Scottish Disability Sport

– in the Scottish Parliament on 26th October 2017.

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Photo of Linda Fabiani Linda Fabiani Scottish National Party

The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-07684, in the name of Jeremy Balfour, on Scottish Disability Sport.

The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament acknowledges that Scottish Disability Sport, in conjunction with other home country disability organisations, has developed a UK Disability Inclusion Training (UKDIT) course, which is aimed at those interested in becoming involved in sport for disabled people; understands that the workshop includes a mix of theory and practical delivery to enable participants to positively include disabled people in physical activity and sport; further understands that the workshop tackles issues such as perceptions, knowing the participant, communication, terminology, models of inclusion and practical opportunities to include disabled participants in a variety of settings; believes that the training has led to 94% of participants using the theory of inclusion principles, 84% reporting that the training had impacted on their teaching and 75% sharing their learning from the course with workplace colleagues, and notes that the workshop has been tailored to upskill and increase the confidence of teachers, students and staff in the education sector in the Lothian region and across Scotland who require support and guidance on how to effectively include disabled pupils in the delivery of sport and physical activity, in a way that is aligned to the curriculum for excellence and ensures a smooth transition into community-based sport.

Photo of Jeremy Balfour Jeremy Balfour Conservative

I am delighted to have the opportunity to lead the debate this afternoon. I am very supportive of positive action that can be taken to encourage and support disabled people to participate in sport. As someone who is sport mad and was born with a disability, I can see that there are now far greater opportunities for people who have a disability than when I was born, just a few years ago.

I welcome

Meggan Dawson-Farrell and Stefan Hoggan, who are watching the debate from the gallery. Meggan is a T54 wheelchair racer who competed in the 2014 Commonwealth games for team Scotland and was gold medallist at the junior world championships. She puts us all to shame: she holds the Scottish T54 record for 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, 1,500m, 5,000m, 10,000m and marathon. Perhaps Brian Whittle could learn a lesson.

Stefan Hoggan is a single-arm amputee who was one of Scotland’s top young swimmers. He enjoyed an illustrious career as a paraswimmer and won multiple medals before transferring to the sport of paratriathlon, in which he has represented Scotland at the national championships, and Great Britain on five occasions.

In addition to their tremendous sporting achievements, both individuals have used their extensive experience in disability sport to become disability inclusion training tutors, helping to roll out an inclusive teacher training programme to give more disabled children a positive and inclusive experience of physical education, and encouraging the next generation of young disabled people to have full and active lifestyles through sport.

Research that was commissioned by sportscotland and the Equality and Human Rights Commission identified that disabled people in Scotland are less active, have poorer experiences of PE in school and are more likely to face difficulties in pursuing their dreams. The research identified that training and education on physical activity and disability equality are essential. If they are delivered properly, they have the potential to raise awareness of access, attitudes and assumptions. PE in school is often people’s first experience of sport, so the research recommended that teachers receive training on disability in sport in order to help to improve pathways to sport.

Similar issues were identified at an education-focused national conference that was run by Scottish Disability Sport in 2009. The conference’s key recommendation was for design, development and delivery of a nationally recognised training programme for early years practitioners, primary teachers, and primary and secondary PE teachers across Scotland to help children to participate in and enjoy sport in school.

Scottish Disability Sport subsequently worked with its sister organisation in the UK to develop a disability inclusion training workshop. In Scotland, training has been tailored to meet the needs of curriculum for excellence, and has been placed on the Scottish credit and qualifications framework.

Scottish Disability Sport initially received funding from Education Scotland and sportscotland to allow the national roll-out of workshops. That process continues, and funding is available up to March 2018. Over the past five years, 396 workshops have been successfully delivered across all 32 local authorities and nine education establishments in Scotland, and have involved nearly 6,000 participants.

