New podcast explores the hidden costs of sport participation

Jumping the Hurdles talks to Disability Sports Merthyr about a new fund which aims to support families of disabled children participating in sports

Disability Sports Merthyr organised Challenge28, a fundraising event for the Jonathan Williams Disability Fund on what would have been Williams’s 28th birthday (Photo Credit: Disability Sports Merthyr)

Disability Sports Merthyr has raised over £4000 to help families of disabled children in Merthyr Tydfil cover the hidden costs of sport participation. 

The Jonathan Williams Disability Sport Fund aims to support disabled people with the costs that might discourage them from participating in physical activities, such as transport prices. 

The fundraiser’s success follows a Decathlon survey which found that a third of parents in the UK said their child has missed out on a sporting opportunity due to increased costs.

To tackle the effect that the cost of living crisis has had on sport participation in Wales, the Senedd’s sport committee recommended that the Welsh Government provide more funding to address the problem of low participation levels in disadvantaged areas.

However, no definitive policies have been put in place. 

Also, a development officer for Disability Sports Wales has explained that grant funding does not usually cover the hidden costs of sports participation, which are often exacerbated for families of disabled children. 

Appearing on the podcast Jumping the Hurdles, Dan Bufton said that many disabled children need one-to-one support and specialised equipment to participate in physical activities. 

“It’s the things outside of the sport that can make it more expensive,” said the Merthyr-based disability advocate. “It might be the transport costs or the additional equipment.”

Disability Sports Merthyr has run a number of fundraising events for the Jonathan Williams Disability Sport Fund, which Bufton said will differ from grant funding as it will directly help individuals cover these personal costs. 

The fund is named after Jonathan Williams, an activist for disabled people in Wales who died aged 27 in June 2022. 

“We wanted to do something in his legacy,” says Bufton. “Something for him to be remembered by and for the impact he had – and continues to have – on sport.”

Listen to our podcast Jumping the Hurdles for more coverage on Disability Sports Merthyr and the Johnathan Williams Disability Sport Fund.

Dan Bufton’s advice for families of disabled children

  • Ask for help! Definitely get in touch with your local sports development department who can advise on opportunities.
  • Try more than one thing. The first opportunity might not work but that doesn’t mean the next one won’t.
  • Communicate with the club or provider about your needs so they can be best placed to help you. Sometimes, people shy away from explaining all for fear of being turned away, but an informed club makes for a better experience.