London Youth Games launches 2022 ParaGames programme

Youngsters from across the capital will compete in the London Youth Games boccia competition

Youngsters from across the capital will compete in the London Youth Games boccia competition - Credit: LYG

A new season of London Youth Games events will give 3,000 disabled Londoners under the age of 18 the opportunity to get active.

The events, with the first at Westway Leisure Centre on February 22, give some of the most isolated and lonely young people in society the opportunity to spend time with others and benefit their mental wellbeing.

Research shows 91 per cent of disabled children are socially isolated, according to Disabled Children’s Partnership. It’s so important to tackle this now to prevent their wellbeing from deteriorating further.

London Youth Games strongly believes sport is a right for all. Covering 13 sports from boccia to wheelchair tennis to sitting volleyball, the ParaGames programme gives disabled people aged under 18 the chance to take part in competitive sport.

Disabled people have been heavily impacted through the pandemic, with many isolating from society for safety reasons. Sport can make a huge impact, helping disabled people connect with others, feel less isolated and feel part of their community.

The disability sport events programme starts with boccia on February 22 at Westway Leisure Centre in Kensington and Chelsea. This event gives young disabled Londoners the chance to follow in Paralympian David Smith’s footsteps, who won his second Boccia gold medal at Tokyo 2020 last year.

Players with severe learning disabilities, physical impairments, profound and multiple impairments, such as wheelchair users are welcomed to take part in the ParaGames events.

The 2022 London Youth Games boccia competitions take place this week

The 2022 London Youth Games boccia competitions take place this week - Credit: LYG

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Over half (50.9%) of disabled children and young people in London do less than an average of 60 minutes activity a day, according to latest figures from Sport England’s Active Lives Children and Young People Survey. London Youth Games is passionate about helping more young disabled Londoners to feel the benefits of being active.

Dan Bentley, Paralympic gold and bronze medallist and ParaGames Boccia Competition Director said: "The last two years has affected disabled people in a big way, especially when you get told you can’t go out. It’s really good for young disabled people coming to the event to be able to get out again and to have a competition like this.

"It’s great to see boccia getting bigger in schools. When I was at school, I didn’t get the chance to do boccia. I had to get over so many barriers to take part. This competition is excellent for young people to get them active and to get them to mix again."

Tino, a participant from Barnet said: "I feel excited about playing Boccia. I like seeing lots of people from other schools."

Suzi Ainsworth, Barnet team manager, added: "Boccia gives the young people the ability to focus and concentrate. We’re actually able to get one of our young men to focus on a task for 3-4 seconds, which is usually really difficult to do.

"Because of boccia, it shows us what he’s capable of. It gives them a chance to transfer those skills to reading and writing too."

Andy Dalby-Welsh, London Youth Games chief executive, said: "Being registered blind, sport has played a life-changing role for me, helping me develop friendships and build resilience.

"We’re determined to make sport more inclusive and accessible for disabled people through ParaGames events and help more disabled young Londoners to experience both the boost to their mental health, to make new friends and to enjoy the competition."