An external evaluation of the workshops revealed that 88 per cent of participants were involved in education, and some 79 per cent were teachers or training assistants. Three-quarters of respondents worked with young people with disabilities, which suggests that the targeting of the training was effective. People came away from the training feeling far more confident about their ability to teach sport in schools to people who have a disability, and to share training with workplace colleagues.

Most important is that the course has had positive outcomes in the classroom. A primary 1 teacher described how she could not explain the challenging behaviour of a boy in her class, until after she had attended a course and had struggled to play a ball game because she wore glasses that give her limited vision. Back in the classroom, she discovered that the boy had no vision in one eye, so her experience of wearing limited-vision glasses gave her some insight into how he must feel. Now that the issue has been identified, the boy is doing much better. Teachers also talked about the impact of the training on their teaching styles, and have said that they are now more inclusive: they include the whole class, rather than picking out certain individuals.

The training continues to evolve. Following further consultation of teachers and practitioners, and in conjunction with the National Autistic Society, new training has been developed on working with people who face other challenges.

Scottish Disability Sport is working with 23 Scottish governing bodies on how to meet the needs of coaches and disabled participants in their sports. With the drive of the charity Trust Rugby International, and with the help of the Scottish Rugby Union, branches of the Clan have been launched here in Edinburgh and in Ayrshire, and it is hoped that branches will start up in other parts of the country. The Clan has pioneered unified rugby in Scotland and gathers individuals from different backgrounds and communities, including people with additional support needs, to play.

The success of disability inclusion training is multifaceted. It is about wide and comprehensive partnership working between Education Scotland, sportscotland and local authorities, to ensure that the training works for everyone. I ask the Scottish Government to commit to continuing such training by finding the appropriate way to fund it beyond March next year, so that it can be rolled out across the whole of Scotland.

Photo of Jackie Baillie Jackie Baillie Labour

I apologise to members because I will need to leave before the conclusion of the debate. I apologised to the Presiding Officer in advance of the debate.

I declare an interest: I am proud to be the honorary president of Dunbartonshire Disability Sports Club. I thank Jeremy Balfour for securing this important debate, because it allows me to talk about the club.

Dunbartonshire Disability Sports Club was founded by parents, principally due to the lack of opportunities for children with disabilities to participate in physical activities. Those parents have been helped along the way by sports professionals and an army of volunteers—far too many for me to name this afternoon. The club is now an essential and thriving community resource and is a truly valuable asset for my local area, because it provides young people of all ages and all abilities, from every town, with valuable opportunities.

I pay tribute to the club’s chairperson, Allan Clark. He and his many helpers have driven the club forward. Club members have had exposure to all sorts of sporting opportunities, whether we are talking about swimming, athletics or football. I commend some of the football players to whomever the next Scotland manager will be, because they are very good indeed. The club has achieved its goal of raising awareness and the profile of disability sport, which is crucial. It has increased volunteering opportunities—because everyone wants to go along and help out—and it has increased the sense of belonging to the community. It has also, in a practical way, provided parents and carers with much-needed respite.

The transformation in the children and young people is the most important thing for me. The achievement, the laughter, the joy on their faces and the improved confidence are truly tremendous and are a joy to see. They are really good at the sports, too; I fully expect to see some of them at future Paralympic games and special Olympic games. There should be no limit to their ambition. International events such as those show the world that athletes are athletes, regardless of whether they have disability, and that anyone is capable of sporting greatness.

Opportunities to participate at local level are the foundation for encouraging our children and young people to develop their potential. I will highlight one local example—a young man called Gordon Reid. He holds far too many tennis singles and doubles titles to name. He is a Wimbledon champion and he has inspired a generation of people, with or without a disability, to get involved in tennis. I confess that I need to try harder, but he is an inspiration. He comes from Helensburgh and we are incredibly proud of his achievements. He was diagnosed with transverse myelitis at the age of 13. With access to local opportunities, good coaching and mentoring, he has risen to the very top of his sport. We need to make sure that we fund and support local disability sports because they will enable the Gordon Reids of future generations to come forward. I am grateful to BBC Children in Need for supporting Dunbartonshire Disability Sports Club.

