By Daniel Hunter
With six months to go before the start of the 2012 Paralympic Games, councils across the country are working hard to get as many people involved as possible.
From grants to Team GB hopefuls and town hall staff officiating at events, to hosting flame festivals and organising initiatives for people to have a go at disability sports, councils are at the heart of making the Paralympic Games and its legacy a success.
However, the latest figures from Sport England's Active People survey show only 7 per cent of adults with a disability in England regularly play sport. Participation is increasing though, with the 387,000 disabled people playing sport at least three times a week in 2005/6 having risen to 640,600 in 2010/11.
Cllr Stephen Castle, Chairman of the Local Government Association's 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games Task and Finish Group, said:
"With each games the Paralympics becomes increasingly popular and high profile which is great to see. Key to this is the ongoing grassroots support provided to disabled athletes locally by councils, sports clubs and charities, as well as the ever-growing number of schemes and initiatives across the country to encourage participation in Paralympic sports. Councils are also pulling out the stops to support Paralympic Games organisers and make the associated celebrations as impressive and accessible as possible.
"However, the number of disabled people taking part in sport is still far too low. Experience in boosting participation has repeatedly shown us that a lack of involvement isn't because people are not interested, but because of issues such as a lack of awareness and accessibility for disabled people, the quality of coaching, and providing a welcoming and supportive environment for all levels of ability.
"We're heading in the right direction but there's still a long way to go to get more disabled people playing sport, something which can enrich people's lives in a whole range of ways, from making them fitter to boosting their social life. There's already a lot of fantastic work going on locally and the 2012 Games is a great springboard to further promote Paralympic sports, but we must strive to make sure we keep building on this to ensure a genuine and lasting 2012 Paralympic Games legacy."
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