Learning Disability Today
Supporting professionals working in learning disability and autism services

Outdoor activity breaks for disabled children being cancelled due to financial concerns

Disabled people are abandoning plans for outdoor activity breaks due to financial concerns even though they know it will impact both their physical and mental health.

The new report by Calvert Lakes – a residential outdoor centre delivering challenging outdoor adventure breaks for people with disabilities – reveals that 55% of disabled people will forsake outdoor activity breaks in 2023 due to the cost of living crisis. Of the people they interviewed, 93% believe this will impact on their physical health and 92% believe it will impact on their mental health.

In total, the Lake District Calvert Trust received responses from 432 schools, adults, carers and charities, covering thousands of disabled people throughout the UK.

Commenting on the findings, Sean Day, Centre Director for the Lake District Calvert Trust, said: “This research is extremely alarming. First and foremost, the majority of our visitors are disabled children. For children and young people with special educational needs and disabilities, outdoor physical activity has a fundamental role in their development.

“It is widely accepted that the Covid-19 pandemic disproportionately impacted disabled people. The Office for National Statistics has also confirmed that disabled people in the UK are being hit even harder by the cost-of-living crisis than non-disabled people.

“If disabled people cut back on outdoors activities due to financial pressures their physical and mental health will suffer.”

Bursary money and fundraising

To combat the financial pressures facing visitors, the Lake District Calvert Trust utilises bursary money awarded by generous benefactors. This funding is, where possible, passed on to guests, enabling those who require financial assistance to receive a percentage of the total cost of their break.

“Bursary funding forms an integral part of our operation and enables us to offer help to people with disabilities who without it would not be able to take part in the specialised activities we provide,” said Sean.

Due to the cost-of-living crisis, demand is higher than ever as many schools, families and individuals struggle to fund that extra dimension to their lives that can make all the difference.

Prices at the centre are currently subsidised by fund-raising efforts, but are still beyond the means of some organisations, families or individuals who would not be able to attend without the extra help from bursary funding.

He added: “This has become of paramount importance in the current national situation. Our ability to continue to provide much needed respite, and a safe and secure place for people with disabilities to enjoy the unique services we provide, has never been more important.”

Case study

New Bridge School is based in Oldham in Lancashire and the Learning Centre is for students aged 16 to 19. The school visited Calvert Lakes earlier this year with a group of 48 made up of staff and students. At the heart of the school’s mission is the belief that all their pupils, whatever their background or ability, will be successful and valued. They strive to enable all their students to become as independent, confident, and resilient as possible, and to reach their desired destinations.

Students at the special school have autism spectrum disorder, hearing and/or visual impairment, and complex and multiple disabilities. Most access very little outside of their home environment, with the college often providing the only opportunities for exercise, wellbeing, and social experience and development. The students need regular supervision and often direct physical support, due to poor social skills, impulsive behaviours, and lack of perception of dangers. There are several students who also need support with feeding, movement, personal care, regular medication, and specialist equipment. The nature of many of the disabilities often impacts on the well-being and mental health of the parents and carers which ultimately creates difficulties in the home environment.

New Bridge have been regular visitors to Calvert Lakes for over ten years. Duke of Edinburgh Manager for the school Gavin Taylor said: “For most students attending, this is their only opportunity to enjoy fun and challenging activities, with their peers, away from home. The costs of short breaks are prohibitive for most of these families, while the challenges of providing care, ensuring medical needs are fully met, and managing difficult behaviours in an unfamiliar environment pose significant additional barriers.

“Our stay has allowed our students to become more independent, managing themselves and allowing them to interact with new and exciting experiences.”

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