The Activity Trap: Disabled people’s fear of being active

Comments by Kerl Haslam, CEO SportsAble

A recent study by the Activity Alliance reports that 47 per cent of disabled people fear losing their benefits if they become too physically active.

This just goes to further highlight the huge barriers we face when trying to engage the most inactive group in our society, disabled people.

The Activity Alliance also reports that 83 per cent of disabled people would like to be more active and of those who are active, 63 per cent rely on benefits to be active, without which they could not participate.

There are 14 million people in the UK with a disability. That’s a fifth of the population and the irony is that four out of five of these people want to be active but various barriers prevent them. This latest report by the Activity Alliance does a great job of highlighting a very real and worrying issue.

Many people with a disability struggle to make ends meet and are reliant on benefits to fulfil basic survival criteria – shelter, warmth and food. Those who are fortunate enough to find the resources to lead an active lifestyle should be supported 100 per cent because in the long term the physical and mental benefits of being active will create public health savings which far outweigh the benefits paid to that individual.

SportsAble delivers more than 80 sessions per month, 365 days of the year, offering unlimited access at a cost to the user of just £6.25 per month. Even this fee is a struggle for some.

I applaud the Activity Alliance for releasing this report. If we are to get more disabled people, more active we first need to fully understand the barriers, however uncomfortable they are to hear. This report invites conversations around a difficult topic and forces policy makers to question whether short term decisions offer the best long-term solution.

Everybody, regardless of ability, has a right to an active lifestyle. It would be fantastic to flip the current situation on its head and award additional financial support to people with a disability who commit to regular activity. Surely, this is a far more positive approach than a system built on fear of benefit withdrawal for those who attempt to improve their own mental and physical wellbeing by leading an active lifestyle.

I look forward to the debates I hope this report will trigger.