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Last Updated: Friday, 27 August, 2004, 06:25 GMT 07:25 UK
Disabled children 'miss out' claim
Child on beach
Disabled children do not have many days like this, the report claims
Disabled children in Wales lack summer holiday activities that other families take for granted, according to a report by the charity Barnardo's.

It claims that leisure facilities, play schemes and sports activities often exclude disabled children due to health and safety fears.

Lack of funding and poor access at some sites adds to pressure on families with disabled children.

The charity is calling for more training for leisure sector staff.

Barnado's carried out a survey of facilities across the UK and interviewed parents of disabled children for its report, Postcards From Home.

They may have severe needs but the need of enjoyment during the summer is the same as other children.
Usha Sarangi, parent

The report claims that families with disabled children faced being cut off from the support of school and community-based services during the summer months.

It said: "Many also have other children whose needs must be met.

"The parents interviewed all reported having less money in the summer holidays through having to take unpaid leave from work and paying for specialist play schemes.

"Few were expecting to have a holiday away from home, both for financial reasons and because of the difficulty of finding accessible accommodation."

The report claims families with disabled children also encounter "unhelpful attitudes" from some leisure sector workers as well as other people using leisure venues.

It said: "Families regularly encounter negative and unhelpful attitudes from leisure services staff and the general public.

'More specialised staff'

Usha Sarangi, whose son Rakesh has cerebral palsy, runs a play scheme for children with disabilities in Cardiff for two weeks during the Summer.

She says they are often an "invisible population".

"They go to special schools all through the year, where they get so much stimulation, " she said.

"Then you're expecting them to sit at home for six weeks and be entertained by parents. What do you do for entertainment? Where to you take them? There aren't many places to go."

Mrs Sarangi added: "Every year, we see summer play schemes and people saying how good they are. Some parents are quite angry that our children can't access these.

"Our children are equally able to enjoy a scheme in their own way. They may have severe needs but the need of enjoyment during the summer is the same as other children."

Graham Finlay, access officer for Disability Wales, said that grid gates at some playgrounds, designed to keep out dogs, also kept out wheelchairs.

He said woodchip surfaces, put in for safety reasons, were difficult for wheelchairs to negotiate.

"It's widespread I'm afraid, there's a real lack of awareness involving leisure facilities.

The director of Barnardo's Cymru Raymond Ciborowski, said: "At a time of year when most families enjoy getting out and doing things together, families with disabled children are missing out.

"Disabled children need organised activities even more than other children, as most cannot just go out to play during the holidays."

Barnardo's called for increased number of trained, specialised staff across a wide range of leisure and holiday facilities.

The charity also wants to see more and secure funding for facilities and activities for disabled and non-disabled young people.

'Hard life' in the country
19 Mar 03  |  Wales


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