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New long-term partnerships with disability charities

The investments are part of our new model that gives longer-term financial security to partners and come as part of the delivery of our Uniting the Movement strategy.

28th November 2022

Three disability charities are the latest to join our list of long-term partnerships as we look to deliver our ambitious 10-year strategy Uniting the Movement.

Sense, Mencap and Special Olympics GB join more than 120 organisations we’ve partnered with this year, each of whom was chosen for their unique influence and ability to level up access to sport and physical activity across England and create system-wide change.

Our Active Lives survey classifies more than half of disabled people as inactive, compared to a third of people without a disability.

A double amputee-of-the-legs boy, kneels on a paddle board

We also know that 40% of disabled people and those with a long-term health condition feel the cost-of-living crisis has had a negative impact on their ability to get active.

Tackling inequalities is at the heart of Uniting the Movement so with disabled people experiencing more barriers to being active than others, our chief executive Tim Hollingsworth is pleased these partnerships – totalling £6.5 million of National Lottery and government funding – have been agreed.

“The pandemic disproportionately affected disabled people and now the cost of living brings new and difficult challenges,” said Tim, who’s also the government’s disability and access ambassador for sport and physical activity.

“Our strategy Uniting the Movement aims to help everyone play sport and get active – no matter who they are, where they live, or what their background is.

“But disabled people are still far less likely to be active than other groups, and this is an inequality that we are working hard to address.

“We are proud to partner with these three incredible charities that actively promote sport and physical activity for disabled people, in what has been a notable year for disability sport.

“These partners will help disabled people who may have previously felt unable to take part in physical activity to get involved.”

These new investments take our long-term partnerships to more than 120 this year and total more than £550m.

"We are proud to partner with these three incredible charities that actively promote sport and physical activity for disabled people, in what has been a notable year for disability sport."

Tim Hollingsworth

Chief executive, Sport England

We revolutionised our investment model as part of Uniting the Movement as it sees organisations receive funding for up to five years, giving longer-term financial security that allows them to recover and reinvent from the impact of the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

Each partner has been assessed against their ability to deliver on our strategy to tackle inequalities and support everyone in England to access the profound physical, mental and community benefits of sport and physical activity.

And these latest partners mean we’ve invested more than £16m into long-term partners that support access to sport and physical activity for disabled people to ensure everyone has the opportunity to be active.

Our new partners


A UK charity for people with learning disabilities. They provide services ranging from around-the-clock care, to helping someone engage with local leisure activities for the benefit of their physical and mental wellbeing.

They've been awarded £2.7m, with the funding helping the organisation improve access to physical activity and their presence in multiple locations across England.

They'll also create resources and networks to showcase learning, develop best practices, and advocate for change.

Find our more about their work


A leading charity supporting children and adults living with complex disabilities in the UK.

Services range from round-the-clock care to support in the community through its short-breaks, arts, sports and wellbeing programmes.

We've awarded them £2.2m so they can help more people with complex disabilities to become active in their local communities.

This will be achieved through expanding their offer of sport and physical activity into more regions in England, as well as upskilling and supporting care staff and sports providers to provide accessible and inclusive physical activity sessions.

Find our more about their work

Special Olympics GB

A sporting organisation which uses sport to empower children and adults with an intellectual disability.

We've awarded the charity £1.5m to help ensure it continues to deliver innovation and inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities.

This funding will help to ensure the organisation develops its specialist expertise in this area of work.

Find our more about their work

Further reaction

  • Tom Pursglove MP - Minister for disabled people, health and work

    “It is fantastic to see Sport England making this significant commitment to disabled people through their new partnerships which will help give everyone the opportunity to be active.

    “Incorporating sport and activity into people’s everyday lives builds life skills, confidence and ultimately improves physical and mental health.

    "Ensuring disabled people have the same opportunities to participate in, and enjoy, sport as everyone else is so important and that’s why I am delighted to see Sport England helping tackle inequalities in sport.”

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  • Alison Pike - director of communities and programmes, Mencap

    “We’re delighted to have been named a Sport England partner. The partnership will enable Mencap to connect people with a learning disability with their local communities and sports groups to help to get them active through sport and physical activity.

    “We know that engagement in sport and physical activity is low for people with a learning disability, with 43% engaging in less than 30 minutes of activity a week.

    "They also face inequalities across all areas of their lives: and are more likely to be living in poverty, less likely to be employed and more likely to be isolated and lonely.

    “The Sport England funding will help us support more people to be active in their community: as participants, volunteers and leaders, and ultimately improve the lives of people with a learning disability through sport.

    "We want to build sustainable communities that empower people with a learning disability across England to be active for life.”

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  • Louis Wickett-Padgham - head of sport and physical activity, Sense

    “Being active is vital for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, learning skills and making friends, and yet disabled people are almost twice as likely to be physically inactive as non-disabled people.

    "The funding from Sport England will help us to support over 5,000 people with a complex disability to lead a more active life and further strengthen Sense’s strategic position to influence and lead positive change across sectors for people with complex disabilities.”

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  • Colin Dyer - chief executive, Special Olympics GB

    “Sport England’s support and our place as partner will be transformational to the lives of children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

    “It will enable Special Olympics GB to deliver on the pledges of our strategic plan, to significantly enhance our grassroots network, to increase the number of Special Olympics GB programmes taking place across the country, and to expand our fantastic team of committed volunteers.

    "In turn, this will create many more opportunities for children and adults with intellectual disabilities to participate and compete, and therefore, benefit from the positive impacts that are only made possible through the power of sport.

    “We’re very grateful for the support of Sport England and are very excited to work alongside our partners to make a difference to so many lives.”

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