Our Paralympic athletes show that anything is possible
As well as support for elite disability sports, the government is improving the everyday lives of disabled people with our National Disability Strategy.
For all of the incredible athletes proudly flying their country’s flag at the opening ceremony for the Tokyo Paralympic Games, it marks the culmination of many years of gruelling training and determination.
I feel privileged to be able to see first-hand that conviction and commitment come together in an awesome display of world-class competition, whether on the pitch, the court, the track or in the pool.
This year’s Paralympics, like the Olympics, is unique. While the usual crowds of cheering fans will not be in the stands, this extraordinary event of sporting excellence is still being televised to a huge global audience – and will have a massive impact on the millions of people watching.
Yet again, we will be in awe. It will also help to break down perceptions and misconceptions about disability, something I remember was so powerful about the 2012 Paralympics in London.
The Great Britain and Northern Ireland team in Tokyo represents the best of the UK in all its diversity
Like in 2012, Brits will be tuning in and getting hooked on the action. After all, the Paralympics not only holds a special place in our hearts, but also our history.
It was in Stoke Mandeville, Buckinghamshire, that the Paralympic movement was born when a small group of World War II veterans gathered to compete to coincide with the start of the 1948 London Olympics. I was honoured to be part of the flame lighting ceremony for the Tokyo Paralympics at Stoke Mandeville last week.
And like those veterans from over 70 years ago, the Great Britain and Northern Ireland team in Tokyo represents the best of the UK in all its diversity. I have no doubt our athletes will deliver extraordinary moments and inspire millions to get active.
This Government is right behind them as a champion of disability sport at the highest levels, but also by putting in the investment, with the Olympic and Paralympic Sports receiving an additional £77.4 million per year for the Paris Games in 2024.
In November, we will host the Rugby League Wheelchair World Cup and with the Commonwealth Games coming to Birmingham in 2022, we will host the largest fully integrated para-sport programme for any Commonwealth Games ever.
As well as support for elite sports, we are also improving the everyday lives of disabled people. Our National Disability Strategy, published last month, is the first truly cross-government effort to transform disabled people’s daily lives. It sets out, not just a practical plan for action now, but a positive vision for long-term change.
With over 100 immediate commitments, our Strategy provides concrete actions to improve access to jobs, housing, transport, education, shopping, culture, justice, as well as public services.
This includes investing £300 million to improve disability provision in schools and make accessibility adaptations for children and young people with additional needs, ensuring everyone has the same opportunities to succeed and fulfil their potential.
Anything really is possible as our Paralympic athletes will show. They are true role models for many children and young people, giving a vision of what is possible, achieving what many thought could be impossible.
Good luck Team GB!
Thérèse Coffey is the Conservative MP for Suffolk Coastal and Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.
Get the inside track on what MPs and Peers are talking about. Sign up to The House's morning email for the latest insight and reaction from Parliamentarians, policy-makers and organisations.