Worcester’s MP Robin Walker paid tribute to the fully accessible Worcester University Arena for sports as upholding a “genuine gold standard for disability confidence” in a Westminster Hall debate in Parliament this week.
The debate was answered by Justin Tomlinson, the Minister for disabled people at the DWP who himself grew up in Worcestershire and visited the Arena last year. It emphasised the importance of accessible sport in helping people to find employment.
Robin opened his speech, saying:
“I pay tribute to the people of Worcester with the vison to create a leading center for disability sport in the heart of my constituency. I am delighted to do so with a Minister who, as a local lad, not only knows Worcestershire well but is a dedicated sports fan and passionate about improving the life chances and opportunities for work for disabled people.”
Robin then outlined the local and national impact of getting disabled people into sport and activity He pointed out that that the Arena has already brought £9.4 million of estimated benefit to the local economy. The sports opportunities offered provide a vital pathway for the disabled into employability and many of the core skills that are developed by sports such as teamwork and communication are equally as valuable in the workplace.
Robin highlighted in-depth research conducted by the charity Leonard Cheshire that clearly display the situation of disabled people nationally. Only 46.7% of disabled people are employed compared to 80% nationally and 57% of disabled people surveyed said that they had not done any moderate physical activity in the past week. These figures pointed out the need for sport and job opportunities from places such as the arena.
The recent disability jobs fair in Worcester, as a part of the Disability Confident campaign, also greatly improved businesses’ views on the employability of disabled people. Robin thanked all the local businesses who attended and made pledges to become more disability confident as well as the numerous charities that came and the minister for disabled people for his advice and help with the event. Robin praised the team from the University of Worcester who took part in the event and helped to inspire local employers.
During the debate Dr Lisa Cameron MP, chair of the all-party parliamentary group on disability, intervened in order to ask Robin to link the group to the Arena and to speak further on the topic. To which he replied by agreeing to do so and inviting the all-party group for an official visit to Worcester.
Robin concluded his speech by saying:
“The Arena received some of its initial funding from the National Lottery’s Iconic facilities fund and later received the Guardian award for a building that inspires. I would suggest that its contribution both present and future for disability confidence and disability employment is one more reason it should continue to inspire and to be an icon.”
“I know that the Minister shares my enthusiasm for this inspirational Worcester landmark. I urge him to ensure that colleagues across Government share the knowledge of what it does and can do for disabled people. I would ask for his continuing support as we seek to create in Worcester a genuine gold standard for disability confidence with a gold clad heart for our international centre for inclusive sport.”
I hope he will continue to work with me to ensure that Worcester can become a beacon for disability confidence and to improve the lives, the life chances and the working opportunities for disabled people.”
The Minister Justin Tomlinson answered the debate and he too, paid tribute to the Arena:
“My visit to Worcester arena was really enjoyable. There were inspirational people delivering transformational opportunities. There is a track record of success where it has genuinely made a difference.”
The minister also pointed out that this particular landmark stands apart from others in its real and everyday impact on the community, saying that the arena is both economically viable and constantly busy.
He went on to say:
“There were so many inspirational people who have made Worcester arena such a success. I am excited that it does not stop there and that there will be further opportunities. My hon. Friend (MP Robin Walker) made it very clear that he felt that Worcester arena was gold standard. I think it is platinum standard”
Notes to Editors
Transcript of the debate can be found here:
More information on the Disability Confident Campaign can be found here:
Robin’s press releases ahead of and after the Disability confident event can be found here:
Link to Leonard Cheshire disability charity:
Link to the Worcester University Arena for sports:
More information on the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Disability: