Callum, 17, is a 100m athlete with a learning disability and is ranked fifth in the world in learning disability running. A cut to funding has led Callum to give up his dream of competing in the Paralympics in London and competing in sport altogether.
- At the Sydney Paralympics eleven athletes with a learning disability represented Great Britain. They returned home with five silver medals and three bronze medals, won in athletics and swimming.
- Mencap works with people with a learning disability and their families and carers.
- 1.5 million people in the UK have a learning disability.
- Learning disability affects someone's intellectual and social development all their life.
- It is not mental illness. It is not dyslexia.
- It used to be called mental handicap but we don't use this term anymore because most people with a learning disability find it offensive.
- People with a learning disability don't get an equal chance in life. That's why we fight to change laws and services, and directly support thousands of people to live their lives the way they want.
- For information about learning disability issues please call the Learning Disability Helpline (England) on 0808 808 1111 or visit www.askmencap.info
- For online press information, go to www.mencap.org.uk/press