Latest Panathlon figures have revealed a huge increase in participation over the last 12 months, with more young people than ever benefiting from our sporting programme.

Whilst Sport England last week reported a sharp decline in the number of disabled adults playing regular sport, data from the first half of this academic year shows a record number of children involved in Panathlon events.

3,203 young people were involved in Panathlon competitions between September 2014 and January 2015, more than double the 1,454 competitors from the same period 12 months ago.

With a bumper spring and summer term programme ahead, Panathlon are on target to deliver sporting opportunities to over 6,000 young people in 2014/15 – a 55 percent increase compared to 2013/14.

Liz Johnson, triple-Paralympic medallist and Panathlon ambassador, said: “We are delighted with the positive increase in participation figures over the last year, which reflect the growth of our programme and the increased demand for Panathlon competition across the country. Our aim is to provide sporting opportunities to as many disabled young people as possible, and we will continue to strive to do just that.”

These latest participation figures build on recent growth achieved by Panathlon in recent years. A total of 3,873 young people competed at Panathlon events in 2013/14, an increase of 38 percent on the previous year (2,801).

Last year over 400 schools took part in 84 of our ‘mini Paralympic’ competitions, which use adaptive equipment to enable more children to take part, with 35,000 active hours of sport provided to disabled young people.

The increase in participation reflects the continued expansion of the Panathlon programme, both in sporting and geographic terms.

Recent additions to our programme include a new series of regional multi-sport finals, an expanded swimming programme and Primary Panathlon programme, plus the development of programme for specific classifications, including events for deaf / visually impaired children and those with physical disabilities.

East London Swim Competition
East London Panathlon swim competition

Panathlon currently reaches 20 counties and all 32 London boroughs and continues to grow nationwide, with 25 counties set to be involved by the end of 2015 and 30 counties by 2017.

We have been delivering competitive opportunities for young disabled people since 1999, investing a total of £5.5m in that time. We will invest more than £450,000 in competitions, sports equipment and coaching for young disabled people in 2014/15.

Sport England’s latest Active People Survey (APS), published on 29 January, reported a sharp decline in the number of disabled adults (16+) regularly playing sport in the 12 months up to October 2014.

The APS found that there are 121,700 fewer disabled people taking part in sport or physical activity for 30 minutes once a week compared to the previous year.

Whilst Panathlon’s participation increase covers a different metric and age range to the APS – Panathlon caters for children aged five to 19 –  it does provide some positive news for the future of disability sport.

Liz Johnson added: “As the Panathlon programme continues to expand, we are creating a pathway for pupils right from primary school upwards. This gives them the opportunity to build foundation skills and train in a range of sports, before competing at local sporting events and, in many cases, making the step up to regional level.

“The decline in numbers of disabled adults participating in regular sport is a worrying trend, so programmes like Panathlon are vital to get more disabled young people active and to help create a sporting habit for life.”