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Active Lives Report – Disabled people continue to lose out

28 October 2021

Last week, Sport England, the arms-length body of government responsible for growing and developing grassroots sport and getting more people active across England, released their latest Active Lives Adult Survey.

The results are stark and worrying. Put simply, Disabled people are not getting active, and the deficit between activity levels of Disabled and non-disabled people continues to widen.

Worrying trends

Just like the recent Active at Home research undertaken by Get Yourself Active (which you can view here), the active lives survey shows that Disabled people struggled to get active during the pandemic, with activity levels dropping. Only 45% of Disabled people describe themselves as being active compared to 66% of non-disabled people.

Furthermore, it is essential to note that activity levels for Disabled people or those with long-term health conditions saw no recovery across mid-March to mid-May 2021, compared to the first total lockdown during the same period in 2020 – remaining 7.1% down on 2019.

This activity gap between Disabled people and non-Disabled people had started to narrow pre-pandemic, so seeing it widen again is troubling. We urgently need to get back on track to where we were with the progress that we have made.

Finally, the report emphasised that feelings of loneliness are higher among Disabled people or those with long-term health conditions than non-disabled people. This sadly increases further for those with three or more impairments.

The Sport England report is one of the most comprehensive studies of the relationship between Disabled people and physical activity. It spans the period from mid-May 2020 to mid-May 2021, including periods of national and tiered restrictions introduced to counter the coronavirus pandemic.

Lydia Bone, Programme Manager at Get Yourself Active, a programme run by Disability Rights UK, said:

"The Active Lives survey from Sport England shows the continued widening inequalities for underrepresented groups, including Disabled people.

This report brings it home that although things were getting better before the pandemic, Disabled people have been disproportionally impacted by the pandemic and continue to face more barriers than before. It shows the continued importance of organisations working collaboratively to tackle these inequalities and the sports sector ensuring they are flexible in their approach.

It shows the necessity for co-production and working in partnership with Disabled people to increase opportunities and ensure that Disabled people are not left behind."