We also welcome the initiative by Scottish Disability Sport. By providing training to those who are interested in becoming involved in sport for disabled people, we encourage that greater opportunity and participation in our schools and communities. More power to their elbows.

I conclude by again commending Jeremy Balfour for bringing the debate to the chamber. I also particularly thank the coaches, sports professionals, volunteers and parents who make sporting opportunities available to our young people who have disabilities.

Photo of Fulton MacGregor Fulton MacGregor Scottish National Party

I pay tribute to Jeremy Balfour for bringing this important debate to the chamber. I know that he has always been passionate about the issue and he brings that into many of his speeches. For the issue to be brought to Parliament in the week in which a statement was made about our British Sign Language national plan is also important. It is an issue of equality. It is as simple as that. It is a great motion because it is about equality.

As Jeremy Balfour said, it is not the disability itself that prevents people from taking part in sports but the barriers that are created by the stigma of having a disability. Scottish Disability Sport has worked to overcome that stigma. It works to co-ordinate athletes and players of all ages and abilities who have physical, sensory or learning disabilities in the widest possible areas of sports. It also encourages opportunities for that to happen. I therefore pay tribute to SDS for the work that it does.

Like Jackie Baillie, I have some local examples. Yesterday, I met representatives of Leonard Cheshire Disability, which is an organisation that works with folk who are facing similar barriers, mainly in the areas of work and school. During our discussion, it emerged that the organisation is also looking at helping individuals to get involved in sport. If anyone from that charity is listening to the debate, as I am sure SDS will be, there might be some scope for a bit of joined-up working there.

Recently, I was at Chryston high school for the international women and girls in sports week. As well as talking about the fantastic work that is being done on female participation in sports, I heard about a lot of the work that is being done to make all sports accessible to everyone in the school. Along with other schools in my constituency—I would not want to leave out any school, but I was physically at Chryston—Chryston high is doing fantastic work to make sports accessible. I got a briefing on how that is being done, which was heartening to see.

I also want to mention Katie Slavin from shining stars, which is an organisation in Coatbridge that does a fantastic job giving opportunities to young people with disabilities. It does that through the forums of music and theatre, which are different from sport but the principles are the same. Every time that I meet her, Katie tells me that, through the organisation’s work, the confidence levels of the young people grow. Groups from shining stars have been at various locations including the Westminster Parliament where they recently sang for MPs and other folk, which is absolutely fabulous.

I was recently at the Scottish Football Association grass-roots awards and a lot of the folk who got awards talked about the setting up of disability teams, which it was good to hear about. Some of the people who got up on the stage to receive their award talked about what setting up a disability football team had meant to parents, and I do not mind saying to members that it brought a tear to the eye. People who do that on a voluntary basis should be commended at every chance that we get.

I see that I am coming to the end of my four minutes. I have quite a lot of other things to say, but I will conclude by thanking Jeremy Balfour again. I know that he has joined my cross-party group in the Scottish Parliament on the future of football in Scotland and I am sure that the two of us will continue to push the issue forward with the support of Scottish Disability Sport.

Photo of Brian Whittle Brian Whittle Conservative

I declare an interest in that I am a senior track and field coach, a former chair of the Scottish Athletics Coaches Association and a member of the European Coaches Association.

I congratulate my colleague Jeremy Balfour on securing the debate and I am delighted to have the opportunity to contribute. As members know, I have a very keen interest in the subject. However, I suggest that the title of the debate is a bit of a misnomer. The debate is not about disability; it is more about celebrating the abilities of sportsmen and women, and calling for coaching and teaching practical and theory training to be expanded to allow teachers and coaches to encourage access for and participation of another sector of society.

