The Chief Executive of Special Olympics GB revealed the charity is “perfectly positioned to be a pivotal driver of societal change” as she launched its new four-year strategy this week.
Michelle Carney believes the organisation will be able to “transform (the) lives of people with intellectual disabilities for good – on and off the field of play” as it seeks grow participation in the UK to record levels.
The new strategy is entitled ‘Inclusion in Action’ and follows consultation over the last nine months with a wide range of registered members, athletes, trustees, corporate partners and other key stakeholders.
At least 1.5million people are living with an intellectual disability in the UK today, and the strategy comes at a time when recent research identified that 36% of adults surveyed had a connection to, or are aware of someone with an intellectual disability – which equates to almost 19 million people, far higher than was previously estimated.
Michelle added: “I am excited and proud of our new strategy and believe we have created a working document with tangible, achievable targets and benefits which demonstrates inclusion in action in everything we do.
“From how we deliver sport and competition for our athletes, to how we raise awareness of our amazing athletes and our inspirational charity, and how we can work with our dedicated volunteers across Scotland, England and Wales moving forward.
“We will only achieve true inclusion when we listen to the voices of our athletes. They are the best advocates of the difference that Special Olympics makes in people’s lives. Our role is to create environments and platforms where they can share their inspiring and courageous stories.
“We are committed to advocating for our Special Olympics athletes, so they are treated fairly, and we believe bidding to host a World Games in 2027 or 2031 will ensure that our athletes are treated with the same level of importance as their Olympic and Paralympics counterparts.
“But we cannot do this on our own. As the UK slowly starts to get back to normal after Covid-19, we call upon the UK Government, business and society to help us use sport as a vehicle to build on the increased connection and awareness younger generations have with intellectual disabilities.
“Sport has the power to unite people like nothing else and the positive effect of sport on people’s lives is well documented.”
Under half (44%) of people with a learning disability take part in less than 30 minutes of exercise a week, according to Sport England. However 81% of disabled people would like to be more active.
Michelle said: “I wholeheartedly believe Special Olympics GB is perfectly positioned to be a pivotal driver of societal change and transform lives of people with intellectual disabilities for good – on and off the field of play. We are excited about our journey ahead and the transformation we can continue to make through sport, with joy, friendship, laughter, fun and kindness at the heart of everything we do.
“This is Special Olympics Great Britain. This is Inclusion in Action.”