Thousands of people with complex disabilities to lead more active lives, as national charity is awarded £2.2 million by Sport England

  • Sense will expand its programme of sport and physical activity provision, working with local partners to run accessible activities across the UK, with more than five thousand people to benefit over the next four years.
  • Sport England research shows that over half of disabled people are inactive – compared to a third of people without a disability.
A group of people standing on a tennis court holding up their tennis rackets
Linda Wallace (centre) stands with others during her tennis class. She is one of many disabled people who will benefit from today’s funding announcement.

28 November 2022 – Thousands of people living with complex disabilities in England will have the opportunity to participate in sport and physical activity thanks to major new funding announced today.

The national disability charity, Sense, has been awarded £2.2 million by Sport England to tackle the issue of ‘inactivity’ amongst people with complex disabilities, which has a negative impact on physical and mental health.  

According to Sport England research, over half of disabled people are inactive – compared to a third of people without a disability. This inequality increases sharply as the number of impairments a person has increases.

The money awarded to Sense will enable the charity to expand its programme of sport and physical activity provision across England, and directly support an additional five thousand people with complex disabilities to become more active in their local communities. In addition, over the next four years, care staff and sport providers will be upskilled and supported to provide accessible and inclusive physical activity sessions to ensure more people can benefit longer-term.

Sense run sport and physical activity sessions for people with high-level support needs, aged 5 to 100, across the country, including London and the South East, West Midlands, East, South West, North West, and the North East.

Louis Wickett-Padgham, Head of Sport and Physical Activity from Sense, said:

“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 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.”

Sport England also announced funding for two other disability charities, Mencap and Special Olympics GB.

The charities join over 120 organisations that Sport England has partnered with this year, chosen for their unique influence and ability to level up access to sport and physical activity across England and create system-wide change.

Tackling inequalities in activity levels is at the heart of Sport England’s Uniting the Movement strategy, and the new partnerships (totalling £6.5 million of National Lottery and government funding) have been announced at a particularly challenging time for disabled people. Both the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis is disproportionately affecting disabled people.

Tim Hollingsworth, Chief Executive of Sport England and the Government’s Disability and Access Ambassador for Sport and Physical Activity, said:

“The pandemic disproportionately affected disabled people and now the cost of living brings new and difficult challenges. 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.”

Case study

Linda Wallace is 63 and lives in Rockbeare in Devon. She has Cerebral Palsy and is losing her sight, but supported by Sense, she is able to continue to participate in and enjoy the sport she loves – tennis. She says it benefits her hugely.

Linda Wallace said:

“I’m in my sixties now and tennis is as important to me as ever. I remember when I first fell in love with it, watching the players on TV – I thought, “I have to give that a try!”

My vision loss meant I had to find new ways to enjoy the sport, but the support from Sense has helped me to continue participating.

I go to the gym twice a week, but at tennis I get to be outside and spend time with people I like. When I’m active I feel calm. It’s part of how I support my physical and mental wellbeing.”

Sense have produced a host of resources that will help sports practitioners, coaches, teachers and care staff to support people living with complex disabilities to be more active.

For more information visit:

Contact Sense’s media team

Email: [email protected]
Phone number: 0203 833 0611