A few years ago, I took on the coaching responsibilities for a Paralympian with cerebral palsy. He was already an international class athlete with the drive and single-mindedness that is required to reach that level. His expectation of me was rather high. I remember the head coach of disability athletics for Great Britain coming to an early training session to discuss how I was going to adapt my training programmes to suit someone with that kind of disability. With not a little confusion, I said that I would do that in the same way that I did with all the athletes who I worked with, and that I would continue to assess and adapt his training programme according to his response to the training.

All athletes are different and respond in different ways to physical and psychological inputs. That young man was a 400m runner so, no matter what physical adaptations are required in training, if we got it wrong, he would come into the home straight carrying a bear on a sofa with his family. That is commonly known in athletics parlance as “your backside falling out your shorts”, which I have cleaned up a tad for you, Deputy Presiding Officer.

In other words, it does not matter who someone is, as there is a physiological and emotional requirement for a sporting event. I threw that athlete in at the deep end with all my so-called able-bodied athletes and he thrived. He wanted and needed to be treated with the same brutality as everyone else and to be part of the squad. I laughed at him in the same way as at any of the rest of the squad when they hit the ground after a rather difficult session. Did we have to adapt his training? Absolutely, but I have to do that with every other athlete who I coach.

In helping to develop a UK disability inclusion training model, Scottish Disability Sport is breaking down perceptions and the fear of working with that community in a sporting environment, as there is a perception or misconception that coaching that section of society requires a different skill set. It might require an understanding of the specifics of the individual and their limitations, but how does that approach differ from coaching any other sportsman or woman?

I still coach and, in my squad, there is a young man who won the 100m, was second in the 200m and third in the long jump at the special Olympics earlier this year. He is in the T20 category and has a learning difficulty. All that means to me is that my verbal inputs and instructions are adapted and are perhaps not given in batches, but coaches adapt their inputs with all their athletes. He is part of my squad and has been integrated and accepted as any other athlete would be.

Also at those special Olympics was a young man I have worked with who won a gold medal for cycling. He is quite heavily autistic and that posed a different challenge for me. He has to be watched constantly because, when all the drinks bottles were lined up, he did exactly what you are supposed to do with drinks—he drank all of them, one after the other. The squad and I have to have his back all the time.

Inclusion and physical activity are great treatments for poor mental health, as has been said by the Scottish Association for Mental Health. Poor mental health is a significant challenge for the disability community. Inclusion has to start in school, where the same opportunities must be afforded to all, irrespective of background or personal circumstances. Let us ensure that teacher training and coaching include upskilling in this area.

I will conclude by mentioning the fantastic Kayleigh Haggo from Kilmarnock, whom I met at a disability sports training camp at the sports arena in Kilmarnock. She is a paraswimmer, race runner and world record holder. She is training towards the Paralympics in Tokyo. I also mention the run bike club in Ayr. When I met club members, I had taken my kit along to train with them but, when I saw the speed at which they went round the track, I left my kit in the car.

Finally how can I not mention the MSP team of myself, Dean Lockhart, Colin Smyth and Alexander Stewart—aka Davros—who took on the Scottish Power chair football team during the recent Scottish championships and got trounced 6-0 in 10 minutes? It was not pretty.

Opportunities for people to participate no matter their background are out there. Let us celebrate them and do everything we can to make sure that all can access them.

Photo of John Mason John Mason Scottish National Party

I had not intended to speak in today’s debate but I am happy to make a few comments. I was particularly struck by Jeremy Balfour’s speech, and also by Jackie Baillie’s, which I have to confess is unusual for me.

I agree with the points that Jackie Baillie made about confidence. I know the difference that it made to me as a boy when I found a sport that I could actually do. We were forced to play rugby at our school; I was hopeless at rugby and hated it. Then we got the chance to do some other sports including cross-country running, which I found that I could do at a reasonable level. If that made a difference to me and my confidence, and to my whole standing within the school—I went from somebody who was mocked as not at all sporty to somebody who was seen as able to do something—that must apply also to many disabled young people.

