Disabled people across the North East will have more opportunities to get involved in sport after SMILE Through Sport received £165, 879 of funding from Sport England's Inclusive Sport fund.
The organisation is one of 44 projects across England that will benefit from £8.06 million of National Lottery investment from Sport England to open up more opportunities for disabled people to play sport.
The funding received by SMILE Through Sport will be used for the Start to Smile project. This project provides opportunities for people across the North East region who have a physical disability or a mental health condition to participate, volunteer and coach in three sports. The sports involved in the project are Athletics, Boccia (a sport similar to bowls) and Cricket (including table cricket). Over the next three years the Sport England funding will allow the recruitment of a project officer who will create and manage a range of community sessions, clubs, festivals and training for local disabled people to attend.
Managing Director, Stephen Miller, said "We are honoured to have been successful in our application to Sport England. Receiving this funding for the Start to Smile project will allow us to provide opportunities to some of the hardest to reach groups within the North East. When we set up SMILE Through Sport projects such as this were in our long term plan. This funding allows us to grow a lot quicker and give back even more to our local communities.”
Non-executive Director, Dave Butler, said "SMILE Through Sport is all about providing high quality sporting opportunities to the North East region and this funding will help to ensure more adults will be able to access sports coaching and sessions. We hope this will be the first of many projects we are able to create within the North East and this funding from Sport England has got us off to a great start”
Sport England Director of Insight, Lisa O'Keefe, said: "We are delighted to be able to help SMILE Through Sport provide more opportunities for disabled people to give sport a go. Record numbers of disabled people now play sport and it's thanks to organisations like this that we can continue to improve opportunities and make a real difference in communities.”
The number of disabled people playing sport regularly is on the rise. In December 2013, Sport England's Active People Survey - an annual, in-depth measure of the nation's sporting habits – revealed that a record number of disabled people in England now play sport each week. However, non-disabled people are still twice as likely to play sport as disabled people (39.2 per cent compared to 18.5 per cent) which is why Sport England continues to focus attention and investment to address this imbalance.
Sport England's Inclusive Sport Fund supports programmes that aim to increase the number of disabled people playing sport. Since the fund launched, £17.1 million has been invested in 88 projects that make sport a viable lifestyle choice for disabled people.
As well as funding disability sport programmes, Sport England also funds equipment. In addition to today's £8.06 million announcement, Sport England also recently awarded £1 million to 141 clubs across England to help them buy equipment to open up sport to disabled people.