I strongly believe that every person has something to offer and something that they are good at that other people cannot do. Whether that is in the academic field or the sport field or culture or whatever, everyone has something to offer. Unless we give young people the chance to try out different things, they and we will never find out what they are good at and what we as a society can gain.

The National Deaf Children’s Society visited my constituency on 23 September, going to Tollcross swimming pool. As members know, that is the best swimming pool in Scotland and was where the Commonwealth games took place. I was very impressed with what the society did. It has a vehicle with an exhibition on the different aids and adaptations that can help young people who are deaf. They explained things that I had not realised. A young person in a pool cannot wear any of the equipment that they need for hearing and therefore depends on a trainer teaching them what to do. If the trainer is standing at the edge of the pool and the young person is in the pool, it becomes incredibly difficult. One mother told me that, when the trainer got into the pool and was able to be close to her daughter so that she could lip read or perhaps hear to some extent, it made a huge difference. Her swimming took off after that.

Clearly, we have to think of finances in this area. For families, encouraging young people, disabled or not, to take their sport seriously can involve a lot of costs. I do not think that there is an easy answer, but I wanted to mention it.

Photo of Maurice Corry Maurice Corry Conservative

I thank Jeremy Balfour for bringing to the chamber this excellent debate on such an important issue for everyone who has spoken so far.

Jeremy Balfour highlighted the importance of the opportunity and the facilities for disabled people to participate in sports. The more we do to encourage that, the better.

Jackie Baillie referred to the success of the excellent Dunbartonshire Disability Sports Club in my area, which I commend. We have areas of deprivation and there are disabled people in that community who have been denied the opportunity to access the facilities that more able kids and adults have been able to access.

I am delighted that Jackie Baillie mentioned Gordon Reid, who is a member of Helensburgh Lawn Tennis Club. I declare an interest, as I was a member of that club. I am proud of Gordon’s great success on the international stage in wheelchair tennis. He is an excellent example of what can be done if the facilities are made available to people such as him. I must declare another small interest, in that my parents started Gordon on his tennis travels when they brought short tennis—it is now called mini tennis—from Wimbledon to Helensburgh 25 years ago. I am very proud of the connection, as Gordon was one of the first young players whom they put through the system.

I turn momentarily to disabled servicemen and women. We have seen the wonderful example that Prince Harry has set with the Invictus games. I encourage the minister to consider whether we could bring an element of the games to Scotland at some point, because that would be excellent. The games were held recently in Toronto in Canada, which is a member of the Commonwealth. Scotland would stand high if we could look to bring the games here.

The Invictus games demonstrate the abilities and skills of many ex-servicemen and women who have been sadly disabled as a result of their service in operations. Bringing the games here would be a great and dignified way of celebrating their wonderful achievements. In the Paralympics, in the Invictus games and in other events, we see how well they are doing and how well they have adapted.

I thank Jeremy Balfour again for bringing this most apt subject to the chamber. I commend the points that I have made to the minister and I hope that the Scottish Government will address them.

Photo of Maureen Watt Maureen Watt Scottish National Party

I, too, thank Jeremy Balfour for bringing the debate to Parliament; I also thank all the members who have contributed to it. I welcome the elite athletes to the gallery and congratulate them on their wonderful achievements.

I acknowledge the great work that is being done by Gavin Macleod and his team at Scottish Disability Sport to highlight the benefits of getting people to participate in sport.

Fulton MacGregor mentioned breaking down barriers. The Scottish Government firmly believes that there should be no barriers at all to participation in sport. Everyone should be able to enjoy sport, whoever they are, wherever they are and whatever their background.

We all know about the benefits of sporting activity to all, including those with disabilities and those with poor mental health. Brian Whittle mentioned how important it is for people to be active when they have poor mental health and the benefits that activity can bring.

I am proud that the Scottish Government is determined to create a modern, inclusive Scotland that protects and respects human rights, of which a key element is the promotion of equal participation in and access to sport. The excellent UK disability inclusion training course that is run by Scottish Disability Sport will help achieve that by providing participants with the tools to help teach sport for people with a disability.

The workshops are individually tailored to meet the needs of five key groups: coaches and volunteers; teachers and staff in education settings; Scottish sports governing bodies; sports development officers; and leisure service providers. By the end of the workshops, participants should be able to recognise the influence of perceptions and experience on interactions and our expectations of others; recognise different communication styles, which John Mason mentioned; identify appropriate disability-specific terminology and be aware of appropriate etiquette; articulate the principles of the Equality Act 2010 and identify the key aspects of legislation that relate to their role in sport; recognise specific barriers to participation and consider ways in which any challenges can be addressed and potentially overcome; identify the participation opportunities within disability sport; know where to go for further information; and—finally—recognise how to influence and even change practices and facilitate inclusion. The workshops will help to improve opportunities for all to participate in sport and physical activity.

I was pleased that members have taken the opportunity to highlight the work that is being done in their local areas to encourage those with disabilities into sports. I know how much is being done in my own area, not least at the wonderful new Aberdeen sports village. I thank Brian Whittle for bringing to the debate his particular knowledge and experience in this area.

I emphasise that, for our part, the Scottish Government is committed to supporting equalities in Scottish sport and to ensuring that people of all ages and from all communities across Scotland have the opportunity to participate in sport and physical activity.

In April this year, the Minister for Public Health and Sport announced an additional £2 million of investment in sports governing bodies. The extra funds are being distributed by sportscotland to help meet the Scottish Government’s priorities on reducing inequalities in sports participation.

Earlier this year, the First Minister opened the national sports training centre in Inverclyde. It is the first sports training centre of its kind in the UK. The state-of-the-art residential facility is designed with inclusivity in mind for disability sport users—both performance and community users. It will ensure that Scotland is even better placed to support our disabled athletes in their preparations and will help to ensure that sport and physical activity are accessible.

The Scottish Government works closely with sportscotland on equality matters. Last year, sportscotland and the Equality and Human Rights Commission published the “Equality and Sport Research” report into equality in Scottish sport, which Jeremy Balfour mentioned. The report looks at who currently participates in sport and the barriers to participation, and suggests potential solutions.

One of the three priorities for improvement set out in sportscotland’s corporate plan for 2015 to 2019 is the area of equalities and inclusion. As a sector, sport must recognise and understand the protected characteristics as well as the associated complexities if we are to effectively address issues that may be preventing or constraining people from getting involved and progressing in any aspect of sport.

The “Equality at sportscotland” report outlines progress towards ensuring that equality is integrated into sportscotland’s day-to-day work and provides an overview of how the organisation has delivered against equality outcomes. The report also sets out three new equality outcomes for 2017 to 2021, one being that

“sports organisations and people working in sport will have an improved understanding and awareness of the needs of people with protected characteristics”.

That outcome underpins the commitment to show greater leadership and to influence and drive the changes that are needed to address inequalities and ensure that everyone has the opportunity to get involved in sport.

I put on record my thanks to Scottish Disability Sport and sportscotland, which have been working together to ensure that every child, young person or adult with a disability can participate in sport and physical activity. I know that the Minister for Public Health and Sport is looking forward to working closely with Scottish Disability Sport following the launch of its new strategic plan this year, “Inspiring through Inclusion 2017-2021”. Personally, I am interested in seeing the evaluation of the UK disability inclusion training course.

I will take forward Maurice Corry’s idea of bidding for the Invictus games to come to Scotland. We have a great record of delivering high-profile sporting events in Scotland. The Commonwealth games in Scotland were one of the first events to have huge inclusivity for those with disabilities. It is a great idea and I am sure that we can take it forward together.

13:25 Meeting suspended.

14:30 On resuming—